Artists Panning for the NFT Gold Rush (a five-part series)

Justin Wells converted his moonscape oil paintings into digital images to sell as NFTs.

PART 1: Artists searching for validation or sustainability are viewing NFTs as a gateway to both

For many people, March 11, 2021 meant nothing more than the one-year anniversary of Covid-19. But for anyone in the creative arts, on that date, potentially, everything changed. A graphic artist in South Carolina going by the name Beeple sold a collage of 5,000 digital images at auction for $69 million worth of cryptocurrency.

Today, spend any amount of time with artists and investors who have taken the plunge into NFTs, you can’t help but think everything you knew about the art market is changing right before your eyes.

“It’s just kinda turned everything upside down and then some,” said Justin Wells, an artist in Barnardsville. “I’m about six months into it and I’m still trying to figure it out, honestly. I don’t know exactly where it can go or if it’s going to last, but a part of me feels it’s not just a fad.”

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Kira Bursky |


Kira Bursky’s printed her digital art on her top and background for this video she created to promote her Magic Mind NFT series.

PART 2: Filmmaker-turned-NFT artist Kira Bursky is a model for success in this nascent platform

In a short time, Kira Bursky has become an unqualified success in the NFT sphere. During 2021, she sold more than 800 NFT artworks and earned more money as a marketer on another artist’s NFT creations. In March, sales of a larger collection of NFTs brought in more than $200,000 worth in cryptocurrency within 48 hours of the launch.

For those who see NFTs as hollow hype, it would be easy to view Bursky as epitomizing flash-in-the-pan success. But Bursky has a rare combination of smarts, tenacity and artistry. And vital in the NFT world, she comes across as authentic and easy to like, and she has a natural ease marketing herself.

“I feel like I have complete freedom now,” she said. “This is fully, whatever my soul wants to express, that’s what I’m creating, and make a profit off of it, which is surreal. That’s a dream, honestly.”

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Miryam Rojas is expanding her Mars Landing Gallery, in Mars Hill, to serve artists and investors interested in NFTs.

PART 3: More than the artwork, NFT investors are drawn to the community that comes with it

For anyone on the outside, perhaps the most puzzling question around NFTs is how they hold any value whatsoever. After all, they’re digital creations that, at least on the surface, are easily copied. The NFT is a certificate of authenticity, but the digital items they’re affixed to look or sound exactly the same as worthless copies.

Some are in it for the art, and the potential investment that comes with it. But when people buy into a larger series or collection—some of which number 10,000 pieces—the NFT is more than something visual. It’s a key into a community of kindred buyers.[Text Wrapping Break]

Who’s buying these digital creations? And why?

“Most people, when they first hear about NFTs, they think ‘Whether it’s $69 million or $10 million, why would anyone buy one of these?’ Probably most people’s initial reaction is ‘that’s ridiculous.’ And that was my initial reaction, frankly. But as an artist, I thought I should check that out and see if some of that ridiculous energy can rub off on me.”—Bobby Lee, an investor in Kira Bursky’s NFTs.

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Digital entrepreneur Sean Moore (left) and Citizen Vinyl founder Gar Ragland have collaborated to create Vinylkey as an entry into the NFT space.

PART 4: An Asheville collaboration makes an early pitch for NFTs in vinyl album releases

While NFTs have made the quickest splash in the visual arts, they stand to make far broader impacts with the public when it comes to music.

Much like we’re seeing in the visual arts, NFTs are empowering musical artists to customize and package content for fans with money to spend. It’s also easy to see how NFTs could soon disrupt the concert ticketing industry.

One new Asheville collaboration, between a software developer and Citizen Vinyl, is embedding NFTs into vinyl records.

“You don’t have to be an expert in cryptocurrency in order to do this. Many of our artists and clients are NFT curious themselves and they’re trying to figure out their relationship and what role, if any, NFTs have in their creative works.”—Gar Ragland, founder of Citizen Vinyl.

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Some of Martha Skinner’s Asphalt Drawing Series videos feature Asheville performance artist Claire Elizabeth Barratt.

PART 5: How does someone find and buy NFT art? BPR’s Matt Peiken takes steps toward a purchase

Throughout BPR’s series “Revolution Calling: Artists Panning for the NFT Gold Rush,” we’ve met visual artists with big dreams and a bonafide success story. We’ve learned how NFTs are making their way into music and we’ve met people who’ve invested in NFT art. As we reach the end of this trail, there’s only one thing left to do.

Come along with arts producer Matt Peiken as he sets out to take the plunge into buying his very first NFT artwork.

Perhaps the most challenging hurdle in the path: What to buy?

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