Kenny Schachter on How the NFT Community Is Organizing to Raise Funds for Ukraine in Record Time
Our columnist takes to OpenSea to raise money for Ukraine.
By nature I am not a political animal—the art world is treacherous enough. Sure, I did take a couple of jabs at the buffoon formerly known as our president, but recent events in Ukraine have led me to pursue a different course of action.
On Sunday morning, I saw a plea from the inimitable president of the Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, seeking financial assistance for his country’s efforts to resist the Russian invasion. I made a quick Instagram post in response expressing my support, which amounted to a modest call to arms (via NFT donations). The response was immediate.
Before long, everything fell into place. I teamed up with (the appropriately named) David Cash, who heads a prominent NFT design firm in Toronto, to launch a collection entitled NFTUkraine. The list of participating artists is growing, and all proceeds will be donated to the official Ukrainian government-sanctioned ETH account.
Contributors include established NFT artists like Kevin Abosch, Olive Allen, Nicole Ruggiero, Chad Knight, Brendan Dawes, Flosstradamus, Jason Ebeyer, Julian Gilliam, Frankynines, Foodmasku, Laurel Charleston, Mike Ruiz, and Jen Stein, as well as newcomers to the space. The point is to band together to help in whatever way possible to address the unprovoked atrocities at the hand of (now) war criminal Vladimir Putin.
The Washington Post has described the conflict in Ukraine as “the world’s first crypto war.” Well over $20 million in crypto has already been raised for medical supplies, arms, and more—including more than $9 million through NFT sales, $6 million of which came from an initiative organized by the cofounder of Pussy Riot. The government of Ukraine is also getting into the game itself, having just announced plans to issue its own NFTs to fund the country’s armed forces. The times are not “…a-changin”—they’ve already changed indeed.
There is a bell curve of morality and integrity in the world. There is nothing inherently corrupt or wrong with the blockchain as a tool other than its excessive environmental footprint, which is being addressed as I type—the problem, as is often the case, is with the people using it. Yes, concerns that the Russians are using cryptocurrency to evade sanctions are legitimate and unsettling. But offsetting that are the unprecedented efforts to corral support for Ukraine. It’s heartening to see just how quickly the blockchain community came together as a force for good.
NFTs are a tool, a digital certificate of authenticity, unless makers utilize the smart contract as content, in which case they are art. This crisis has also illustrated another use case for crypto and NFTs: a means to directly and practically funnel resources into a country in dire need of support in what is a brutal, winless bloodletting.
The do-it-yourself nature of NFTs has not only enabled people of all stripes to make a living off of their creations outside established market channels, but also to swiftly mobilize and become ad-hoc grassroots organizers of their own charitable initiatives.
While many of the works donated to NFTUkraine are political in nature, expressing concerns over the present state of the country and its citizens, there are plenty of others that reflect the donors’ daily practices. Never before have I seen such a broad and disparate array of people in the arts community—a hodgepodge not ordinarily associated with selfless cooperation—come together so quickly around a single cause. It’s breathtaking to watch and participate in. I only wish we could do more.
NFTUkraine is an organic and ongoing attempt to generate funds that will last as long as it’s needed and as long as artists care to offer up material. For the turn of events instigated by Russia is beyond a regional conflict but rather a tragedy confronting the world. In attempting to forge a vision of Russia as a greater whole, Putin buried himself and his country into another kind of hole they won’t emerge from any time soon.
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