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Growing Arc

A farm-to-closet playground, Growing Arc creates spaces and PLAYDATEs for people to activate and cultivate reciprocal relationships with all beings. The project reinforces connections to the local environment and expands the understanding of biodiversity to include the diversity and perspectives of marginalised folks.

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Main Address: Montreal, Canada

Growing Arc involves local people in agriculture for textiles and natural dyes.

A Q&A with Nadia Bunyan, founder of Growing Arc


OCM: In what ways are you a community and how do you serve its needs?

GA: A community is a group of beings that come together because of a shared commonality and then stay connected because of the bonds formed. The foundation of Growing A.R.C. is answering the question, "how do we activate, reciprocate and cultivate relations with all beings to build, reconnect and strengthen community for a better future."


Our practice of community building begins with our material gardens. We use the connections between agriculture and fashion or material culture as our way to address and open conversations about  biodiversity, sustainability, and consumption. These gardens are community spaces where we plant and explore bioregional material systems with plants for textile fibres, natural dyes and natural perfumes. We set up and manage these spaces while inviting individuals to become part of the community through the care and use of the garden. Within these safe spaces we host “PLAYDATES”, free workshop events which give the public the chance to participate with us in our explorations of planting, citizen science, plant to fibre transformation, fibre arts and natural dyeing.


Our gardens are spaces of care and liberation where people can not only try new things but feel free to fail, learn, and try again, or not. The care begins with the plants we tend to and extends to the people that enter these spaces. We build community one relationship at a time asking ourselves what are our needs individually, then opening that fulfilment to all those looking for the same things. We also take feedback and ask participants what they would to try and if they would like to become more involved through volunteering or collaborating.


From the founders, to volunteers and participants, the Growing A.R.C. community is about sharing, experiencing and working together. We connect through common interests at the intersection of fashion and agriculture, and develop community through respect, care and consideration for each other.  


OCM: In what ways do you nurture creativity, cultures and customs relating to dress, clothing or bodily adornment within your community?

GA: Through invitation, research, learning, sharing and practice.

Using the spirit of play we develop projects and activities designed around material culture and place based design.  

Our invitations are not just to the general public, but also to individuals from various backgrounds, sectors and community groups. With a focus on representation and centring marginalised groups,  these guests are invited to play with us as they facilitate different workshops and group discussions. This opens the door to sharing a variety of perspectives, practices and experiences. 


Our approach looks at different ways of practice around farming and gardening, textile arts and the ways we express ourselves through material. We very consciously use the term material cultural to encompass not only practices connected to fashion and agricultural but also the ceremonies, traditions and the ways clothing and textile craft make up and help to form a society. 


Material culture although shared is specific. As we connect and learn the land of the spaces we tend and work with we can dig into the history of a place literally and figuratively. Simultaneously we can explore our individual connections to local culture and the differences and similarities of personal cultural identity, customs and creativity.


OCM: In what ways do you share your knowledge, skills, creativity and/or resources with others?

GA: Though events like our playdates,  workshops and generally in all activities and collaborations we engage in. Our PLAYDATES are where we explore techniques and practices associated with textiles,  but we also work with a local university on scientific research and are partnering with other university groups and various organisations on social engagement with an aim to make the data, skills and knowledge we collect accessible and approachable. We are working to create a cultural shift around the way we think about and consume clothing. The clothing and textile industry touch so many sectors of a society. As Growing A.R.C. looks at the links between fashion and agriculture we serve as a bridge between these different sectors developing projects, collective art,  exhibits and installations as outlets to share and open doors. We cannot shift a culture and build community without sharing knowledge, information and resources. 


OCM: In what ways do you respect and care for other peoples, the significance of their cultural expression and rights to dignified livelihoods?

GA: We respect others by taking the time to build relationships, meeting people where they are in their understanding of the challenges we are addressing, through material culture. In practical terms that starts with the structure of our non-profit. We are actively working to build a non-hierarchal organisation based on anti-colonialism. We cannot show respect for others if we are not first taking the time to show respect for ourselves and those we work with. 

Next, in the events and activities we plan, we look at ways of helping participants to feel welcome and not pressured. Currently we do not require registration for our PLAYDATES, this is to help maintain an easy going atmosphere. During our PLAYDATES, we ask people how they would like to engage, letting everyone know participation in any activity is a choice not an obligation.  We offer name tags where people can note their pronouns and also if they are ok with being photographed and having their image shared on social media. The PLAYDATES in our material gardens are free and we try to offer food to keep the events communal and accessible. It is many small considerations like these that help us build respectful relationships.  


Another core value of Growing A.R.C., is centring marginalised peoples many of whom are usually overlooked in conversations on sustainability even though marginalised communities tend to be at the front lines and are the most affected by these issues.  Within the organisation that begins with our board, choosing people from different cultures and backgrounds. Outside the organisational structure, it takes form in where and how we are present. One way we are doing that is by situating our gardens in central locations, but also implementing them in marginalised neighbourhoods and offering PLAYDATES or workshops within community centres or partnering with organisations in these communities.  


The intersection of fashion and agriculture is our path to discuss issues of climate change and social and environmental justice, however  we do not all have the capacity to engage in or develop solutions. This is why we begin with play and outreach to partner with other organisations.  Connecting with different communities through community groups helps to foster a feeling of comfort so that deeper relationships can be built, and information and knowledge shared. 


OCM: In what ways do you work with nature to protect and restore the living world?

GA: By activating, reciprocating and cultivating relationships with all beings we are changing the narrative around sustainability so that it is always seen as the synchronised effort to address environmental and social issues, offering solutions that are diverse and multifaceted in nature to create flourishing futures for all. Our work starts with direct contact through our material gardens, but then extends to society through material culture. Growing A.R.C. is a space to develop a holistic understanding of the complex relations within all ecosystems and the need for dynamic and specific solutions. It is a space for active participation to test ideas, and nurture relationships.

The intersection of fashion and agriculture is our path to discuss the daunting and sometimes overwhelming issues of climate change and social and environmental justice. Play and the comfort of community is how we support and encourage individual action for collective good.


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