Now in its second year, the GFS Dye Garden, dreamed up, built and maintained by the Art Department is a vibrant representation of how science and art work hand in hand. Located next to the Hathaway Fine & Performing Arts Center, art teachers have already strung up last year’s Marigolds in their classrooms to dry, with hopes of using them to dye fibers soon.

Art Teacher Natalie Drutz adds rocks to the perimeter of the Dye Garden.

The goal of the project, the result of a Talcott Gran Award, is to integrate homegrown dyes while teaching fiber-based skills like weaving, felting and sewing in classes like Color Theory and 3D design. These classes were already using synthetic and pre-processed dyes to dye wool and cotton, but the Art Department wanted students to see where dyes come from and teach them the history and science behind the process.

The GFS Art Department builds the Dye Garden in the summer of 2022.

As most gardeners will tell you, the first few years of starting a new garden are an experiment. Last year, the Art Department grew native Wild Indigo and learned quickly, through a few dye bath experiments, that the process of cultivating Wild Indigo dye is not the same as the process used for Japanese Indigo (the more commonly used dye plant.) This year, the Art Department planted Wild Indigo and Japanese Indigo in hopes of learning both processes and comparing the two. Another lesson learned through experience last year: deer love eating “deer-resistant” Echinacea. This year, Echinacea was replaced with Weld. Art Teacher Caitlin Selzer said, “The garden has become a wonderful example of how science, flexibility and perseverance play an integral role in art making.”

Looking forward, Caitlin has dreams of hosting events where the whole GFS community can come together to harvest and process dyes. “Think of all the dark blue and light blue fibers we could create!” she exclaimed. But for now, she’s excited to build upon last year’s successes and lessons: “For this year, we are still experimenting, and we’re hopeful that this endeavor will enrich our students’ art education.”