In the Summer of 2013, a few close friends and work colleagues in Austin got together one weekend and decided to start a tiny art school called Sunday School.
We were heavily inspired by a series of drawing salons Las Cruxes—a local boutique-gallery/mixed-use space—had been hosting, and wanted to create a similar space of inclusion, learning, and experimentation.
Though we planned and discussed how we might create an ongoing space, our efforts fizzled out after one or two sessions, and Sunday School remained frozen in time.
I can’t recall when exactly Édouard and I started talking directly. We’d been following each other on Are.na and Twitter for a bit, and through some mutual block-adding, we found a strong intersection of interests, especially in experimental pedagogy.
At some critical moment, Ed invited me to a Slack group that, at the time, was just him and me. And it was called “Sunday School.” I learned the background of the project and we started, loosely, formulating what we wanted. The only thing we could say for sure is that we wanted to help people learn without being in school.
Learning Gardens basically emerged out of Are.na. The platform’s take on decentralized, association-driven, and collaborative approach to structuring information is directly in-line with how we think about effective education models for the 21st century.
We maintain a body of “Learning Gardens” channels–all Open by default—related to learning, decentralization, and aesthetics of our interests.
We’re working towards the establishment of an étudiants sans frontières, a willing-and-able class of biblionauts who can act with agency independent of institutional norms; a grassroots public self-assembled via interpersonal relationships and mutual trust.
We’ve been growing this organically and long-term goals remain a bit nebulous. We like it this way, to an extent—it keeps us nimble.
That said, we would like to work towards a few things: nurturing an ongoing conversation on decentralized, community-led education (our Slack already has some momentum); building out our roster of learning groups; strengthening our resources (for course planning, community organizing, and more); and working towards a way to monetarily support some groups. Through grants or donations, Learning Gardens could help fund large projects, field trips, upkeep costs, rainy day funds, or otherwise.