Despite the backlash that followed the NFT tribute to Chadwick Boseman during the Oscars, black artists are hoping that NFT platforms will end the abuse of artists online.
Digital artist Andre Oshea was commissioned to create an NFT to honor Chadwick Boseman, who passed August 2020 at the Oscars. The star of the Black Panther, among other movies, was nominated for best actor in a leading role (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). Yet, Anthony Hopkins won, and Oshea’s tribute to Boseman upset quite a few people.
“I now recognize that Chadwick’s face is a triggering reminder of his death rather than his life,” Oshea later wrote and decided to redesign the work. The new piece A Young Boy’s Dream depicts a young Black boy walking through a spirit realm, inspired by Boseman’s seminal role in Black Panther. Each altar he passes is a tribute to a different accomplishment or role in Boseman’s life, such as his role as James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Levee Green, his wedding day, and his graduation from Howard University.
NFT platforms are ending the abuse of artists online, Oshea told CyberNews. “People have been taking advantage of artists on the internet, especially digital artists – now with NFTs, we can change that for the future of artists. It allows for more ownership opportunities & ways to authenticate your work.”
NFTs empower artists
Oshea is a 28-year-old 3D generalist and animator from Atlanta, Georgia, and his NFT partnerships include American record producer Illmind and Netflix. Recently, his NFTs became popular and led to over $50k in sales in less than two months.
Why NFTs? “Creatively, NFTs are a unique intersection of my interests and talent. For me, when I saw the capabilities of technology, I saw the future,” said Oshea.
Many artists embrace NFT as yet another source of income. While it is not a primary motivation for Oshea, it adds incentive.
“While the flashy numbers get a lot of attention, the importance of the payment is that artists are being paid directly for their work & creativity rather than being paid as a service. It allows more creative freedom,” he told CyberNews.
Now he is minting his own NFTs, and NFT space even got him interested in cryptocurrencies.
“I had bought bitcoin in the past as a passive investment. However, I was not culturally involved. Since joining the NFT space, it has opened my eyes to the possibilities of cryptocurrencies. Each coin has its own culture, its brand & its community,” Oshea said.
He also regularly moderates clubhouse rooms to help onboard artists to the NFT space. Oshea is represented by Black NFT Art, an NFT creative agency founded by Iris Nevins and Omar Desire. The agency is engaged in amplifying black leaders and artists in the NFT space. CyberNews also spoke to Iris Nevins to find out what opportunities do NFTs open for the black community.
Black artists are excited about NFTs
“Black artists that we speak to are very excited about NFTs. They see it as a way to gain independence and stop doing uninteresting commission work. They see the long-term possibilities for the NFT space and want to be a part of it. However, we do not see the same levels of adoption amongst the wider Black community,” Nevins told CyberNews.
Historically, black people have not been avid art collectors, and we see the same problem in the NFT space with additional challenges.
“Buying NFTs requires having crypto wallets, ETH, and a willingness to take the time to set all that up. It can also require moving ETH around, which can be a bit of a headache when ETH gas prices are high. We think these kinds of technological steps are stopping many from exploring NFTs,” she added.
She runs two platforms to support the black artist community. One is a talent agency Umba Daima, which, among other things, helps artists to develop strategies in areas like business, communication, and networking while also helping them secure NFT collabs with big brands and public figures.
Another platform is Black NFT Art, focused on creating content and events to amplify black people’s work in the NFT space. They do weekly Clubhouse events through the Black NFT Art club and are building social media community.
Among the artists they manage, Oshea has been the most successful artist so far, with his highest sale being 5 ETH which at the time was $10,000, but more recently, that would convert to about $17,000.
“That project was a collaboration with Illmind The Producer, a Grammy award-winning producer, and the final pieces were really beautiful. But we are most proud of the community we have built and the sales that have been generated through the collective efforts of the community,” Nevins said.
Nevins has seen many artists who have experienced harsh lessons along the way, sometimes even losing money.
“We’ve decided to create an onboarding program that is very structured and thorough. It is three months of tutorials and homework assignments where we cover everything from blockchain technology to minting and marketing NFTs to drop events. We aim to provide support from start to finish, and we’re looking forward to seeing how this pilot program pans out. We also see great people like Diana Sinclair and The Mint Fund helping artists pay their minting fees,” Nevins said.
Who is the typical black NFT art buyer? While Nevins knows a few black collectors, who either buy to support artists or are highly successful technologists or lawyers who have set aside ETH for collecting, it is hard to see the bigger picture, and many collectors stay anonymous.
“We suspect that the larger collectors who spend upwards of $10,000 to millions are people who have made a lot of money in crypto, and NFTs present an exciting and meaningful way for them to spend that money. Some collectors are highly engaged on social media, and others are very quiet,” Nevins said.
They’ve noticed some DAOs popping up very recently who have been collecting Black artists in a way that Nevins claims to have never seen before. DAOs are decentralized autonomous organizations that use smart contracts, and their members vote on topics such as funds allocation.
“Some examples include Cypher DAO, Pleaser DAO, and Herstory DAO. We’re excited to see more collectors taking note of Black artists, and we believe that the collective work done by various Black leaders in the space is contributing to this momentum,” she said.
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