The founders of the Heart project on building a creative NFT community

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In the life of an artist, there often comes a time when he is faced with a choice: to pursue a creative career, or to opt for a more traditional path. It was a decision 22-year-old photographer and director Aidan Cullen made at age 18 – but he continued his path to great success, working with artists like A $ AP Rocky, Halsey, Trippie Redd and Omar Apollo. .

However, Cullen knows that not everyone is fortunate enough to be successful in the ultra-competitive art world – and even when they do, they are likely not being paid properly.

“I’ve run into a lot of common issues throughout my career, and one of them is being at the bottom of this chain, where you work with these huge companies – be it Nike, Adidas, Warner , whatever, ”Cullen said. Variety. “These are all amazing companies. I admire them all. But I’m a freelance artist, and every time I do a job it takes 60-90 days to get paid. I was just like, ‘Okay, how do we fix this?’ And I think we have to get out of the system completely and do our own thing. “

Enter the Heart Project: Cullen’s Idea with 29-year-old visual artist Stefan Meier, which aims to make the entertainment industry more accessible and fair for artists around the world. How? ‘Or’ What? Across the very popular world of NFTs.

An NFT, or non-fungible token, is unique, non-reproducible data typically stored on the Ethereum blockchain that can be bought and sold with cryptocurrency. NFTs can be used to represent digital photos, videos, audio files and the like that contain an identifier to ensure that the content is genuinely one of a kind. And, as Cullen explains, NFTs offer a direct opportunity for ownership and monetization in the creative world.

“If you were with Keith Haring and he was like, ‘I’m going to sell you this drawing for $ 1,000,’ and 20 years later you sell this thing for $ 1 million – he’s obviously dead, but he’s dead. will never know or never take advantage of that, “Cullen says.” What’s really cool about the NFT space is that when you publish a project you decide, ‘Okay, every time someone will resell the NFT, we will have a 7.5% royalty on each sale. ”

This concept is at the heart of the Heart Project, a “community-driven creative studio” where artists can collaborate on projects, share ownership and, of course, earn money. On September 27, Cullen and Meier gave up 10,000 NFT for 0.08888 ETH (cryptocurrency with a current value of around $ 370) each, as a key to being part of the community. The NFT itself is a computer generated heart cartoon designed by Meier, each with randomly assigned attributes. They sold out in less than 30 seconds.

“The heart seemed perfectly suited to the common mood, you know? The classic symbol of love, ”Meier says of NFTs. “We use this ancient symbol with a little modern twist as a cartoon character, and it’s just the perfect symbol to build this community where people have a voice and feel heard.”

The 4,900 “Heart Carriers,” as Cullen and Meier call them, hail from 50 different countries and are part of a special Discord channel where they hear about star-studded creative opportunities. Cullen and Meier are also helped by Brockhampton Creative Director Henock Sileshi (aka HK) and software engineer Luke Davis. Current projects include producing and writing a song with Benny Blanco and Lil Dicky, creating music videos for Deb Never and Jean Dawson, a community-designed clothing capsule and a collaborative zine. When these projects are completed, they will also have an NFT component, allowing contributors to turn the collaboration into cash.

“Let’s say we sell the [Lil Dicky] song for $ 10 million – 50% of that goes to something called the DAO Heart [decentralized autonomous organization], which is a public wallet that all heart holders own together, ”explains Cullen. “So all of the heart holders just won $ 5 million, and right now there are 5,000 heart holders, so they will each get $ 1,000. The people who worked the most there will potentially get $ 100,000 or even $ 500,000. And it’s instant, you don’t have to wait for someone to bring it to you.

Other benefits of being a Heart Holder include a grants program, where members can showcase their art projects and receive funding from the Heart Project portfolio on the basis of a community-wide vote. , as well as a charitable component to ensure that the collective gives back to their physical communities.

NFTs have been criticized for the carbon footprint they leave behind which can be harmful to the environment. However, Cullen and Meier say they completely offset the Heart Project’s carbon footprint by paying $ 4,000 to do so through a service provided by Air. They also plan to donate to environmental charities through their endowment fund.

“One of the things that people really worry about is, ‘Oh my god, this is bad for the environment,’” Cullen says. “But it literally takes five buttons to erase your entire carbon footprint, and that’s kind of a myth.”

Although most of the collaboration takes place on Web3 (a decentralized web software used by the crypto community), Meier has already witnessed the impact of the Heart Project in person.

“There have already been two people from Discord who contacted me in the last two months and they are working for me now. I coach them, ”Meier said. “So it worked in the metaverse, and there’s a lot of face-to-face physical benefits as well.”

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Stefan Meier from the Heart project
Taylor Marie Prendergast

Cullen and Meier’s end goal is ambitious: to become as big as a company like Warner Bros. But with more and more artists turning to the crypto space to monetize their craft, that might not be as crazy a yearning as it sounds.

“The Web3 world essentially started this infrastructure where everything is about transparency. It’s all about shared ownership and I think that’s wonderful, ”Cullen says. “I think we can really be the next Warner Bros., one of the biggest companies in the creative world, and millions of people can benefit from that. Instead of loving, with Warner Bros. – obviously people enjoy watching their entertainment – but one guy owns it all… he’s probably a white dude who is 80 years old and has 100 houses. And that’s cool, but we’re trying to do something different.

For Cullen, it all comes down to making a career in the art field liveable for anyone who wishes to pursue it.

“If there’s one thing we can do to inspire people, it’s literally showing them that you don’t need these huge companies to take your ideas to the world and be able to make a living from art.” , he said.

As for Meier, he is mostly inspired by the community aspect of the project and his ability to change the competitive nature that is too pervasive in the industry.

“I’ve had a lot of interactions in the art world that have been very isolating, exclusive, and ego-damaging,” Meier says. “I want to give people the opposite feeling – give people an opportunity, give them a voice… We are creating something that has really never been done before. “


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