Students and faculty at the School of Art, Design and Art History (SADAH) tackle the complex world of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and the debate surrounding them – that some people are making money from their art without getting a degree for it. .
According to the New York Times, NFTs are a $40 billion market for digital collectibles. These media pieces can be created by anyone and sold for millions of dollars. Debate has arisen as to whether they should be devalued, or considered art.
Danielle Gish (’22), a recent graphic design graduate, said she and her roommates initially went down a “little YouTube rabbit hole” trying to figure out what NFTs were.
Gish says that an NFT is the ownership of a digital license or piece of art that gives you full ownership of its rights and, if stated in the contract, any recreations.
Gish said that while she understands the intent of NFTs to provide more clear copyright and ownership of art, she said she doesn’t think it reflects their real-world impact.
“I don’t think it’s actually helping or actually protecting people’s art,” Gish said. “It means only rich people can buy art but other people can’t access it.”
She said there’s an assumption that graphic design is digital work anyone can do, like creating NFTs, so it’s not as valuable as other skills. Gish disagrees.
“Once you look at someone’s work, you can see that they’ve honed those skills more,” Gish said.
Access to online content in everyday life has opened the door to careers in graphic arts and design, but also presents new challenges. Don McCusker, associate director of SADAH and professor of graphic design, said the process of creating art on and off campus is important, but striking a balance can be difficult.
“Our students are bombarded with Pinterest and Instagram,” McCusker said. “Anybody can put their design out there and then they’re impressed and they’re like, ‘Oh, I want that To make it look like this.’
McCusker said SADAH digital arts programs are about more than learning.
“For [SADAH]it’s a bigger deal than that,” McCusker said. “We’re teaching it to dive deeper into the creative profession — not just the surface of the programs.”
McCusker said SADAH tries to stay current with trends like NFTs, but “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“We know what works,” McCusker said. “You have to have a balance between the fundamentals of design and how graphic design has been taught over the years with current trends.”
McCusker said the trend’s impact on students is worrisome but inevitable.
“For me, it’s a scary time because there’s so much impact,” McCusker said. “You really want students to be able to build their own skills, but it’s very hard not to see that.”
Students and graduates pursuing graphic design careers must wrestle with whether NFTs are something they can support or want to create. Lindsey Guzzardo (’22), a recent graduate and graphic design major, said it bothers her that people without training can make so much money on NFTs. Guajardo said it’s frustrating that people with no training are making money for her degree.
“Although it bothers me that artists are getting paid for it without wasting my time, I can’t say I blame them for taking that route,” Guajardo said. “If I had opportunities to get paid for my piece, or my art or digital art, I don’t think I would be too upset about it.”
Alyssa Wood (’22), a recent graduate and graphic design major, said she feels good about creating NFTs and making money.
“I don’t object to them in any way,” Wood said. “If people want to use or create NFTs, go for it, and if you don’t, that’s fine too.”
At the core of the conversation is the question of what makes art, art. Assistant instructor of graphic design Christian Arndt said he thinks the artistic inspiration is found in NFTs.
“I think a lot of people have been rekindled in their creativity by having this new opportunity,” Arnder said.
Arnder said he has friends doing interesting work with NFTs, but he has personal reservations about the subject.
“I think at the end of the day, to me personally, it still feels like a false disadvantage,” Arndt said. “It feels very much like this approach to art that is still very capitalist.”
Arnder said he doesn’t think trends are a bad thing, but to understand how to succeed, artists need to look beyond them.
“I think what trends lack most of the time, at least as they grow and evolve, is the human connection — they lack the emotional connection,” Arnder said. “I think if artists and designers and illustrators can find a way to connect with people emotionally, it transcends trends.”
Get in touch McKinley Mihailoff at [email protected] For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.