Cleveland Institute of Art Hosts Talk On NFTs in the Art World

click to enlarge Evening Excess, a painting and NFT - Arabella Proffer
Arabella Proffer
Evening Excess, a painting and NFT

As creators continue to make and sell NFTs, there remains and will remain anxiety and misunderstandings about them.

The Cleveland Institute of Art is hosting a virtual forum with local art leaders to educate the public and talk about how NFTs are empowering artists this Wednesday night, April 13, at 6 p.m.

The WTF NFT lecture will focus on the seemingly esoteric world of non-fungible tokens and will answer common questions — What is an NFT? How is one made? —  while providing background on the technology's impact on the contemporary art world.

The virtual event, an extension of the Cleveland Institute of Art's Lunch on Fridays series, will include Jared Bendis, chair of CIA's Game Design Department; Lane Cooper, a faculty member in CIA's Painting Department; and moderator Nikki Woods of Reinberger Gallery Director.

“This topic first came up, at least between Nikki and me, because Melania Trump launched an NFT collection and Nikki and I had one of those accidental conversations,” said Cooper. “We ended up talking about how we thought NFTs were fitting into the art market broadly and specifically here in Cleveland. As a topic it was also coming up in other places and we thought it would be a good topic for LOF - then we reached out to Jared – he was totally game for the conversation - and the rest – as they say - is history.”

 Scene talked to Arabella Proffer, a local artist who has dabbled in NFTs, about the artform.

“By definition it is a 'Non-Fungible Token,' which means nothing to most people,” said Proffer. “It’s a file (art, music, video, text) that can do stuff and be collected once it is minted onto the blockchain. You are just uploading it to a digital ledger that keeps track of all the data of who owns it, the price, and if it gets re-sold or swapped. The “smart-contract” is built into the transaction. So it isn’t just a JPG; these tokens can be redeemed for club memberships, swag, access to events, real-life art, and really anything the creator dreams up. Some like to say the art is the least important aspect (I don’t think so) because of all the perks you can build into your NFT.”

Web3 or Web 3.0 is the concept of the World Wide Web based on blockchain technology, with an interest in decentralization and token-based economics. Some hope that it will combat the influence of large technology companies while others hold worry that it could lead to the creation of harmful content, like instructions on bomb-making, illegal drug production, terrorist activities, and malicious hacking.

“Web3 is here and change can be scary, but these are all commands you already know, it just has different terminology, and things move slower adding to the suspense,” said Proffer. “'Minting' is just uploading a file, and once you know the lingo it becomes easy. We are very early right now. Listen, I truly thought that email was going to be a fad – don’t be 1994 Arabella!”

Arabella jokes but technophobia is real and with advances in technology outpacing our ability to keep up with it, it is no surprise that it can become overwhelming to many. Keeping oneself educated about online resources and healthy ways of interacting can be helpful in maintaining a healthy online lifestyle, and education is what this Wednesday’s lecture on NFTs seems to be all about.

“If they don’t have an understanding of NFTs then hopefully they’ll come away with one,” said Cooper. “Also – just some thoughts around NFTs and the Art Market in general. I’d personally love it if this encourages people to collect creative works whether the works are NFTs or physical objects.”

The terminology is another thing that can be overwhelming for new users, and I imagine this will be a part of Wednesdays lecture. Arabella recommends getting an NFT glossary to help learn the vocabulary. "Cryptopia” on YouTube was her introduction. Wednesday’s lecture could prove to be a good crash course in the world of NFTs and at the very least keeps the conversation going while offering information and resources.

WTF NFT will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night via Zoom Webinar.
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