The Web3 world has no shortage of NFT platforms, but Wildxyz (or Wild) is trying what it believes to be a unique approach: one focused on “experiential” artwork, founder and CEO J. Douglass Kobs told Decrypt, as well as one built around a residency program that helps artists immerse themselves in Web3 as well as a community of fellow creators.
It’s a model that has the backing of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, and Philadelphia 76ers President Daryl Morey. Wild recently announced its Matrix Partners-led $7 million seed round featuring those investors and others, plus the firm is advised by noted NFT artist Emily “pplpleasr” Yang.
Wild launched last fall with its residency program and its initial “Season 0” cohort, which included artists such as Mitchell Chan, Aluna, and Harm van den Dorpel. Each creator will ultimately release new NFT-based artwork through the platform, but there’s already a new Season 1 cohort set to follow in their footsteps.
Revealed today, the Season 1 cohort includes artist and software engineer Sarah Friend, who’s known for experimental blockchain projects, as well as artist and musician Serwah Attafuah, who has worked with GQ and Paris Hilton on NFT drops and who Kobs said he believes is “gonna be a household name someday.”
Other artists in the cohort include Jonas Lund—who has his own DAO and token—as well as Nic Hamilton, Anna Lucia, Beryl, Lisa Odette, Gabriel Massan, Idil Dursun, Matto, and Tim Maxwell. The Season 1 group is rounded out by StupidGiant, Santiago, Jerk Beasley, Nygilia, Sam Hains, Jenny Jiang, Yuma Yanagisawa, and Mia Pixley.
It’s a broad mix of artists from around the world, some of whom are more prominent than others or perhaps have deeper Web3 experience. Curating such a diverse group of artists appears to be an intentional move, as Wild forms unique pairings across the 12-week virtual residency program and helps each participant learn along the way.
A Y Combinator for artists
According to Kobs, the residency includes a slate of programming such as classes taught by artists to the rest of the group, letting them share their skills and experiences. Wild also brings in notable mentors: in the first group, influential pseudonymous generative audiovisual artist Deafbeef mentored artist Caleb Ogg for his recent Machines NFT drop.
Kobs describes it as being like Y Combinator for artists—an accelerator for creators to expand their Web3 skillset and ultimately produce and launch new art through the platform. The goal is to “surround the artists with a bunch of badasses that they can learn from,” Kobs told Decrypt, with the goal of creating connections and community and yielding distinctive blockchain art.
“I’m always excited to connect with and learn from artists in any respect, but have always lacked some sort of structure, I guess,” Attafuah said. “Wild gives me a place to riff off of a really solid community of diversely talented creatives, and I really look forward to the Wild sessions as I take away so much more to reflect on.”
Building the Wildverse
It’s a starting point for what Wild aims to build long-term, which is a destination for what Kobs calls “experiential” art. The startup is all-in on an immersive, spatial internet that can be experienced in VR or AR—what many would call the metaverse, though Kobs believes the term has been “bastardized.” (His team calls it the “Wildverse” instead.)
Each NFT released through Wild features an immersive 3D environment that viewers can explore. The Wild Oasis NFTs, for example, both offer platform benefits to holders and let users wander through a jungle setting. The Machines NFTs have both the 2D artwork and a virtual art gallery to view it within.
“People want to be in spaces that they can explore, and where they can create an emotional connection to somebody that created work,” Kobs said. “That place doesn’t really exist digitally, in my experience. I haven’t found it.”
Releasing projects like NFT-based interactive games and anarchic Microsoft Paint-esque sketches might not seem like the most direct path to an immersive online art experience. However, Kobs sees the current and future output of the cohorts as steps towards a thriving artists’ community that can support ever more ambitious future Web3 endeavors.
“I think those building blocks are really incredible things built by incredible people, that we get to go explore and then talk about and learn about—and also meet people along the way,” he said. “I view it as this catalyst for us to build a space that I want to play in and learn in, and that I want to meet people and make these relationships in.”
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