In places like California or Colorado, where cannabis dispensaries feel about as commonplace as Starbucks, differentiating one potshop from another can be a rather dull task. ShowGrow in downtown Los Angeles, however, stands out among its peers, as a dispensary turned art gallery, where patients can pick out their bud while meandering the store to look at the display of photographs and paintings.
The original space for ShowGrow’s DTLA location (they have others in San Diego, Orange County, and Las Vegas) was an empty warehouse with a small dispensary attached. In a neighborhood full of edgy galleries, street murals, USC students, Staples center sports fans, rappers, fashionistas, theater goers, and so on, the space didn’t reflect the “downtown landscape,” Matt Smiley, art curator for ShowGrow, tells Jane Street.
The ShowGrow team revamped the space, incorporating wooden walls and copper elements to bring the dispensary a sense of warmth while upholding the industrial feel of DTLA. “Our ‘show grow’ is the focal point of the space,” says Smiley. “It is an evolving art piece that patients get to experience.” The dispensary features a live grow viewing room that allows customers to peer into the life cycle of developing weed plants.
“Growing cannabis, much like any form of gardening, is an artistic process,” he says. “Many people have not yet had the opportunity to see the extreme care and artistry growers employ in order to deliver the best flower.”
Art, like cannabis, is a show piece, Smiley adds. “Our slogan is ‘Cultivate Change’ and art plays an integral part in making people happy,” he says. “Cannabis and art are in a symbiotic relationship.”
While the cannabis industry has been viewed as a societal negative with various stigmas attached to it, Smiley says, public attitudes toward weed have begun to change as the plant’s medical benefits garner more attention. “People from all walks of life love cannabis and each take something different from it. Art can be equally subjective and lends itself very well in this marriage, as throughout history, art has helped break down barriers,” says Smiley. “I believe it is important for the cannabis world to reach outside itself in all areas, including the art world. Art is constantly evolving, which lends itself really well to this newfound ‘green rush.'”
ShowGrow’s rotating art display features everything from a portrait of Snoop Dogg by photographer Sasha Young to sketches and paintings by artists like Arghaël, Elle Michalka, Bryan Fox, and Smiley, himself, along with display cabinets of artisan pipes and buds.
“It was a initially a bit of a far-fetched concept to host a secret art gallery in a dispensary, as no one had really done it the way ShowGrow did,” says Smiley. “Convincing the first few artists took some time, but ultimately, when you’re seeing hundreds of patients walk through the door on a daily basis, it’s a bit tough for successful galleries to compete with this kind of foot traffic.”
And while weed didn’t have anything to do with the selection of art displayed in ShowGrow’s gallery, Smiley says there’s been interest in showcasing pieces that relate to cannabis or the lifestyle — such as the photographs of Snoop Dogg smoking. Other pieces, however, may not be the kind of art you’d necessarily expect in a dispensary. “For the most part, patients are hugely appreciative of the work we have on our walls,” says Smiley. “They love discovering new artists!”