Nonprofit becomes non-fungible – Boulder Weekly

EEveryone from MLB, video game companies and celebrities are hitching their wagons to the caravan of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. A Boulder County Arts Nonprofit, ArtSticksdelves into the field of NFTs to broaden the reach of local artists and secure new sources of fundraising.

ArtSticks, co-founded by Cassie Clussman and James Clark, operates a trio of sticker vending machines in Boulder County; two on Pearl Street at Trident Bookstore and Illegal Pete’s, with another at the Firehouse Art Center in Longmont. The stickers, now on the eighth set since 2018, are designed by Colorado artists.

With ArtSticks, Clark and Clussman aim to put high-quality, low-cost art into the hands of the community. Each sticker costs just one dollar, distributed randomly from vending machines. The association also sells stickers by series and with a virtual sticker machine on their website, ArtSticks.netby mailing them for those looking for other methods to acquire their favorite stickers.

Like many small nonprofits, ArtSticks is an entirely voluntary operation. The stickers themselves are printed and donated by Longmont-based StickerGiant. The funds go towards artist support, machine maintenance, and other running costs, and neither Clark nor Clussman takes a paycheck for their work.

MAENPAA ArtSticks staff, volunteers and artists gathered at the Firehouse Art Center to wrap stickers for Series 8

The seventh and eighth series focus on the theme “Art as Resistance”, a deliberately broad category that encourages artists to interrogate social commentary, environmental concerns, and any other topic within PG territory to keep the stickers relevant to family. But this sense of resistance and disruption to the accessibility of art is now being directed to the world of NFTs and fundraising.

“The purpose of what we are trying to do is not to generate wealth for individuals. We believe that the NFT space and whatever shape it takes in the future will be built on what it is today,” Clark says. “It will be a continuous evolution of the NFT market and now is a good time to jump into it, learn, experiment and even fail, but also be successful.”

Clark and ArtSticks aren’t trying to get rich from NFTs, he explains. Although the relatively few who explore the world of NFTs and other forms of crypto-economy may enter the field with plans to build an investment portfolio, ArtSticks’ motivations are to enter the ground. floor of this new phenomenon.

“It’s the idea and the joy of joining a community, being part of something new and unique and learning more about it,” says Clark.

When something is non-fungible, it basically means that it is unique – truly one of a kind – and cannot be exchanged with anything else. Fungible, on the other hand, means that something is one of many. A dollar is fungible and is worth the same amount regardless of the serial number. The “Mona Lisa” is non-fungible, worth a different amount than any other painting, even other da Vinci’s.

NFTs are like works of art in their uniqueness. They are created on a blockchain – a digital public ledger that exists on a network of computers – by a distinctive alphanumeric tag called a hash. Blockchains are able to track every transaction, whether it is a cryptocurrency or an NFT. An NFT works as a certificate of authenticity and ownership for anything the NFT is related to, whether it’s video game tokens, tickets or rare works of art, which can then be purchased and sold. The NFT may contain information about the creator, when it was made, and the price of each transaction related to that hash.

The sense of belonging is murky. Buying an NFT is not necessarily like entering the Louvre and buying the “Mona Lisa”, but rather like owning the documents of authenticity of the famous painting. While the majority of NFTs sold also include some kind of experience (music videos, digital art, etc.), the NFT itself is actually a receipt that can be held or traded.

Tim Rohde, tech analyst and CEO of Boulder crypto firm Blockchain Guru, explains that like many collectibles, NFTs are as valuable to collectors as anything else with what he calls “lasting value.” .

“I get worried when I see an NFT selling for $90,000 and it’s not associated with something we’re already applying sustainable value ideas to,” Rohde says. “I would be totally at ease if I saw an officially Louvre-sanctioned ‘Mona Lisa’ NFT. If it sells for a million dollars, that’s fine, I get it.

Established works of art aside, Rohde’s concern is when high sale prices are attached to digital art from relative unknowns. Not that the artist should benefit, he says, but that there is no way to gauge how long this high value will hold as a commercial object. Buying, selling and even producing NFTs is a high risk bet. Rohde likens NFTs and cryptocurrency to gambling in a casino or trading stocks, only with a higher cost of entry and less regulation.

“The thing to understand about NFTs is that it’s a game. You’re playing a game. And in some cases those NFTs will have lasting value, but we don’t know if they all will” , he said.

Rohde helped Clark navigate the world of NFTs, he explains, though he doesn’t want to call it consulting. Still, he sees a benefit in how NFTs can help local art.

“Some of the things that make sense to maintain lasting value are present with ArtSticks. They’re an organization, they release something physical. People consume it, they collect it,” he explains. to emerging and established artists.”

The tangible aspect of ArtSticks – stickers from local artists, already accessible and collectible – is what gives Rohde confidence that the nonprofit organization’s artistic ideology could play well in the market.

“These people are making things in the real world that sell, so there’s a structure under the NFT in that sense,” Rhode says. “It’s a cultural phenomenon with real artifacts, in the real world that people pay for, made by people who will continue to make these things and maybe become famous.”

Clark studies the Rarible platform for ArtSticks’ NFT sets, both for its use of multiple forms of blockchain, but also because of how Rarible uses “proof of stake.” The blockchain validates transactions by two different means: proof of work and proof of stake.

While the technical differences between the two are borderline arcane, proof-of-work costs significantly more in terms of technology and energy requirements, resulting in a higher purchase cost for things like NFTs in this blockchain. Proof-of-stake is owned by multiple people, instead of just one, leading to more efficient systems and a distributed cost structure for NFT hosting.

Clark is still working on the details, whether it’s releasing digital versions tied to previous sticker sets or bringing in artists to generate entirely new designs. The important thing for him is that the artists continue to perceive a financial return on their creations.

“The beautiful part of it is that every time they are bought and sold, a percentage of that future purchase would go to the artist in perpetuity,” Clark explains.

Before ArtSticks goes ahead with an NFT creation or auction, Clark worries about how artists get paid; whether artists would be required to create their own crypto wallets to see a payout, or whether the payout would be handled through more traditional means.

Since the majority of NFT series on the market are tied to an artist or entity, ArtSticks’ collective approach to art introduces some minor complications. Another issue relates to Rohde’s notions of enduring value and the experiences and entitlements that come with the purchase of an NFT. Clark wants ArtSticks supporters to find value in the NFT without infringing on the creative rights of the artist himself. As such, any ArtSticks NFT would not include the rights to distribute the work.

“We have the task of educating our own artists about NFTs and they worry about what it means when their art gets out into the world,” Clark says. “We want to make sure that we protect artists as much as possible.”

Even with challenges and limitations, Clark is excited about the possibilities where art, nonprofits, and commerce can come together. Creating an NFT that offers value to a buyer while protecting the artist is a puzzle Clark is sure to solve, especially since he’s not looking for a sticker price of $90,000.

“Our goal is not to create some form of astronomical revenue stream, our goal is to continue to get exposure and help get artists known in a new community and know ‘I’m being helped,'” says Clark.

Dreaming big, Clark hopes the NFTs can provide even more future opportunities for the organization to reinvest in local arts. For ArtSticks itself, NFTs could provide an alternative revenue stream to fund the organization, buy more sticker machines, and even start offering scholarships within the community. Clark doesn’t want to get rich with ArtSticks, just learn a new way to reinvest in art itself. If NFT auctions can provide this method, who’s to say it’s not worth exploring?

Clark sees a future where lower-cost NFT options can create new forms of memorabilia, like concert tickets or posters, managed by the creatives themselves. It’s not just about lasting value to the world at large, he says, but about what’s valuable to the person who bought it, which includes records of an experience.

“I think artists have the best opportunity to really drive NFT adoption,” he says.

On the consumer side, Rohde encourages people participating in NFT auctions to get into the right mindset, support arts organizations and artists, and not necessarily view potential NFT ArtSticks as a form of investment to long term.

“I think NFTs are an exciting thing for nonprofits in the art world,” says Rohde. “It’s fun to play in new markets, it’s something exciting. I think as long as people keep in mind what they’re doing – supporting the arts – they can have fun with NFT transactions at auctions like with ArtSticks.

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