Illinois is a microcosm of the United States, offering an energetic cultural hotspot you can feel in your bones. That energy only increased when the state legalized recreational adult use in June of 2019. When stores opened in January of 2020, lines were wrapped around streets in anticipation. Now over a year later, the cannabis business is booming in the Prairie State and Leafly couldn’t be more excited!
A state that helps set the standard for pop culture, Illinois is constantly bringing the heat when it comes to art. For instance, if you’ve ever walked the streets of Chicago, you’ve seen classic architectural wonders adorned with contemporary street art.
Leafly caught up with the three incredible artists that breathed life into rolling trays just for the Illinoisan stoners. Here’s what Anthony Lewellen, Sergio Farfan, and Martha Wade had to say about creating, cannabis, and community.
Leafly: What inspires your work?
Anthony Lewellen: My work is inspired by a lot of things. Probably the biggest inspiration is my experiences growing up in the city, the people, the sights, the sounds, the colors. I’ve always been interested in art from as far back as I can remember, but the thing that first got my work out into the public eye and gave me a sense of direction and purpose was when I got into graffiti as a teenager.
The years I spent drawing and painting around the city [have] become an important part of my approach and aesthetic to the way I make art to this day. Although the work that I create now is very different from what I did then, it’s all part of the growth and evolution you go through as an artist.
Leafly: If you’re a cannabis user, what are some rituals you’ve created for yourself around cannabis? If you aren’t, how do you think art can further impact destigmatizing cannabis use?
Lewellen: That’s an interesting question. I don’t have any rituals around cannabis. I think it can be helpful for a number of things if used responsibly. The documented medical benefits are important, but also in terms of managing stress and anxiety in general if used recreationally.
As far as art having an impact to destigmatize its use, it’s hard to say. Art can be a lot of things and can convey a lot, but it would really depend on the art. Where I live I don’t see, nor have I experienced, much stigma living in Chicago as perhaps other parts of the country, in particular since it’s been legalized here. I think the greatest stigma has been that it has been a criminal offense to have even small amounts of it for so long, which by default made you a criminal.
Leafly: What makes Illinois unlike any other place?
Anthony: For me, it’s Chicago for sure. It’s one of the greatest cities in the country and beyond that the world, and it just has so much going on here on so many levels. Of course, Illinois is more than just Chicago, but it’s the part I’ve experienced the most.
In general, though, Illinois being in the heart of the midwest has a very unique pace of life and a very down-to-earth way of being. Chicago being a big city in the middle of the prairie somehow still manages to feel like a small town at times, and the people are very grounded.
Leafly: When did you make the commitment to pursue art?
Sergio Farfan: Creating, in general, has always been an outlet for me to share either my story or stories that people can relate to. Whether it’s an exact experience that my audience and I can share or a sense of nostalgia that reminisces in both our childhoods, I want to show people that we are all the same in some way, despite gender, ethnicity, or living different lifestyles.
Leafly: What role does cannabis play in your artistic process, if any?
Farfan: The overall topic of its recreational/medicinal use isn’t for everyone, but I don’t want that stigma stopping people from showing their support for its consumers and their stories. I don’t see a problem with cannabis and have friends who love it. I know so many people who have benefited from it for health reasons and recreationally. I’m glad to see more access to products that can help them.
Leafly: What roles does art play in Illinois specifically?
Farfan: My goal as an artist is to bring people together, so it’s safe to say that a strong and supportive sense of community is very important to me. That being said, I’m very honored to grow up in a city where art is constantly thriving and was one of the first to legalize cannabis.
Even with those two things, there’s never been much support for either in the past: the stereotype of being a “starving artist” and not finding money in an artist’s career, or marijuana with the stigma that would follow it and its users. But it’s great to know now that there’s a large community developing around both aspects, and that people are becoming more accepting of different lifestyles.
Leafly: What is the hardest yet most rewarding lesson you’ve learned as an artist?
Martha Wade: The hardest and most rewarding lesson I’ve learned as an artist is that my work is a direct reflection of my own thoughts, feelings, and perception of the world. Being an artist has forced me to deal with my own insecurities and to become a better person. When people ask about a painting and want to know my innermost thoughts on what led to a [specific] creation, I must look within and figure out how to get my message across.
This has been a challenging process because it was hard for me to open up in the past. Now I realize it has helped me to learn to manage my own emotions and, in turn, better communicate how I am feeling and how that led to the painting.
Leafly: What are some rituals you’ve created for yourself around cannabis?
Martha: My father passed away recently. It’s been hard because my dad was my best friend and a fellow artist. During the past few months, I have felt overwhelmed with life while mourning his loss. Cannabis has helped to manage some of those feelings and [has] been somewhat of a mood stabilizer.
Leafly: What does it mean to be an Illinois artist?
Martha: Being an Illinois artist means that I have midwest values while also being from the third-largest city in the US. Growing up here is a blessing in that we are blessed with diversity and so much culture.
We couldn’t agree more! Each of these artists brings their own sentiments and wonder to their communities and beyond.
Check out Anthony Lewellen, Sergio Farfan, and Martha Wade below. And if you’re in Illinois and want to own one of these gorgeous rolling trays, enter to win one from Leafly.