CULTURE

The Stone Age Immersive Exhibit Brings Cannabis Education to New Yorkers

A mural by artists Maya Sanders and Distort, reflecting the unjust ways anti-cannabis laws have been used to target Black and Brown communities.
A mural by artists Maya Sanders and Distort, reflecting the unjust ways anti-cannabis laws have been used to target Black and Brown communities. / Photo by Taylor Engle

Cannabis is officially legal in NYC, and although regulations have yet to roll out, the cannabis community is already setting the stage for what legal weed is going to look like in the Big City.

The first steps of this came to life earlier this month with The Stone Age, a female-owned immersive cannabis experience that brings education, awareness, and aesthetically-pleasing inspiration to New Yorkers (and tourists) who are beginning to familiarize themselves with the plant.

The pop-up exhibit is also working closely with The Last Prisoner Project in an effort to bring equity and justice to the industry. 

Not only will visitors relish in the beautiful artistry of the installations, but they’ll be invited to take action and engage with the social justice reform the industry so badly needs.

The Stone Age: New York’s First Ever Immersive Cannabis Experience

cannabis high
The first mural viewers are faced with upon entering The Stone Age Experience, by Adam Fujita and Natasha Platt. / Photo by Taylor Engle

The Stone Age, which is open to the public through Nov 24, 2021, at 607 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, pays homage to the “state of being” that cannabis provides its consumers through universally-shared human experiences that connect us all to one another.

When viewers first step into the ethereal space, they’re greeted by a sign that reads: “As you free flow throughout each space, we invite you to experience the shift happening right in front of you. Expand your mind, ignite your senses, and experience flow state.”

Through a series of immersive, interactive, multi-sensory exhibits, The Stone Age explores the unique links between cannabis and everyday phenomena like creativity, arousal, enlightenment, euphoria, mindfulness, and awareness.

“We created The Stone Age very intentionally as an immersive exhibit because we really believe that education resonates most with people when it’s more of a tactile, sensory environment,” said Sasha Perelman, co-founder of The Stone Age Experience. 

“Our goal is to educate, immerse, and really be the catalyst for thought-provoking conversation as it relates to all of the topics. We don’t want to assume that everyone coming in here has a relationship with cannabis.”

Although cannabis is more destigmatized than it’s been in over a century, there are still quite a few misconceptions surrounding the plant and how it connects to our daily existence and wellness. Perelman and her co-founder Liz Santana recognized this gap in awareness, which they aim to bridge with The Stone Age.

Arousal, Creativity, Education, Awareness, and The “New Age” of Cannabis

lighting piece by Jason Krugman
A lighting piece by Jason Krugman, who was prompted to create something that reflects what cannabis and arousal means to them. / Photo by Taylor Engle

The space is arranged so that visitors can flow from room to room, taking their time to interact with each creation designed to either inform, educate, immerse, encourage reflection, or some combination of the four. 

Each art piece is the result of a collaboration with local artists from the tri-state area, who were each prompted to freely create something that speaks to their personal relationship with the plant.

Upon entering, visitors are faced with an exhibit that centers on arousal: attraction, anticipation, orgasm, and overall satisfaction that can be taken to the next level with the infusion of cannabis.

“We chose arousal because there’s a lot of parallels between sexual wellness and cannabis, and a lot of stigma and shame around sex,” Perelman told The Bluntness.

“In order for that needle to move, we need to have a conversation around it and take it from shame culture to empowerment. And cannabis is a brilliant tool in helping you be present and feel more pleasure. It was a no-brainer to have this be the start of the tour.”

The arousal exhibit takes you on an all-encompassing sexual journey with different artists’ interpretations of what sex and cannabis means to them, reminding viewers how important it is to connect with their own sexuality in a way that honors and enhances the experience.

From there, visitors move seamlessly into Creativity, which highlights how cannabis allows people to think out of the box, look at things from a fresh perspective, and create a new narrative.

While arousal and creativity are both things that can be enhanced with the aid of cannabis, the plant is also known for awakening and intensifying emotions that already live in people, like happiness, calmness, or euphoria. 

“Euphoria” in particular is a major buzzword in the cannabis industry, especially when thinking about the different effects that cannabinoids can have on the body. 

The Stone Age dedicates a piece of the experience to this specific sensation, inspiring a “new age” of collective views on the plant and how it can improve quality of life. 

The room, which is adorned with crystal-encrusted artwork from local creators, is accompanied by a sign that reads: “Our high at The Stone Age is to redefine the narrative surrounding cannabis and not only offer the truth, but invoke a new perspective.”

This section is particularly special to Perelman and Santana, due to the importance of changing the stigma that’s followed cannabis around for far too long.

“It’s not the stoner basement culture anymore. It’s very much about lifestyle and celebrating the efficacy of the plant and all of the things it helps us talk about,” Perelman said.

The Immersive Exhibit Aims to Educate and Raise Awareness Around Injustices in the Industry

Mindfulness
“Mindfulness,” an interactive exhibit that encourages viewers to contribute in their own way. / Photo by Taylor Engle

The rest of the exhibit is dedicated to education and awareness: both on the science behind the plant and the decades of ludicrous prohibition founded on racism, which has negatively affected Black and Brown communities throughout the nation.

From consumption modalities and strains to the differences between hemp and cannabis, there are opportunities for everyone to come away with something they may not have known before about the plant.

The information is thorough yet digestible, curated to not overwhelm viewers but to provide them with enough education to keep asking questions on their own.

“Even if you walk out of here with two to three things, it’s two to three things more that you know, and then it creates that ripple effect. You get so excited, you tell three of your friends, they tell three of their friends...all of a sudden, we have more conscious consumers across the board,” Perelman said.

Beyond some of the basic scientific elements of the plant, the exhibit also delves into the decades-long War on Drugs and the subsequent opioid crisis that has hit the nation as a byproduct of the demonization of cannabis. 

Viewers moving through this part of the space will stand under various speakers, which dictate different facts about the opioid crisis and the damage it has done to so many people throughout the U.S. and beyond.

“Moving out of Euphoria, we step into the state of Pain. This is important to us, because not everything is sexy, but everything needs to be talked about. So this is our ode to the opioid epidemic,” Perelman said.

“This is affecting a lot of people in the country – like, one in four. We wanted to communicate through artistic interpretation that opioid addiction doesn’t start on the streets. It actually starts in the doctor’s office.”

Perelman describes that when the prescription ends, the addiction remains, resulting in millions of citizens turning to the streets for their product. This puts people at a constant risk for fatal overdose, which has been quietly affecting our country for years.

After the pain exhibit, visitors move naturally into Mindfulness, an important human concept that is closely connected to cannabis and other healing herbs like eucalyptus, lavender, or rose.

This exhibit invites viewers to interact by placing pins in the wall above mindfulness techniques they may or may not resonate with: meditation, journaling, gratitude, self-care, or visualization.

“Over time, this becomes sort of a community art piece that everyone contributes to. For me personally, journaling is my mindfulness practice every morning,” Perelman said. “It’s a nice little peace pause before we enter into Awareness.”

A Call to Action: The Industry’s Ongoing Need For Expungement and Equity

a jail cell
A recreation of a jail cell by Maya Sanders and Distort, which so many people have spent years of their lives in due to cannabis-related crimes. / Photo by Taylor Engle

Awareness, the final state of being in The Stone Age, is dedicated to the millions of Americans whose lives have been thrown off the rails due to racially-motivated cannabis discrimination. 

It’s impossible to move through this space without feeling on the verge of tears. From artwork created by those who have spent time behind bars for cannabis-related crimes to a timeline of the War on Drugs to a lifelike recreation of a jail cell, this space brings the effects of cannabis prohibition to the forefront in an incredibly sobering light, forcing people to open their eyes and look.

“Obviously, we’d be remiss to produce a cannabis event and not talk about the impact of the War on Drugs, particularly on communities of color, and the racial injustices it has evoked,” Perelman said.

“This wall features the creative workings of men and women who have been impacted, either currently or formerly incarcerated. Everything from poetry to creative writing to drawings and paintings.”

Perelman highlights a specific poem written by a man from Jersey City.

“After a long day of work, he wanted some reprieve, lit a joint. The cops pulled up behind him and immediately threw him in jail. Now he has a criminal record. Thirty-something-year-old, father of two. The amount of these injustices that happen is astronomical,” Perelman said.

The concept came from Perelman’s experience working in the cannabis criminal justice system, where she witnessed countless atrocities directed against People of Color for their cannabis use.

“This is a celebration of not only their creativity, but humanizing them. Showing that not everyone in prison is a deviant,” Perelman said. 

The space features a scannable QR code, which immediately takes viewers’ phones to petitions for The Last Prisoner Project to help support the fight for equity and expungement throughout the industry. 

The Stone Age is a celebration of cannabis and the joy it can bring to life, while also shining a spotlight on the industry’s flaws that must be addressed. 

“We can’t fault people for not knowing what they don’t know, but what we can do for this space is really cultivate awareness and help people get involved,” Perelman said. “With information comes power.”

The Stone Age will be available in Manhattan for a limited time only. To learn more about The Stone Age and purchase tickets, visit: thestoneagenyc.com

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