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From Ricardo’s Desk | A 2003 Rock Show Inspires a 2019 Holiday Gift: How Experience and Ideation Guides Our Agency’s Creative Path

Published on
December 27, 2019
The 2020 Grasslands Holiday calendar
Contributors
RICARDO BACA

Ricardo Baca is a 20-year veteran journalist, keynote speaker, TEDx veteran and thought leader in modern media and drug-policy circles. He served as The Denver Post’s first-ever marijuana editor and founded news vertical The Cannabist, where he extensively covered the advent of adult-use cannabis and related issues across the country and around the world, as seen in the feature documentary Rolling Papers (Netflix).

In 2016, Ricardo launched Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency to work directly with business leaders in highly regulated industries, including cannabis, energy and traditional healthcare. Named Marketer of the Year by AdCann in 2019, Ricardo has received numerous accolades for his trailblazing work covering drug policy, cannabis business and culture, and continues to columnize and host podcasts for a number of top publications.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Denver Post, Vox, The New York Times

Super inspired by: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: The Marshall Project

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Travel. Design. Writing. Feminist. ENFP.


Read on for Details on How to Score a Grasslands Scroll Calendar of Your Own.

Editor’s note: From time to time, Grasslands Founder & CEO Ricardo Baca will share some BTS agency musings here.

Before I ran Grasslands—heck, before I was a Marijuana Editor—I was the Music Critic for The Denver Post for a decade-plus. (Yes, I’ve been very fortunate in the cool-job department.)

Music has long been a legit steering force in my life, and the music critic gig afforded me a front-row seat to an industry I was fascinated by. I interviewed David Bowie, Adele, Robert Plant, Fleetwood Mac, Jay-Z, U2, Katy Perry, Neil Diamond, Brian Wilson and many others. I wrote obituaries for Prince, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and, sadly, many others.

But this particular story starts with a singer I’ve always loved: John Grant. John used to front beloved Denver band The Czars, and now he and his otherworldly voice have a successful solo career. (If you don’t know John’s music, you should definitely give these jams a listen: “GMF” and “Outer Space.”)

Something Unexpected

In early 2003, while watching a Czars show in Denver (or maybe it was Boulder), I cut out for another beer and noticed something unexpected on the band’s merch table. 

Next to the vinyl, buttons and Ts rested a beautiful screen-printed poster that, when fully unfurled, revealed it to be a 2003 scroll calendar. I’d never seen a band sell a calendar at its merch table, but this calendar was different than what your real estate agent aunt sends you around the holidays: handmade and artful, printed with bold colors on thick stock; a beautiful design, subtly branded with the band’s identity but also obtuse and minimal; and it was ultimately useful, as a calendar is always functional.

I was already a fan of screen-printed art, and so I bought the calendar, and sure enough I used that calendar for the next year—and once the year ended, I chopped the screen-print down to a more manageable size and framed it. 

That was more than 15 years ago. 

But a few months ago as my colleagues at Grasslands and I started planning holiday gifts for our clients and collaborators, I told them I wanted to create a screen-printed 2020 scroll calendar—something that was original and beautiful, something that was an authentic expression of our strategic PR and creative Thought Leadership work at Grasslands, something useful, something our clients and collaborators would consider for their valuable wall space, something that was handmade and came from the heart. 

And so we made it a priority. 

Inspired Aesthetics

I knew I would art direct this project, as I do all creative work that comes out of Grasslands. And I knew that artist Andrew Morris, who works at our partner agency TechGrayscale, was the right collaborator to make my vision a tangible reality. And with the help of my Grasslands colleagues, who chipped in on content work and operations, and some external collaborators—including Denver-based screen printer Ink Lounge—we made a beautiful, functional scroll calendar from scratch.

Our 2020 calendar is pretty striking, if I do say so myself: gold and black ink on sturdy, charcoal stock that’s 18-by-24 inches, with elements of Scandinavian design playing off other styles—Moorish influence in the Moroccan keyhole arch that frames much of the original art; constructivist inspiration gleaned from old Soviet posters I love; celestial influences fitting the astrological predictions that line the right side; and a few other multicultural nods to other aesthetics we adore and appreciate. 

We were so excited to pick these up from the screen printer that Andrew and I gathered together at Grasslands HQ for three hours one night to look over the posters and hand- sign and number each one. It was a cathartic opportunity to finish a project I’d long dreamed of, to get to know Andrew better and to have some laughs and share some stories over a few beers.

The truth is, there’s a story behind everything we do at Grasslands—and of course everything is done with strategy and intention, from the work we execute on our clients’ behalf to our own internal projects.

Creative Content Marketing

As author Lee Bolman once said, “A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.” And we take these words quite seriously at Grasslands. When you compile the hard costs and time spent on this scroll calendar project alone, it’s a costly endeavor. But when you measure the ROI of these singular, handmade pieces of art hanging on our clients’ and collaborators’ walls for the next year, everything falls into place.

And going back to that original Czars scroll calendar from 2003? It’s still hanging in my home today—still bringing me and my wife joy because it’s a beautiful piece of art, and because it takes me back to a time and a place, a song and a voice. 

We’ve sent the Grasslands scroll calendars to our clients and collaborators, but we have some extras. If you’d like one and you’re in Denver, drop by our office sometime during regular office hours (146 W. 12th Ave. between 9a-5p MT) before Jan. 3, 2020, and we’ll happily send you on your way with one or two while supplies last. If you’re not in Denver, drop us a line and I’m sure we can figure out a way to get you one (though you might have to cover shipping). 

And of course if you’d like to connect on a call sometime to discuss Grasslands representing your brand, drop me a line to set up a meeting or call.

Happy 2020 to all, and may we celebrate thoughtfully—and stylishly.

The 2003 scroll calendar sold by former Denver band The Czars (with cat for scale).

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