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Graffiti Artist Tuke - The Journey Home

This month we will be diving deep into the stories of several system affected people who have broken their cycles of incarceration by discovering various forms of regenerative healing, helping them to take back their lives and become important contributors to their communities. This is a topic that is near and dear to our heart with our parent company, Guayaki, recently establishing their own distribution company “The Yerba Mate Co.” which is dedicated to providing opportunities for meaningful employment to system affected individuals globally.

Currently we are putting on a number of events in Colorado, many of which include local artists like Tuke; a Denver-based graffiti artist who spent some time hanging out with the Come To Life crew as part of the Crush Denver event. Here is a short write up from the man himself where he reflects on the path that led him to where he is today and the forces that helped shape him.


I have such a sense of gratitude to be where I am today, living the life that I am, it sometimes feels a bit surreal as if I’m living a dream. I’ve been so blessed by such a strong support system, that has kept me moving forward even before I was released. People who took the time to connect with me while I was inside, and have shown up en masse when I was released to contribute in some way to my success. It’s these tokens of trust, generosity, and love that keep me going. They empower me to want to rise to my full potential.. whatever that may be. I can only pray that the next man in my position can be as fortunate as I have to have the awakening that I did. To see themselves in a new light, to release the pain and fear, and to live their lives in an authentic and nourishing manner.

As for the other artist that is painting with me his name is Emit. He moved to denver from Connecticut, and was in the New York graffiti scene, actually started writing in 1989.. One of my oldest and dearest graffiti brothers. We met in about 1993 I believe, and started painting together right away. We had both been doing graffiti already. We knew of each others work when we met, so it was a pleasure to start painting together. Emit is an incredible letter technician, I’d dare say he’s one of the best at what he does. He has such a refined style that he’s been doing consistently for so many years. He’s somewhat of a legend in the graffiti world, and somehow miraculously our paths crossed. My background was always more artistically based, my parents are both artists. So when we began collaborating we would come up with ideas that kind of pushed the boundaries of graffiti guidelines. He in some way even now 20 some years later manages to keep me on my toes by pushing me technically, and in turn I seem to inspire him when it comes to more organic elements. We make a good team, possibly as a result of being such good friends for so many years. It makes me a bit sad looking back, knowing that I squandered some of that time lost in my own delusions. Emit and I are both part of a bigger crew called DF, which has international members, all of which are incredibly talented. But going back to denver during the 90s we were among a very small group that did graffiti in a way which even those who didn’t understand it began to admire. By adding in other elements and creating beautiful worlds, or whimsical humor that brings a smile, which in my opinion helped to set the stage for things like Crush to exist. I’ve been told many times by some of Denver’s top artists that I had a hand in influencing them to create, and I know first hand that Emit had that affect on me. Even Dread, Crush’s creator, may never have got into painting murals if it wasn’t for people like Emit and I leading the way back then. Would it have happened here anyway if we didn’t exist? Hard to say…

-Tuke