Land & People | Interventions

Growing Natural Dyes in Baltimore and Beyond

Kenya Miles and Rosa Chang


Kenya Miles is the artist & alchemist behind Traveling Miles Studio and Blue Light Junction. Kenya’s work honors ancient practices while harmoniously drawing on a distinctive contemporary voice. From the valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico to the red clay roads of Ntonso, Ghana, Kenya's process is a ledger of years of wandering and apprenticing around the globe. She is currently an Artist-in-Residence at MICA and a farmer for the Baltimore Natural Dye Initiative. Kenya has facilitated workshops at the Berkeley Art Museum, Headlands Center for the Arts, and the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. She was a guest artist at BMA’s “The Possible” and recently had a solo exhibition “The Central Sun” in San Francisco. Kenya is an avid traveler, gardener, and above all else Indigo’s mother (her son).

Rosa Chang is a Korean-born visual artist and is a senior advisor for the Natural Dye Initiative at the Maryland State Arts Council. Rosa works as a liaison between project partners including Maryland state agencies and the Natural Dye Cultural Center in Naju, South Korea. Rosa has worked as an apprentice dyer at Buaisou Brooklyn, a Japanese traditional indigo dye artisanal studio with a main studio and farm located in Tokushima, Japan, and has experience in growing Japanese indigo plants. This work led her to submit a proposal for "Urban farming Japanese indigo plants on abandoned lots in Baltimore City for the Community Development and Revitalization," which was nominated as a semi-finalist for the Fullbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship in 2017. Rosa's relationship with the Natural Dye Cultural Center in Naju, South Korea, her previous experiences and studies as a natural dyer/grower motivated her work on this project to establish a natural dye garden in Baltimore. Rosa is hoping to see the natural dye garden become a healing, joyful, and inspirational place for people in the Baltimore City community. Rosa is a graduate of MICA (Illustration '11) and received her MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York, NY.


In 2017, as a love letter to the first city she lived in as a first-generation immigrant, Rosa Chang wrote a Fulbright Fellowship proposing to grow Indigo in Baltimore to aid in the transformation of vacant lots littered throughout the city. In 2019, the spark of this idea championed by Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan in partnership with the Natural Dyeing Cultural Center in Naju, South Korea grew into The Baltimore Natural Dye Initiative. An 18-month multi-agency pilot project that endeavors to create the area's first natural dye farm and processing site to support urban farming, economic opportunities, community redevelopment, international relations, and the arts in Baltimore City. Beyond the pilot project: an alternative color lab, natural dye garden & educational facility was created. In January 2020 Blue Light Junction began focusing on growing, processing and preserving the history of natural dyes and their enhancements and use in everyday objects. This abstract proposes to explore the Past, Present and Future of growing natural dyes in an urban landscape, utilizing cooperative economics, and supporting agricultural and sustainable practices.