Visual artists see opportunities and challenges in the NFT space

Atlanta muralist Greg Mike remembers the first time he heard the phrase “hit.” It was at a bitcoin conference in San Francisco four years ago.

“We were painting a giant mural and it was painted live throughout the event, and people kept coming up to me and they kept saying, ‘Hey, you gonna hit that thing?'” Mike said. “And at that time, I had no idea what ‘minting’ meant.”

So he started his research and early last year he minted or created his first non-fungible tokens. The NFTs were a series of animated digital creations in his retro-cartoon style filled with bright colors and bold lines.

NFTs are gaining popularity with some up-and-coming visual artists. They see it as a way to connect directly with their followers and create another revenue stream. But these artists are still trying to navigate the complexities of this new technology.

Mike said his NFTs have sold for thousands of dollars and NFTs have made him rethink the value of his works.

“The digital files that I create are actually the originals and my paintings that I paint, whether it’s a mural or a painting in the studios, it’s almost a replica,” Mike said.

Other artists use NFTs as digital tickets for VIP access, meetups, or exclusive content. NFTs are a way for artists to bypass traditional channels to reach customers, such as art galleries. And it can be helpful for artists of color or people who lack the funds to support their artistic work.

“It cuts out the middleman and allows them to build stronger relationships with their community,” said Ashley France, who runs an Atlanta consulting firm that helps artists.

But some artists are hesitant to get involved in NFTs until the power-intensive blockchain processes behind them have a smaller carbon footprint.

These technologies need to become more efficient, said Benn Konsynski, a business professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

“They are meant to create a reliable process, but in doing so they create a negative impact on energy consumption,” he said.

The NFT space can also raise legal issues. Artists should be careful when navigating intellectual property laws, France said.

“You know, like artists do, they take things and make them their own, but not realizing that it doesn’t matter if you’re creative about it or it’s an NFT,” said she declared.

Because she said that even if it’s part of an NFT, it can still infringe on someone else’s work.

There’s a lot going on in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is there for you.

You rely on Marketplace to break down world events and tell you how it affects you in a factual and accessible way. We count on your financial support to continue to make this possible.

Your donation today fuels the independent journalism you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help maintain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.

Briana R. Cross