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Seattle NFT Museum offers a different kind of museum experience

Two people look at a screen on a wall with an explanation of NFTs and how they play a role in the digital art world.
Renata Steiner of Nataworry Photo LLC
Courtesy of Seattle NFT Museum
One of the main goals of the Seattle NFT Museum is to educate people. Around the museum, you'll find explainers of what NFTs are and why they are important.

Tech executives Jennifer Wong and Peter Hamilton were inspired to create a place that allowed visitors to take in digital art in a physical space. They hope that with the museum they can start a conversation and educate people about NFTs all while showcasing the artists behind the digital works.

A first-of-its-kind museum is coming to Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. Visitors of the Seattle NFT Museum will be able to physically view digital art on large display screens.

For those unfamiliar, NFT stands for “non-fungible token.” It’s a digital asset like an avatar or photo. When someone buys an NFT, they’re not as much buying the image but ownership of the image, kind of like a deed.

Jennifer Wong and Peter Hamilton are both tech executives and founded the Seattle NFT Museum. While the topic of NFTs has proven polarizing, largely because of the amount of energy required to mint an NFT, they hope the museum can be jumping off point for anyone interested in them.

"We want to lean into a lot of topics that might be uncomfortable," Wong said. "We might talk about the environmental impact of NFT art and really dig into some of those numbers and understand new technologies that are already changing the way that NFTs are created and hosted. But I think we're looking forward just to being able to use the museum as a place for a conversation."

NFTs have become a new way for artists to make money. Charles Peterson is one of the artists whose work is displayed in the museum’s first exhibit. A photographer known for capturing Seattle’s grunge scene, he was, at first, reluctant to get into NFTs. What’s the big deal about owning something digitally when you can see the same image for free?

"It’s just all about flex, you know? It's not really about the art," Peterson said. "I mean, come on. … It's really just about, like, I can afford this."

But the accessibility of selling his work as an NFT has been what’s made Peterson come around to the concept.

"Course, it costs money to do NFTs as well. But the entry is a lot less than having to, you know, frame up 20 to 50 physical prints, which can easily run into five figures," Peterson said.

Wong and Hamilton look at the museum as distinctly different than just being a gallery. They want it to be a place to build community and educate people. They reflected on their own experience of viewing digital art in physical spaces and how valuable it was instead of taking it in via a phone or tablet.

"Physical spaces will continue to be important in the way that we experience art and culture and connection to others," Hamilton said. "And we don't know where the lines of physical versus digital will really bleed over in the future or what that will look like. But there will be value and advantage to coming together as a community."

Peterson doesn't see NFTs going away any time soon.

"I think [for] traditional artists, it kind of would be ridiculous for them not to explore the NFT world at this point," Peterson said. "It really is just a different way of ingesting art that that doesn't involve all the other pitfalls with physical art that we can run into."

The Seattle NFT Museum opens Jan. 27 to the public at 2125 First Ave., Seattle. Tickets can be purchased online.

Grace Madigan covers arts and culture with a focus on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.