As many in my community know, though I have lived in the United States for 30 years, I was born and raised in Odesa, Ukraine. I still have family, friends, and coworkers in Ukraine whose daily reality earlier this spring became the sounds of missiles and seeking safety in bomb shelters.
During the early days of the war, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to help people in Ukraine in the most meaningful way. In coordination with friends and colleagues and with support from Next League, we came up with the idea of leveraging art and blockchain, specifically non-fungible tokens (NFTs), to make the most impact.
The result of this idea is "Ukraine Art Collective" (Web: UkraineArtCo.org, IG: @UkraineArtCo, Twitter: @UkraineArtCo), launched on April 1st at Miami NFT Week 2022. The vision for UkraineArtCo was for a group of artists, entrepreneurs, and creators to come together to create NFTs. These NFTs are available for purchase on the Ethereum blockchain, and all proceeds from the sale of these tokens go to Razom, a non-profit organization that has been providing support for Ukraine since 2014.
UkraineArtCo is an excellent example of how blockchain technology can be used to support creatives and artisans. By bringing together artists from around the world and making their work available as NFTs, UkraineArtCo makes it possible to directly support the Ukrainian people by contributing art instead of money. By distributing all of the proceeds from the sale of these NFTs to Razom, blockchain transaction visibility ensures this support goes directly to those who need it most.
The Future of Ukraine
It will take years to rebuild Ukraine. UkraineArtCo will play a role in its rebuild by expanding over time. As part of phase 1, all proceeds went directly to Razom.
While our primary goal is to use our platform to raise awareness and funds for relief efforts and provide a space for global artisans to contribute, we plan to use UkraineArtCo as a blueprint for how blockchain and NFTs enable philanthropy to be more effective and transparent.
We believe art can play a powerful role in the healing process, and we are committed to helping the people of Ukraine through this difficult time.
4 Different Types of NFTs Were Offered
In the simplest terms, NFTs represent ownership of digital or physical assets. NFTs have been a hot topic until the recent Crypto Winter. Similar to artwork or other collectibles, they are unique; thanks to blockchain technology, they cannot be duplicated. Looking for new ways to push the boundaries of creativity to support Ukraine, in addition to affording us a testing ground to develop and implement them, we decided to dive deep.
We offered four types of NFTs to the public and detail them below.
Phygital: Physical Paintings Minted as NFTs
UkraineArtCo was the first organization to offer a combination of digital and physical (Phygital) NFTs in the philanthropy space. We scanned physical paintings and minted them to be offered in the Rarible Marketplace. Our booth at Miami NFT Week helped generate a lot of interest in our cause and the artwork we are featuring.
A very talented artist, Maria Zeltsman, contributed 8 physical paintings to UkraineArtCo; 100% of proceeds from her work were donated to Razom. Maria left Odesa, Ukraine a week before the war started and was looking for ways to support those still in Ukraine but didn’t have the financial means to do so. UkraineArtCo gave her an opportunity to contribute.
Broadly speaking, this is a fantastic option for artists who have paintings, sculptures, or any other type of non-digital artwork that they want to convert into an NFT. It is a great way for artists to get involved in the world of NFTs without having to learn the technical aspects as we handle the minting process for the artists and then lists their artwork on the appropriate marketplaces.
Phygital: Digital Art Printed and Minted as NFTs
We offered another set of Phygital NFTs, having commissioned ten beautiful Ukraine-themed artworks. These NFTs originated as digital art, which was then professionally printed. Once an NFT was purchased, the buyer received both a digital and physical (printout) copy of the artwork. These printouts are of such high quality that they are suitable for framing. These NFTs were also offered in the Rarible Marketplace.
The same digital art pieces were also offered as digital-only NFTs in the Rarible Marketplace. Once purchased, the artwork can be stored and traded online or kept in an offline wallet.
These digital art pieces will be one of the most prevalent formats for digital artwork moving forward. We are excited to bring more artists on board the platform for subsequent launches to provide them with this additional visibility.
With Generative NFTs, users choose to mint a random NFT. The resulting NFT is unique and can be traded on the open market. You can see an example of such art here.
What we learned
Prior to launching UkraineArtCo, we spent a lot of time understanding and researching what exactly the blockchain, and NFTs, are. We quickly realized that we are in the very early days of the technology, similar to the SQL-injection attacks of the mid-1990s. There is a massive amount of fraud (over $1 billion), inefficiencies (like gas fees) and carbon footprint issues that must be solved. However, there are companies who are actively trying to solve some of these issues. Polygon is a good example of making blockchain technology financially accessible and Etherium Merge launched just last week (September 15, 2022) which reduces energy consumption by 99.95%.
For the reasons listed above, the technology is neither consumer-friendly nor enterprise-ready. Given the decentralized nature of the blockchain, there are no phone numbers to call or addresses to email if consumers experience common issues (like transactions not going through or funds have disappeared). Just like other open source projects like Oracle for Java and Red Hat for MySQL, we expect to see a number of companies help solve this issue.
Lastly, from a solution architecture perspective, there are certainly interesting use cases to point to. Until we see some successfully implemented at scale, it will be hard for us to recommend our enterprise-level partners leverage this technology on a large scale.
What is Next
It’s been an exciting journey launching such an important NFT project, and we’ve learned a lot in the process. We wanted to highlight some insights into what the future may hold for this new digital asset class.
The UkraineArtCo team is grateful for Next League’s contribution to the project. Next League is passionate about helping sports organizations generate an ROI on the technology investments they make, specifically around emerging technologies. Next League is helping partners figure out how to understand and activate in Web3, how it has evolved (even within the last few months!), and how it will continue to change the way people interact with each other, content, and data online.
If you want to learn more about creating value for users in your next (or first) Web3 project, or to simply connect with one of our experts, please reach out. We welcome the opportunity to chat with you about how Web3 and NFTs can add value to your business or project.
This was a personally and professionally rewarding, not to mention very challenging, project to pull off. With Miami NFT Week as a target launch date, we had three weeks to pull a team together to help make this vision a reality.
I am forever grateful for the hard work and dedication of the many people who helped us bring this idea to life. We would not have been able to do it without you!
Thank you to those who played such an integral role in launching UkraineArtCo!
Odesa-born Leon is a Managing Director at Blackrock & Cybersecurity expert. He is driven both by his commitment to supporting Ukraine in the current war, and ensuring that there is continued support in the aftermath.
Jessica is a seasoned Operational Strategy Leader with many years of experience working with Ukrainian Team Members. Jessica spent countless hours ensuring success of the project!
Julia is Odesa-born IT Audit executive with extensive experience in logistics which she brought to the project to help manage artists and community efforts
Originally from Kharkiv and now based in New York, Yuliia has a strong connection with both the mission of the Collective as well as the industry. Currently Chief of Staff at the Filecoin Foundation, Web3 is not only her day job but her passion.
Bora is a trailblazer at the intersection of Art & Technology and shares his unique capabilities with the Collective to support his many Ukrainian friends and colleagues.
Carter is a compassionate content creator and community builder with experience in tv, digital, and live events. He enjoys using his talents to support various causes from injured athletes to at-risk youth and now to stopping the war in Ukraine.
Jan is another Ukraine-born Tech Entrepreneur with extensive experience in broadcast video and data integration for major live television events.
Born in Ukraine, Vadim is also a Tech Entrepreneur deeply committed to supporting Ukraine. He brings his much appreciated tech knowledge and expertise to the Collective.
Based in Kyiv, Yaroslav is an entrepreneur who connects extensive biz dev expertise with philanthropic experience.
Embedded in the creative industry in Kyiv, Alex enthusiastically mobilizes Ukrainian artists to join the Collective cause and donate their art. Alex is also one of our featured artists.
Based in the United states, Mike believes in the power of community and is excited to help build this one! He is also deeply passionate about mental health and helping others, so being able to be a part of this team is humbling responsibility and opportunity to show his support.
Next League Team
Filecoin is a decentralized storage network designed to store humanity's most important information. Filecoin provided a grant and advice.
My amazing family:
Grushin Family - thank you to my wife Larisa and sons Serge, Mitchell, and Adrian for giving me the space and opportunity to work on UkraineArtCo while holding down the fort at home!
Special Thank You to my one-and-only Larisa - thank you for supporting me in all my initiatives! I love you!