Culture News

Lalo Cota Paints Massive Mural for New Tobacconist Art Gallery

Most smoke shops are pretty standard -- you'll find lots of shelves with pipes, pot leaf motifs here and there, and maybe a poster of Bob Marley somewhere. But one local head shop owner is trying to make his new location more like an art gallery, and he's enlisted the help of talented Phoenix muralist Lalo Cota.

Cota, whose work we've covered both on Jackalope Ranch and in the feature "Tag, You're Art," will be doing a full wraparound mural on the interior of the new Herb N Legend shop at 830 E. Greenway Road (in the plaza with Chuy's). 

The new Herb N Legend location, scheduled to open on Saturday, is an extension of the Herb N Legend shop in Peoria, and will feature all kinds of artistic touches -- most prominently, Cota's cityscape/skyline mural.

Herb N Legend owner Tim Martin had been looking for a local mural artist for months when a mutual friend put him in touch with Cota last week. Martin had already hired another mural artist to do some work around the shop's massive indoor fountain, which was hand constructed from salvaged tiles and runs from the ceiling to the floor. But the original fountain mural, which depicted predictable head shops icons like Cheech and Chong, Bob Marley, and Willie Nelson, will be painted over by Cota, who has a more urban, modern concept in mind.

​Cota's mural will extend from the shop's humidor, which is a separate structure inside Herb N Legend, a small black building designed to look like art deco architecture from the 20s or 30s. The mural will expand on the retro metropolitan art deco vibe, with a vast expanse of buildings, chimneys, and streets.

"Everything will all be made out of glass pipes, so all the buildings will be different pipes," Cota explains. "Originally, I was just going to do it in black and white, but when I went to the paint store, they had all these different shades of gray, so I decided to try it."

The cityscape mural will cover every bare inch of wall around the store, including the walls around the fountain. The fountain itself is quite a sight, and already has running water.

In addition to Cota's mural, the fountain, and the art deco humidor, Martin plans to install an old (but still functional) pay phone in the store. The pay phone was part of an art exhibit downtown, and has been refitted with all sorts of graffiti and light-up effects. There's also an elaborate blown glass chandelier on the way.

​Martin's hoping to get everything installed and finished by Saturday. Cota just began work on the mural on Wednesday, and will be working almost nonstop until completion. "I'm really excited to have Lalo's work in here," Martin says. "This is going to be like no smoke shop anybody's ever seen."

Learn more about Lalo Cota and his work when he speaks on November 12, as part of Pecha Kucha Night: Phoenix.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea