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Inside Tweed

Art Gallery’s Grassland Exhibit Gets Political


Cannabis has been a contentious topic in Penticton in recent months. Last December, the city became the first municipality in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley to grant temporary-use permits to two pot shops. Five others were shut out of the process in a move that left the townspeople questioning why some dispensaries were given the green light, and others were told to close their doors.

With three shops now operating in the city, the longest-standing member of the compassion club community there continues to play the odd man out, paying a fine of $500 a day to keep his doors open. Across the street from Jukka Laurio’s Herbal Green dispensary, the owner of six franchises is reportedly running his storefront with impunity, selling out of a shop with a polished front-end. The way one local advocate sees it, the municipality needs to extend the same courtesy, or penalty, to all dispensaries in the area.


Art by Jacques Bartels

“The guys who’ve been on the frontlines of this thing have been taking all the hits, paying the fines and doing the time,” says Paul Crawford. “It’s a big issue here in town and people keep flopping all over the place with their opinions. As much as it seems to be really accepted and mainstream out here, I’m still amazed at the opposition to it and the suspicion around legalization on a municipal level.”

To bridge the political divide in his community, Crawford plans to harness the power of art. As the curator and director of the Penticton Art Gallery, he’s organizing “Grassland,” an exhibit that will explore the culture, history and economics of cannabis in society. Crawford says he hopes the event will attract attendees from each side of the debate, and help answer some of the questions riddling his town in the run-up to reform.


Art by Redbeard

Looking to present an objective and balanced take on the topic, Crawford is inviting stakeholders to speak on the issue at a public forum being held every Saturday over the course of the two-month event. “Grassland” will showcase lectures from, and discussions with, mental health experts, police officers and city officials. The weekly forum will look to investigate dispensary licensing within the community, and the future of legalization in Penticton.

“As far as I know, this is the first public gallery or museum in Canada to do an expansive exhibition on the topic,” says Crawford. “I hope that it prompts more galleries to step up and examine the cannabis question in greater detail. It’s exciting.”


Art by Sergio Garcia

Kicking off with an Alice in Wonderland-themed party on St. Patrick’s Day, “Grassland” will sprawl out over 3,000 square feet of main gallery space, and take over two additional rooms that total 1,500 square feet in the Penticton Art Gallery.

From political cartoons, pieces crafted out of rolling papers and a glass blowing exhibition featuring renowned artist Patrick “Redbeard” Vrolyk, #Grassland will hope to prove a nod to the worlds of pop culture and fine art, all while exploring the history and future of hemp and cannabis.

"Grassland" opens March 17 and runs until May 14. The exhibit will feature Tweed’s Artist-in-Residence Ezra Soiferman. For more information, visit pentictonartgallery.com.




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