Last summer Desert ArtLAB began a project called LAND Knowledge in an effort to reclaim vacant urban space through activism, art and ecology. This community initiative is dedicated to civic art practice that explores the connections between ecology, culture and community that shape our understanding of our lives in our environment. Mayor Gordon named Desert ArtLAB a “friend of Phoenix” and even declared August 19 as “Community Cacti Planting Day.”

On Saturday December 10, over 80 people gathered at Parque Libertad in Garfield on the northwest corner of 9th and Roosevelt Streets to participate in another mass cactus planting. Desert ArtLAB confirmed that Parque Libertad, a collaborative initiative by local artists Breeze, Desert ArtLAB, DOSE, Hood ride, Phoenix Hostel, and Phonetic Spit, would continue to be the location for future projects.

Volunteers plotted out a square space across the solid dirt lot then began to dig holes for the nopales (cactus pads) to be planted. While others were digging, artist DOSE was at work creating the first of many murals to come at this location.

The dirt was packed so tightly that even breaking through it with a pic-axe was no easy feat. Some people dug up red bricks buried 8 inches under the dirt, possibly bricks that were once the foundation of a house. The digging left some people with blisters and brow sweat but this isn’t vanity activism, it’s hard work.

The cactus pads used to activate this once dead space came from a larger prickly pear cactus in Tempe. Someone had torn out the large cactus and thrown it in a back alley, where Desert ArtLAB found it, hauled it downtown, chopped it up, and replanted it- recycling at its finest.

Desert artLAB created this time-lapse video of the project to document the progress.

Check out their Facebook page for updates about the project and ways to become involved.