Colorado has a reputation for being a pothead’s paradise, to put it bluntly (pun intended). After all, who could forget when, in the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, then Mayor Michael Hancock announced that dispensaries and liquor stores would be ordered to close because they’re not essential businesses, sending Denverites racing to their nearest dispensary to buy their bud before the decision was reversed just two hours later.

But despite the Mile High’s devotion to dope, researchers have warned about THC concentrates—products like dabs, wax, and hash oil that can contain up to 90 percent THC—and their harmful effects on vulnerable populations, specifically adolescents. That’s why lawmakers passed House Bill 1317 during the 2021 legislative session, which tasked the Colorado School of Public Health with developing an education campaign for the public on the effects of high-potency THC.

Now, that education campaign is taking off with the opening of Hear/Say, an exhibition at Highland’s BRDG Project Gallery and Event Space that uses art to examine the effects of marijuana concentrates. Curator Tya Anthony selected 11 artists to attend a three-day workshop where they heard lectures from local scientists and medical professionals about the potential dangers of concentrates. The artists were also invited to tour marijuana growing facilities. Then, they were given a few months to create art pieces based on what they learned, all of which will be on display through July 14.

“We were asked to have open minds despite being pro or nay cannabis,” Anthony says. “When an artist creates work, it’s typically from their own imagination and lived experiences, versus in this exhibition where the artists are creating based on information given to them.”

That science-informed art model is relatively new, according to Ann Collier, an associate professor with the Colorado School of Public Health and the project’s co-director. “I did a literature review and there was one project in the United Kingdom that I found before this. What you do see is social practice art, where artists try to bring social issues or hot topics into the art world where they can be experienced with the community,” Collier says. “But using art as a medium to disseminate science and public health information is somewhat novel.”

A separate exhibition titled Grow Up, at Bell Projects Gallery through July 7, features the same science-informed art model, except the participating artists are youth from four schools in the Denver metro area.

“We don’t want to tell people what to do, we want to challenge people to think about it through the art,” Collier says. “That’s why artists are in a really good position to share messages. They can express these issues in abstract ways that get people thinking about it.”

In local painter Shaunie Berry’s work “Sacred Resilience: The Matriarchs,” six silhouettes move in a field of greenery to represent the femininity of cannabis plants. Berry’s piece was inspired by the tours of the marijuana grow facilities, where the artists learned that each plant grown for human consumption is genetically female.


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Artist Samuel Mata created a collage and complementary walk-around sculpture that explore how high-concentrate cannabis use in youth can cause psychosis and schizophrenia. Mata’s collage, titled “Young Man Experiences Psychotic Episode After One Dab,” is made up of intricately placed cutouts of flamingos, dolphins, umbrellas, and Roman statues to form a larger piece. The sculpture consists of a hodgepodge of materials, including plastic reflective masks, cinder blocks, metal, and fabric that tower like a human beside the collage.

The Colorado School of Public Health is planning to extend the campaign beyond the gallery walls to get the public informed on the dangers of concentrates. Additional initiatives include a social media campaign, a podcast, billboards throughout the city, and six 10-minute documentaries which are all in the works. Until then, Denverites can view paintings, collages, and sculptures from local artists including Christine Nguyen, Autumn Thomas, and Tiffany Medina at the gallery.

“There’s no more literal hearsay about concentrates, which is how I came up with the title of the show, versus what’s informed by science and research,” Anthony says. “We can break the stigma around discussing cannabis. This is a conversation in the state of Colorado that needs to happen to inform our communities in the right way.”

Hear/Say is on display at BRDG Project Gallery and Event Space through July 14 and is free to attend. Stay up to date on the exhibit and related artist talks on the project’s website.

Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and