Sometime around 2013, an early adopter friend offered me Bitcoin. I responded the way I thought any rational person would. “No way,” I said. “Why would I need dark web money?” Even though I’m educated, intellectually curious, and successful in my career, I was quick to judge this new technology without proper investigation. In other words, I was like most people. Years later, I found myself in a relationship with someone who understood cryptocurrency and the new financial frontier it represents. He broke it down for me in understandable, relatable terms, correcting my misconceptions about crypto, blockchain, and NFTs. Through his demystification of the tech, I saw what an opportunity I missed in 2013–and how grossly I misjudged what crypto means for the future of finance, and therefore all things impacted by finance, including arts and culture.
The upside of this experience is that I’m now the perfect compassionate ambassador to liaison between the misunderstood world of crypto and everyday people, especially creatives. I built my career in fashion and Web2 commerce as part of the team that launched Amazon Fashion, so my world is the sphere of style and influence that attracts very smart, creative people. Uniswap Grants’ mission of reducing barriers to entry to crypto and their interest in the arts and culture space resonated with me. My idea for the Uniswap Grants Program award involved integrating Uniswap into an artistic, pioneering art fair to meet creatives on their turf. In a safe space where people are looking for the next big idea, we could demystify crypto and engage this community in hands-on learning. I borrowed this strategy from Apple’s Genius Bar, a welcoming physical space where you have in-person conversations with empathetic experts, thus removing the intimidation factor in digital technology.
To run a pilot, Michael Papadeas from Studio Guided helped secure us a spot at Untitled Art in Miami Beach, 5 weeks before the event. Untitled Art is a satellite fair known by the art community as the cooler cousin of the renowned Art Basel. It is the go to for the new and the next in contemporary artists, attracting top collectors. I set up an NFT information booth, creating a fun, inviting “Genius Bar” kind of space where fair participants would feel free to ask any questions they wanted about NFTs, blockchain, and crypto. Hosting experts from the Uniswap community, we encouraged an open dialogue, especially around misinformation and explained how crypto presents better solutions for artists to capture more of the value of their work. For artists, crypto makes sense in the form of an NFT that acts as a certification of authenticity for digital and physical artwork. By using examples from the audience’s experience, we were able to translate crypto and NFTs into concepts they understood. Each person who dropped by our booth to talk about crypto got a POAP NFT as proof of their new knowledge, and for many, a gateway into creating their first wallet. From the first curious guest to the last, we saw person after person walk away from our booth transformed by the knowledge and happy with their POAP.
Our booth at Untitled Art succeeded in breaking down barriers, onboarding a whole new category of people into the DeFi space. During the week 48,000 attendees visited to browse the works of over 500 artists in 140 galleries. By meeting them in their familiar territory and creating a dialogue on their terms and in their language, we built a welcoming bridge to crypto for people in the forefront of the arts and culture community.
I was thrilled to see how well simple efforts in listening, empathy, and connection built the bridges to understanding and getting people excited about crypto. Primarily, this style of community engagement works because it makes cryptocurrency accessible and comprehensible in a fun, casual way. Secondly, this strategy for taking crypto to people in their environments and in their language can be applied easily to any other space with barriers to tech inclusion.
The next step is identifying other community events where we can continue to reach out to people who want to be educated about crypto and included in this technology. If you are interested in learning about or supporting future arts and culture community efforts, please follow and reach out to me @cece_gehrig.
I would like to thank the community that helped make this happen, specifically Michael Papadeas and Nina Pham from Studio Guided and Untitled Art.
Cameron Booth @camronbooth for his re-imaging of the Uni Grants logo for t-shirts and POAPs.
The amazing booth experts from the extended Uniswap community, Oz Sozen @sozenoz, Caroline Roland @carolineroland, Hamzat Raheem @hamzat.raheem, Neesh Chaudhary @losingmyego, Henry @hxnrxc, Clarissa Watson @bluestwind, Brandon Roth @_brawndo, Elijah Kuhaupt @elijahkuhaupt, and Josh Phelps @jph3lps.
Uniswap Grants Program for taking the chance and funding a non-technical project to further the UGP mission.