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Before cannabis companies started hiring artists for their packaging and other products, they hired them to create art in their stores. At first, this was a way of heralding the new legal industry; It later became a way for businesses to stand out with increasingly intricate pieces.
As the street art scene in Colorado continues to grow, more and more cannabis companies are spraying murals in pharmacy buildings. Diego Pellicer, Silver Stem Fine Cannabis, Canna City, Berkeley Dispensary, Higher Grade and The Green Solution are just a few of the companies that have hired artists to paint unique and attention-grabbing murals in their locations.
Last fall, two Denver artists painted a new mural on the side of the Higher Grade Pharmacy at 1269 Elati Street, depicting a fantasy landscape of tropical trees against snow-capped mountains, distant pine forests, and clean rows of farm fields. The building had previously housed two other cannabis dispensaries – Advanced Medical Alternatives and Damian Marley’s Stony Hill – and when Higher Grade moved in, there was a portrait of Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller on wall b to the Higher Grade Brand Manager for several years, according to Zehb One Brittany Brewer.
“Basically, we inherited the building with the Super Bowl Von Miller mural on the side and we didn’t necessarily love it and wanted to change it,” she explains. “We just wanted something that would enhance the neighborhood and make it really warm, inviting and exciting.”
The pharmacy contacted Robert Gray, curator of Rob the Art Museum, to connect them with local artists who could paint a new mural. Gray had previously commissioned murals for pharmacies and was well connected in both Denver’s street art scene and the marijuana industry. Rob the Art Museum emphasizes the importance of murals in making the visual arts more accessible and diverse by taking visual art out of museums and bringing it to the streets. After Gray worked with Higher Grade to create the mural concept, Gray contacted Chad Bolsinger and TukeOne to paint it.
“When I first approached her, I thought, ‘What is higher grade about? What does that mean? ‘”He recalls. “I took it this way, ‘How can I get a higher grade of life? What in life makes you a higher mentality, a higher spirituality? ‘ – that kind of thing. “
The mountains, the waterfall, the agricultural fields and the leafy rainforest trees are supposed to put the viewer in this sublime state, explains Gray: “I just found it to be a very calming and therapeutic place, and that’s why I requested all of the earthy wholeness and have natural, holistic-looking things in it. “
Higher Grade is happy about the new look on the old brick wall. “We absolutely love it. It’s everything we hoped for and more, ”says Brewer. “It’s just a good mood and it’s super bright. I actually have the feeling that this makes our building feel bigger and higher and it’s just really beautiful.”
The artists at the top of the Green Solution in Aurora
The green solution
One of Colorado’s largest pharmacy chains, Green Solution, commissioned a piece for the walls of their pharmacy at 10195 East Montview Boulevard in Aurora earlier this year. Local favorite Pat Milbery’s colorful, geometric mural debuted on May 16, 2020; It was the first outdoor mural at any of Green Solution’s 21 locations. But it won’t be the last.
“We had the Montview space in Aurora a few years before we actually moved in,” said Steve Lopez, CEO of Green Solution. “The neighborhood is a bit older, so we thought, ‘Why don’t we help lighten it up a bit?'”
Milbery’s long customer list includes everyone from the city of Denver to the national beer companies Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon, Boulder’s Fox Theater, the popular stoner shack Cheba Hut, and the pot lifestyle brand Lightly Toasted. For the piece Green Solution, he was tasked with creating a mural that would be rooted in the surrounding Central Park neighborhood, so he incorporated elements that range from the former Stapleton International Airport to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.
On the side of the old brick building facing the parking lot, a great horned owl now stands in front of a geometric landscape of snow-capped peaks and pine trees. At the top corners of the mural, two planes fly into the distance from the long-defunct but still iconic control tower of Stapleton International Airport.
When the Colorado cannabis ban ended, many companies used public relations to combat any stigma surrounding the newly legal marijuana industry. But since then, Lopez says, investing in local communities – like the commissioning of the East Montview Boulevard mural – has become a hallmark of Green Solution locations. “When you open up in a neighborhood, you really feel like part of the community and you want to be a good steward,” he explains.
Incorporating local landmarks into the wall design helps to involve the neighborhood, he adds: “What I like about it, and what I think the community likes, is that someone on the ground expresses their feelings for the community through art. It celebrates the Stapleton area, both the history of the neighborhood and where it’s going. “
So far, the surrounding neighborhood has overwhelmingly supported the mural, says Lopez, with customers and non-customers alike taking photos of it. “We still have people who stop by who are not familiar with our product but just want to let us know that they appreciate the piece,” he says.
The Green Solution is now planning to commission a mural at its Wewatta Street location in the Ballpark neighborhood of Denver.
“After the feedback we received about the Montview location – that it really had an effect – we want to continue to achieve that effect,” says Lopez. “These are not cheap commissions, but after seeing the results, every penny was worth it.”
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Clara Geoghegan is a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder, where she studied anthropology with a focus on public health. She worked for Radio 1190’s News Underground and freelanced for Denverite. She is now the cannabis intern at Westword.