Art and the Blockchain

It’s Ben Franklin with a key and a kite! You see it, right?   – Hamilton

Sometimes an idea comes along that connects your multiple identities. The one that tries to keep up with emerging technologies, with the one that defends and touts the value of the liberal arts, and with the one that wants to fight for equity and equality for all.

So, blockchain…art…I’m here for it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Amy Whitaker out here in San Francisco at a dinner for Williams women, and our discussion of her book Art Thinking was one of the most powerful examples of cutting through the b.s. with new people that I’ve ever experienced. One small exercise and I was sharing with strangers one of my most inherent truths and fears.

But I digress.

After seeing Amy’s name pop up in a blockchain newsletter I read this week, I caught up on some of the work she’s been doing to advance a very powerful idea: a blockchain registry that lets artist keep an equity stake in their work, letting them share in the gains if their works go up in value.

“We’ve democratized creativity, but we haven’t democratized ownership,” says Whitaker, an assistant professor of visual arts management at NYU Steinhardt.

She’s proposing a way to do just that. By registering artworks with blockchain to establish authenticity and create property rights which can then be split off and traded, artists can retain an “equity share” in the works, much like the founder of a startup retains an ownership stake that grows in value as the company expands.


I love the idea of helping artists share in their own success. But equally, I love how this example has the potential to make the concept of blockchain more accessible to people.

Read more:

Pure Heart: The Legacy of Bill Nack


A sentence can hold multitudes. Bring you to tears with just a few words. Or it can fall flat.

Some of us fall in love with the art of the sentence. And some of us do not–and that’s ok. But for those of us that do, what riches await! Sometimes around the most unexpected corners.

So it was for me upon encountering the late, great Bill Nack’s opus on Secretariat. I already knew it would be good–Tim Layden’s memorial to Nack pre-decreed it so. But still, when I made my way to the back pages of the SI issue where it was reprinted I wasn’t prepared for just how quickly and fully it would draw me in. And in turn reduce any sentence of my own to obvious amateurism. But that’s besides the point. The point is to experience it. To learn from it.

I mean, just look at this paragraph:

Oh, I knew all the stories, knew them well, had crushed and rolled them in my hand until their quaint musk lay in the saddle of my palm. Knew them as I knew the stories of my children. Knew them as I knew the stories of my own life. Told them at dinner parties, swapped them with horseplayers as if they were trading cards, argued over them with old men and blind fools who had seen the show but missed the message. Dreamed them and turned them over like pillows in my rubbery sleep. Woke up with them, brushed my aging teeth with them, grinned at them in the mirror. Horses have a way of getting inside you, and so it was that Secretariat became like a fifth child in our house, the older boy who was off at school and never around but who was as loved and true a part of the family as Muffin, our shaggy, epileptic dog.

COME ON. Brushed his teeth with them! Grinned in the mirror! Just gorgeous, visceral. The emotion and wisdom of a whole person poured into a paragraph.

And then there’s the sentence that made me fall for good.

The gift of reverie is a blessing divine, and it is conferred most abundantly on those who lie in hammocks or drive alone in cars.

As I’ve written in the past, I fear what is lost if and when we lose the road trip, and in turn our ability to let our minds wander during the drive. Nack goes onto say:

The mind swims, binding itself to whatever flotsam comes along, to old driftwood faces and voices of the past, to places and scenes once visited, to things not seen or done but only dreamed.

An even more perfect encapsulation of the gift of reverie.

So, as I wipe my eyes and step off the elliptical, why do I even care if anyone knows about this article? I guess it boils down to a conviction that these emotions matter and need to be shared. If anything the act of turning thoughts into writing opens the possibility of connecting with those outside of our immediate circles. SI and Bill Nack have done that for me, and if I’m being honest I hope to someday do the same with my words. Because if we’re doing it right, sometimes, there is pure heart behind them.

Read the full Bill Nack article here.