From vinyl toys to canvas paintings, high-end glass art to recycled tables crafted out of skateboards, Mile High Gallery has it all. We were lucky enough to pick owner Drew Degen’s brain a bit for our December Culture Issue, gaining insight into the underground art scene world and how Cannabis has influenced these rebellious pioneers. With art curators like himself, we hope that both street art and Cannabis will become more widely appreciated and accepted. Keep on Mile High Gallery’s Instagram page, as Drew steadily adds art to the shop daily.
What parallels do you see in Cannabis and the underground street art culture?
Both Cannabis and street art are still illegal in most places worldwide but are still a positive part of the daily lives of millions of people. Growing up, both of these subjects were frowned upon, but the overall public opinion on both of these subjects over the past two decades has changed dramatically in a positive direction. Colorado played a big part in doing this because it was one of the first states to recognize medical marijuana back in 2012 – and we also have one of the largest underground art scenes currently. Only two years before legalization, the first Crush Walls event occurred. Crush Walls is a counterculture graffiti-based event that takes place annually in Denver. Crush Walls focuses on creative expression and has hosted iconic artists like Shepard Fairey, Cryptik, Hoxxoh, Elmac, and many more.
How do you find that Cannabis influences artists to push their boundaries and think outside of the box?
Cannabis has incentivized creativity in humans and artists for thousands of years. From cave art to the emergence of graffiti as a counterculture art form in the 1960s, it’s common to find Cannabis as a collaborating partner. It’s scientifically proven that Cannabis can make you more creative – it increases cerebral blood flow to the brain’s frontal lobe – which is directly linked to creativity.
In what ways do you see artists influencing the Cannabis industry?
Cannabis and art go hand in hand. Some of the most notable artists in the world have shaped their careers by using Cannabis, whether it’s musical artists from Willie Nelson and Bob Marley portraying their lyrics about how Cannabis helps them, to painters like Alex Grey directly depicting the plant. Not only does Cannabis influence artists, but artists also influence the Cannabis community greatly. I often see Cannabis companies using art directly on their products and packaging to look more attractive and to pertain to the common Cannabis user, who most likely appreciates art too. This is a direct correlation between artists and the Cannabis community. I’ve been noticing that more muralists are getting hired to paint public spaces, including the walls on the exterior and interior of Cannabis dispensaries and headshops.