Your Friendly Guide to NFTs And Blockchain for Artists

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Your Friendly Guide to NFTs And Blockchain for Artists

In this moment of hype and headlines, this course offers an immersive tour of the world of blockchains. Through a series of lectures, discussion segments, and hands-on activities, we will get our hands dirty looking at the nuts and bolts of how blockchain and smart contracts work, while questioning how they might best be used, and discussing what kinds of tokens and economic mechanisms can serve artist communities.

For those who may already be acquainted with some of the ethical questions around blockchain use: nothing we do in this workshop will be using proof of work.

Course Logistics

Dates: Every Saturday, April 24 to May 8, 2021
Times: 10am – 12pm PT
Live Access – $360
Live Access is full access to classes as they happen, includes recordings to review what’s been covered already this term, live chat and engagement in weekly classes.
Audit Access – $150
Audit Access is access to view/listen only. This is ideal for those in time zones which do not agree with that of the class, and is also a lower-cost option.
– We also offer Diversity Scholarships, find out more here.
Experience Level:
No prerequisites. The ideal audience for this workshop is artists who make art using technology, who generally understand how code works, but may not think of themselves as programmers. No prior knowledge of blockchain or NFT’s (Non-Fungible Tokens) is required, as long as you’re interested in learning about the inner workings of one of the most talked-about current technologies.
• Computer with an internet connection

Course Goals

This course will focus on blockchain and smart contracts, with some exploration of the surrounding p2p ecosystem. Students will be familiarized with the common tools for interacting with these networks, such as wallets and block explorers.
By the end of this course, students will understand what a blockchain is, what it enables, and when and how to use one for their projects.

Course Access

Unlimited access to the full class recording is available to all enrolled students. Whether you couldn’t make it to class or want to refresh on some of the concepts, Gray Area will provide all enrolled students with a direct link.

Course Outline

Week 1 – Saturday, April 24, 2021
What is a blockchain? 

– How do blockchains work?
– Blockchain history: how we got here and why
– What is mining, what is consensus?
– How to interact with a blockchain

Discussion topics:
– What can a blockchain do, how might it be misapplied
– Proof of work and energy

Week 2 – Saturday, May 1, 2021
What is a token? 

– Introduction to smart contracts
– Fungible vs non-fungible assets
– How to mint an NFT on your own terms

Discussion topics:
– What is money and how do things become valuable?
– What kinds of tokens and economic mechanisms can serve artist communities?

Week 3 – Saturday, May 8, 2021
Putting it all in context 

– Blockchain art pre-history
– Intro to the p2p ecosystem more broadly (ipfs, dat, ssb, bittorrent)
– What is “decentralization”?
– What are daos?

Discussion topics:
– Participant-led
– Review of students’ projects


Sarah Friend is an artist and software developer from Canada and currently based in Berlin, Germany. She is an alumni in the Berlin Program for Artists, a founder and co-curator of Ender Gallery, an artist residency taking place inside the game Minecraft, and an organiser of Our Networks, a conference on all aspects of the distributed web. Recent solo exhibitions include Off: Endgame, curated by Rhizome, Refraction and Fingerprints at Public Works Administration, New York, USA and Terraforming at Galerie Nagel Draxler in Berlin, Germany. She is on the advisory board and was formerly the smart contract lead for Circles UBI, a blockchain-based community currency that aims to lead to a more equal distribution of wealth. She was also the technical lead for Culturestake, a project that uses quadratic voting to lead to better decisions about arts funding. She was a co-founder of bitspossessed, a software development consultancy that operates as a coop, and in 2022 was a visiting Professor of blockchain art at The Cooper Union.