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Art on the spectrum: How autistic artists are making NFTs refreshing

As the hottest form of promoting art in the future, Web has a duty to push forward diversity in the creative industries in a way that upholds the work we have already put it in but takes it further into more accepting and celebratory nuances of inclusion. 

The launch of Filipino artist Vico Cham’s Shoebox Sketches collection embodies this future and marks Cham’s first NFT collection launch. An award-winning artist, for starters. Among Cham’s growing list of accolades in the art world is a third-place finish at the 2019 Paralym Art World Cup — an annual art exhibition for people with disabilities. 

As an artist with autism, Cham has spent his decades-long career in the arts working tirelessly to create a better, more inclusive world for artists living with disabilities just like him, as evidenced by Vico’s Artism Gallery. As the name suggests, the gallery showcases not only the work of Cham but promotes the creativity of various artists with autism. In his local community, and beyond, Vico’s Artism Gallery functions as a safe space where differently-abled artists can freely express themselves and gain the tools they need to hone their craft.

The genesis of this NFT collection is truly moving. The collection consists of a collection of stick figures, all uniform yet unique in their detailing. The roots stem from Cham’s favourite childhood pastime – doodling. Cham’s father Jun has helped in the promotion of the collection and gives an insight into the breadth of the collection; “Vico’s sketches became more refined and his collection grew to the thousands, we were thinking of more effective ways to document and market him also as an artist and graphic artist. It is here that we got acquainted with Catch21 and got enlightened with NFTs,” he said.

Furthermore, Cham’s Shoebox collection is entirely hand-draw which provides a true niche amidst the plethora of NFT collections already being churned out. Many NFT collection (such as the infamous Ape heads) are tech-focused, perhaps appropriately so as they go hand in hand with a high-tech, future focused and futuristic idea of a metaverse. Cham’s work instead embraces a sense of human juxtaposition, weaving the nostalgic and tangible with the futuristic and digital. 

This humble, approachable form of art is so refreshing to see in a web3 community where music NFTs mostly encompass techno and electronica and art NFTs see intricate ‘meta-like’ animations and characters. Cham truly is a trailblazer within his own niche.

The future is bright for this segment of the NFT landscape. In fact, Sevi Agregado ⁠— a nine-year-old student from Vico’s Artism Gallery ⁠— has made big waves in the NFT art world. His work was even featured in Times Square at NFT.NYC 2022.

Proceeds from the Shoebox Sketches sale will benefit Vico’s Artism Gallery, with a portion of sales also supporting the No One in Need Movement Foundation. Following the collection’s release are six paintings by Cham, set to be tokenized and sold alongside Shoebox Sketches. All of which goes to show how NFTs are becoming more accessible by the day, no matter what challenges beset our personal lives.

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