Young Denver Art Museum students learn how to create and sell virtual art | Culture & Leisure

Classrooms on the Denver Art Museum campus buzzed as summer camp students bustled about, huddled around tablets, searched for inspiration and peppered their teacher with questions as they worked.

Amid the buzz, Harper White, 10, sat in a workspace to draw an intricate design of swirls and flowers while Harrison Ivanoff, 10, quickly worked to mold blue clay into a sculpture , not yet knowing what creation would become. As Harrison’s imagination ran wild, Harper considered turning the pen-and-paper sketch into something entirely different – a non-fungible token.

Behind the young artists, a large projection screen displayed a group of NFTs created by the 9-11 year old class, already displayed in a virtual gallery and awaiting offers. From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the week of July 11, the class of nearly 20 children came to the Denver Art Museum to learn the art of making — and selling — NFTs.

Student Maya O. created this virtual artwork, “Modern Princesses,” over three days at the Denver Art Museum. It represents Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas and Merida. “I created this art because fashion makes me happy,” she said. She hopes to sell the work online “to buy an iPad and continue to support my career in fashion.”

The Denver Art Museum Youth Camps have been operating since the 1990s but closed in 2017 while the museum undertook a renovation of the Martin Building on campus. The plan was to restart the camp program earlier, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit and prevented a return until this year.

Almost five years later, the camps are in full swing and seek to teach children artistic skills in all media, including preparing them for an increasingly digital world.

This summer’s camp offered two courses dubbed Digital Design, where students not only learned about the metaverse, but also the emerging art of NFTs. The first session was in June and the second in July, both for ages 9-11, and both filled to capacity.

NFTs have gained more recognition in recent years, especially in the world of digital art. It is an image or digital asset, usually one of a kind and often bought and sold using cryptocurrency.

The lead instructor for the digital design course was local artist and digital art enthusiast Rob Gray, also one of the forces behind Five Points Digital Art Gallery, IRL. During their first NFT, Gray told the class to create something that represented their personality.

Harper imagined a collection of doodles of tacos, burgers and sushi, then brought them to life with bright colors and animal faces. Gray converted the drawing into a digital image, and it became the class’s first official NFT.

“I love ramen and cats, so this is the first one I’ve drawn,” Harper said.

Harrison created the class’ final contribution to the gallery, making splatter paint which Gray also converted into a digital image.

Gray taught students the basics of NFT, which Harrison and Harper explain easily. NFT stands for non-fungible token, Harrison said. An artist can create an NFT from anything, either starting with a tangible piece of art and then converting it to digital, or working exclusively with digital tools. Designs can be simple or complex, Harper said. The most enticing part for Harrison is that NFTs could generate funds for use in video games.

“It’s like cryptocurrency,” Harrison said.

Gray hung the students’ pieces in his virtual gallery. People from all over the world can enter the gallery and view children’s NFTs. They can verify that the pieces are original works by Denver Art Museum students learning the craft and bid to buy one.

“It might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but there’s a story behind it,” Gray said. “It’s really inspiring to see kids realize they can be stars. You don’t have to create the Mona Lisa.

DAM NFT Foodanimals Meal Summer Camp by Harper W

Student Harper W. made this virtual artwork called “Foodanimals Meal” at the Denver Art Museum’s NFT Summer Camp, and it’s available for sale online.

At least one of the June Camp students’ NFTs had received an offer. Gray has transferred ownership of students’ NFTs to their parents, who will manage the children’s virtual wallets. Gray also explained to parents how NFTs work, how they can manage them after class, and is available to consult with them if they have any questions, he said.

Now is the time to start introducing digital art to students, Gray said. At 8 years old, a child can understand the concept. This is the age when most play games on their parents’ phones, even buying “digital assets”, like a new leash in their Paw Patrol game.

They can also progress on the pitch if they figure it out now, he said.

“We’re still in the connecting phase of all of this,” he said.

At just a few years old, the world of NFTs is too young for there to be seasoned experts in the space, he said. Anyone who has spent a few years learning the ins and outs of NFTs would be in the upper echelons of people well versed in the digital art sphere.

The newness of NFTs also makes their future uncertain, but Gray expects them to be around for years to come, even if they aren’t hugely popular. People are still playing Mario Kart, he said, and an NFT could still be valuable 10 or 15 years from now, even if only for a niche audience. Her advice to families is to embrace digital art.

“Look at the technology. Even if the parents don’t understand it,” he said.

Denver Art Museum Youth Programs Coordinator Komal Dhruv said she wants to incorporate various types of literacy into this year’s camp class offerings. Classes include topics people might expect at an art camp – such as art fundamentals, or sketching and drawing – while striving to research the skills children will have. need in the future.

No matter what course students enroll in, from art literature to digital design, camps are also a way to introduce children to an art museum’s collections, Dhruv said. The DAM asks the monitors to take the campers to the galleries.

Teachers are incorporating gallery visits into their lesson plans and tailoring visits to the subject matter they are teaching students. She wants students like those in the Digital Design course to continue to look to the museum’s collections as a primary source of inspiration and education.

Kids will hear about bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and NFTs. She wants them to be able to learn about the metaverse and new technologies in a safe space. NFTs may be new, but summer camp is a familiar and fun place to introduce the subject, she said.

“I think tech literacy is just an undeniable reality, it’s a skill that kids need and it shouldn’t just happen in schools,” Dhruv said.

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