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Marginalized Artists See NFTs As A Financial Solution

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Ann Thompson
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As part of the discussion April 22, participants in the Art & Equity Summit talked about NFTs.

For too long, Black and other minority artists say they have been cut out of the equation when it comes to getting rich off their own art. They want to start recouping some of those losses with an eye toward the future and a class of cryptocurrency.

"There are so many hurdles and obstacles involved with gaining any sort of recognition within the art world as a Black man, as a man of color or as any person of color," says Vakseen, a 41-year-old digital artist based in California. But with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that might be changing.

Here's how NFTs work: With any sale, buyers receive a digital certificate of authenticity on a blockchain. This proves ownership and preserves the artwork's provenance. 

With non-fungable tokens on the blockchain, these creators have total control over the sale of their art and how it's distributed. In a sense, they are their own agents and gallery owners. They can also attach stipulations to get proceeds every time it is sold.

 
Coindesk reports, "Vakseen accepted an 8 ETH (ethereum) bid (around $16,800 as of 4/5/21) for the first six editions of a digital painting featuring legendary basketball player Michael Jordan."

The NFT minting and exposure did a couple of things, according to the article. It led to the commissioning for another digital art piece and got him publicity from an NFT exhibition featuring Black artists from around the world. "The exhibition, titled 'Harmony & Balance,' mimicked a digital art museum and was created to support the Black NFT artist community."

Mike Winkelmann, the artist known as Beeple, also experienced some tough times, only making as much as $100 off a print before NFTs. Cybersecurity Consultant at Intrust IT Dave Hatter couldn't believe how much he made recently.

"He created these pieces of art every single day and then they put 5,000 of them together and it's called "Everydays, the first 5000 days." It sold for $69.3 million," says Hatter.

A Cincinnati Connection

Rob Richardson, founder of Disruption Now Media, organized the Art & Equity Summit, held virtually April 22.

Richardson likens NFTs to recent protests. "You go out there. We just organize in the streets. Now people use social media. It's not replacing protesting. It's another avenue and mechanism to accelerate the process. That's how I see NFTs, if done right," he says.

He and others say they are building a platform "focused on connecting, empowering and building a global network of diverse artists, art collectors and entrepreneurs."

Karla Ferguson, a summit co-host who owns a gallery in Miami, says we shouldn't be afraid of technology. "Art is meant to reflect the time that the artists is creating in, and if in our current society there's a lot of virtuality going on, a lot of technology, we need to embrace that because that is the future."

Hatter agrees it is the future. "I do think it will potentially create a revenue generating opportunity for people who would have no other outlet to sell their art."