Kids learn to love cacti at Santa Barbara summer camp

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This week, a group of kids is playing with cacti.

Five year olds are drinking cactus soda and teens are making paper mache nopales.

The program is part of a summer camp at Santa Barbara’s Harding Elementary School, where two artists are hoping to engender a new generation of cacti lovers.

“For us, cactus is a solution to many of our pressing ecological dilemmas,” said April Bojorquez, who started a collaboration called desertArtLAB with fellow artist Matt Garcia in 2010.

Based in the dryland desert of Southern Colorado, Bojorquez and Garcia focus on creating space for conversation about native plants and food, indigenous cultural practice, and their relationship to ecological space. They were brought here by the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara.

KCRW’s Kathryn Barnes visited the summer camp to find out what the kids are learning.

The artists’ three-week residency in Santa Barbara culminates in Féria de la Tierra, a community gathering on Friday, July 28th from 5pm to 8pm at the Harding Elementary School athletic field, honoring the land and Santa Barbara’s westside community.

“We chose to organize the project around the concept of a Féria, as it’s a familiar and inviting concept for many,” said Bojorquez. “Lots of rural pueblos host annual férias. Additionally, given the current social and political climate around immigration, we feel it’s necessary to create a space that honors the very community that may feel vulnerable at this particular time.”

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