Desert ArtLAB Explores Native Ecology in A Public Lecture: Learning From The Land

Community initiative Desert ArtLAB has been working to engage the Phoenix community in important discussion and rediscovery of the Sonoran Desert's native ecology. Through a number of social, performance, and art projects, the ArtLAB has been exploring connections between ecology, culture, and community.

According to ArtLAB members, Project LANDKnowledge, produced under the Desert ArtLAB initiative, "engages residents in ecological interventions in urban desert space."

The project will present its findings and work from over the last year on Friday at the Pueblo Grande Museum in a public lecture called Learning from the Land.

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"We work within the social art practice in an attempt to reclaim desert ecology in urban spaces," Desert ArtLAB Founder Matt Garcia says. "[We] connect the urban population and get people to value the native ecology."

In August 2011, LANDKnowledge used an art gallery setting to distribute dozens of cacti pads, which were taken and planted in various places throughout the Valley. The pads were tagged and tracked and the digital documentation will be some of the information presented at Friday's event.

Garcia began the Desert ArtLab as a student at Arizona State University. Now an Assistant Professor of Digital/New Media at Kansas State University, Garcia advocates a community-wide embrace of the natural desert flora's beauty and hopes to inspire others to reclaim open, public spaces.

The project takes a participatory approach by encouraging the community to improve the condition of the many open lots around the Valley. Garcia believes that through decades of urban development, we have lost touch with the natural beauty of the desert. Although the project has been able to share its findings and work on a regional and even national scale, Garcia says this will be one of their first opportunities to share their work locally.

Following the talk, there will be a "restorative seed confetti" workshop in which participants will create seed "confections" of native Sonoran plants such as mesquite trees. The assortment of seeds will come in a terracotta ball that can be planted in a place of the recipient's choosing.

"The idea is if you take these seeds and put them in the ground, they'll sprout," Garcia explains. "It might take a while, but if you believe in this stuff, you have to go out and do it."

The talk takes place on Friday, December 14, at 6 p.m. and both the lecture and workshop are free and open to the public.

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