NFT platform Voice is back with the latest installment of their NFT residency program. This time, the program will support female creators from underrepresented and marginalized communities in collaboration with the NFT collection Women Rise. Together, Voice and Women Rise hope to bridge the gender gap in NFTs and bring about a much-needed change.
Certainly, women are still grossly underrepresented in the art world. According to a report by The National Museum of Women in ArtThe artists represented in the top 18 museums in the United States are 87% male and 85% white. In the NFT space in particular, it is no different. A November 2021 report found that while women account for 16% of the NFT art market, they only account for 5% of NFT sales.
Voice launched the NFT residency program to support emerging artists
Originally, Voice started out as a tokenized social media platform, said Eliza Fish, the firm’s director of partnerships and creator relations. Over the past year, however, the company began looking into the move to NFTs. It was then that he realized there were a few things it could “add to the NFT space.”
The first was sustainability. Amid the growing environmental concerns of NFTs, Voice has built a carbon neutral NFT platform. The second, meanwhile, was to support aspiring creators in this space.
“The residency program grew out of our pivot last year to build an NFT platform for emerging developers,” said Fish NFTevening.
“The program is designed to bring together the art world and Web3 visionaries with emerging artists around the world. Some of them had done NFT collections before, while some of them had hardly heard of an NFT. That’s why we tailored the program to be an individual experience for each person based on their needs.”*
Ultimately, Voice hoped to appeal to creators – both NFT veterans and aspiring artists – from around the world and simplify the creation process. Additionally, the program was an opportunity for Voice to learn “what artists need, what they are looking for and what they are interested in.”
The platform has been launched the first NFT residency in September 2021. The program was curated by six celebrated creators – Kimberly Drew, Azu Nwagbogu, Myriam Ben Salah, Alexander Gilkes, Chad Knight and Misan Harriman. Each curator worked with three artists. Finally, each artist created collaborative NFT pieces on the theme of Raise Our Voice.
“We had six curators and were looking for curators from many different backgrounds, disciplines and expertise,” Fish explained. “We wanted to bring in as many perspectives as possible.”
A successful first season led to others
The first season was “incredibly” successful, according to Fish. And the key takeaway for Voice was to curate more programs like this, targeting specific communities.
Voice announced this in March second season of the NFT residency to support creators from underrepresented and marginalized communities. The program also boasted an outstanding selection of curators – Ayanfe Olarinde, Shan Vincent de Paul and Autumn Breon.
In the upcoming season of the NFT residency, Voice wanted to “deliberately create space for women to drop NFT collections and share their stories.”
To realize this vision, Voice decided to partner with Women Rise and its founder, Maliha Abidi. Abidi, a Pakistani-American visual artist and writer, has campaigned for social justice, including women’s rights, gender equality, and girls’ education, for nearly a decade. Abidi had previously worked as a curator for the Voice exhibition during NFT NYC’s first event.
In addition, Abidi’s 10K NFT collection Women Rise features women from all over the world. The collection celebrates “activists, artists, scientists, programmers and many others working to make the world a better place!” The project itself has supported global causes for gender equality. In fact, it has donated 2.5% of primary sales to the Malala Fund. Separately, she donated 7.5% of the funds to international organizations working for social justice.
“I think the Voice residency program and the kind of platform that Voice is is incredible and perfect,” said Abidi NFTevening. “This residence is also so true to Voice’s core values. It will provide more and more opportunities for women of color and creators of color. I’m really honored and really grateful to be a part of it and that Women Rise is a part of it.”
“Actions speak louder than words when empowering women”
“Sometimes the word ‘women’s empowerment’ loses what it’s trying to say because it’s become such a buzzword,” Abidi explained. “We [Women Rise] Try using phrases or actions that advocate for women’s empowerment, but without actually using the words “women’s empowerment.” Because actions speak louder than words.”
“And that’s what the Voice residency program is,” she added. “It’s not just focused on empowering women artists, but also giving them scholarships that allow them to advance their careers and giving them a platform that allows them and their work to be seen.”
In almost every area of the world, Abidi said, “there is a gap when it comes to women of color having access to opportunities. And again, it has nothing to do with their intelligence or their talent, because there is no lack of that. It just has to do with the gap and the systemic barriers.”
It’s no different in the art and NFT space. Therefore, initiatives like the NFT residency are necessary to give women, especially women from underrepresented and marginalized communities, the opportunities they deserve. Nonetheless, the industry needs to do more to ensure diversity and inclusion in the space.
What the industry can do to ensure diversity
“It’s important for everyone in the room to be aware, educate themselves, and keep having conversations,” Fish said. “Consciously creating spaces for women and non-binary people is a really important first step in increasing diversity and inclusion.”
However, Voice also noted that not everyone wanted to attend a residency designed specifically for women. For this reason, the platform currently has separate programs for artists from marginalized communities and for women.
“People can choose what type of space they want to participate in,” Fish added. “I think providing options is a really important step towards diversity and inclusion.”
While Abidi Fish agreed, she believes it’s also important to provide opportunities for women already in space. “If only 16% of women get the opportunity and only 5% of them make money from selling their art, then the problem will not be solved. So while we talk about increasing diversity and women’s representation, we also need to discuss how we can improve the opportunities for women that already exist in this space.”
“I think that’s where the concept of equality and justice is very important for us to think about,” she added. “Programs like the Voice residency that don’t really ask for anything from the creators and it’s about giving back and making sure they amplify the creators are so important.”
In most cases, creators who are new to this space don’t know where to start, Abidi explained. Therefore, it is important to recognize the “barriers” they face and then equip them with the necessary resources. They should also be given a “safe space” where they can just be artists. At the end of the day, “it’s all about accessibility.”
What to Expect from the Voice x Women Rise Residency Program
Applications for the month-long Voice x Women Rise residency program are now live and will close on May 7th. The Residents have a month to create their pieces, which Voice will be releasing throughout the summer. This time, artists can create NFTs around the themes of equality and justice, identity, future-proofing and well-being.
“For this residency, we’re focusing on a few themes, which we’ve chosen to be broad enough so that each artist doesn’t feel confined to a specific theme, medium, or any type of content that they felt compelled to create” , called Fish. “It’s open to their interpretation and their perspective. They are also the most relevant issues of our time.”
For the program, Voice is looking for digital creatives who are either active on social media or willing to get involved. After the selection, the residents receive a “small creative grant”. You will also work with the Voice team and Abidi. In addition, the team helps the creators with a marketing plan. In addition, all sales made within the first 30 days after the drop will receive a sales bonus.
“It’s really an all-hands-on-deck kind of residency on our part, but it’s also self-directed,” she added. “This can really be customized to what each artist is looking for.”
An opportunity for artists to push themselves
Fish hopes that by the end of the program, the creators will “make an effort” to move beyond their last project and “take some risks.” Along the same lines, Abidi added that the residency is a great opportunity for the artists to focus on their creativity.
“In the NFT space, art is art. There is no media limitation – it’s not just limited to paints and crayons, photography or music. It’s everything,” she added.
“As a creator, you should see that potential and that strength. It’s almost like a superpower you have. As a creator, you literally have the power to create and you can use any medium. And you can develop your skills further. And I think artist residencies are a perfect place for that.”
You can apply for the Voice x Women Rise NFT residency program on this website.
*Quotations are shortened and edited for clarity