Arrowmont Connections: Kenya Miles plants the seeds for Baltimore’s first Natural Dye Studio

Arrowmont is a special community full of creative people – a family who know that coming together and making art is important. We talk a lot about the Arrowmont Experience – connecting through craft and community. That connection exists beyond physical proximity. It is in shared memories and new ideas. It lives in the friendships we make with each other. It grows when we learn and support one another.

Whether on campus or off, we are connected as members of the Arrowmont family. Over the next few weeks, we are going to share stories from our community of instructors, residents, and students in a new series, Arrowmont Connections.


Kenya Miles is a traveler, natural dyer, and Arrowmont instructor. Currently she is lead gardener at the Natural Dye Initiative in Baltimore City and is the artist and alchemist at Traveling Miles Studio, a one-woman textile and fine art studio utilizing sustainable materials from earth pigments to natural dyes. Her work honors ancient practices while drawing on a distinctive contemporary voice. Miles has traveled the valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico to the red clay roads of Ntonso, Ghana to develop her process with years of wandering and apprenticing around the globe.

Kenya is scheduled to teach UNEARTHING PIGMENT: NATURAL DYES AND EARTH PIGMENTS in June, 2021.

Two years ago, Kenya moved to Baltimore. For much of that time, she has been an artist-in-residence in a pilot project launched by Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) along with the Maryland Department of Commerce, the Natural Dye Initiative.

Kenya wrote, “We are the folks farming land at Parks and People in Baltimore City as apart of the Natural Dye Initiative supported by the Department of Commerce, MICA and The First Lady’s office. This project will run for 18 months as we build our knowledge and skills during our first growing season and harvest. I could not ask for a better community of people to get dirty with. It’s really a dream y’all.”

On May 29, 2020, Kenya presented with her Natural Dye Initiative partners at the Virtual Maryland Citizens for the Arts Symposium. Together, they offered a Public Art panel, “Farming as an Art and Community Engagement Practice.” The recording is available for view at https://www.crowdcast.io/e/5ebpynhg/4.

Kenya briefly describes her move from California to Baltimore in 2018, how impactful it was to join the Natural Dye Initiative pilot project, and most importantly, how it has inspired her to continue the work in a new project: Blue Light Junction.

Blue Light Junction is a newly opened alternative color lab, natural dye garden & educational facility focusing on growing, processing and preserving the history of natural dyes and their enhancements and use in everyday objects.

We are excited to connect to residents within Baltimore City, students, artists, elders and culture bearers,” writes Kenya. “The Baltimore Natural Dye Initiative has begun its second and final growing season. 

With all that we have learned, shared, and created we didn’t want a good thing to come to an end. With MICA’s support we have planted a seed for the future and opened [Blue Light Junction,] Baltimore’s first natural dye studio.”

The main mission is community connection and the viability of growing and living in the world we want to see.

Blue Light Junction is getting off the ground, and Kenya has started a crowdfunding campaign to help launch the co-operative.  Monies raised would go towards equipment tables, a large sink, a water heater, plumbing work and faucets, induction burners, and slip mats.

She writes, “We could use your support! While we are hard at work writing grants and looking for capitol support we are in need of immediate funds to buy a couple of essentials to run workshops and symposia.”

To support the Blue Light Junction build-out fundraiser, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/blue-light-junction-buildout.

 


Visit Kenya Miles’ website: http://www.travelingmilesstudio.com/

Blue Light Junction GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/blue-light-junction-buildout

Farming as an Art and Community Engagement Practice presentation: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/5ebpynhg/4

Instagram: @travelingmilesstudio

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