CINCINNATI – A new technology conference aims to showcase Cincinnati as a center of creativity in both innovation and the arts.
what you need to know
- MidwestCon is coming to Cincinnati August 12-14
- The new conference aims to celebrate the connection between technology, arts and culture
- Two of the main subject areas are Web 3.0 and NFTs
- The organizers know there is skepticism about new technologies, so much of the conference will revolve around education and displays
On Wednesday, leaders from the arts, technology, government and finance sectors gathered at the Art Academy of Cincinnati to announce the start of MidwestCon, taking place August 12-14 at the Art Academy.
Adults need a ticket. Admission is free for children up to the age of 16.
The three-day conference will show how new technologies are enhancing the fields of arts and culture. They also emphasize that Cincinnati can be, and in some ways already is, a leader in these sectors.
The event will focus on three specific technical advances: Metaverse, Web3 (or Web 3.0) technology and NFTs (non-fungible tokens).
“Innovation doesn’t only live on the west coast. It doesn’t just live on the east coast. It’s not just living in Miami,” said Rob Richardson, Founder of MidwestCon. It’s right here in Cincinnati. We can be the spark for innovation in the Midwest.”
Richardson is CEO of DisruptArt, an organization focused on advancing NFTs and the artists who create them. Their mission is to provide an “interactive space for artists, collectors and activists to revolutionize the impact of art”.
This emerging technology is “reshaping the world economy,” Richardson said. It can also help the Cincinnati region grow into a major hub in these areas.
Cincinnati-based Nick Fontova, CMO of the NFT community House of First, commented on how difficult it is to sell art. He named barriers like knowing the right gallery owner or living in the right city.
But believes NFT technology has opened up the world to artists and art collectors in Cincinnati. “It leveled the playing field,” he said.
He hopes MidwestCon will help local artists monetize their work and teach local collectors how to expand their collections.
Richardson believes Cincinnati is home to many innovators in the technical and creative fields. During Wednesday’s press conference, several of the top content creators and collectors were mentioned, including the photographer Isaac Wright, aka “Drift,‘ from the Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati.
However, many people are still new to the technology, including NFTs.
To clarify a NFT is a digital version of a real-world object, such as a work of art, music, or video. People buy them and sell them online. NFTs usually come with a special code — “or a unique fingerprint,” Richardson said — that makes them unique.
Richardson admitted there’s still a lot of confusion about what they actually are and how they work. He also noted that many people fear being “cheated.”
Because of this knowledge gap, the conference plans to devote a large part of its first day to education. Participants can take classes, attend informational sessions, or even try out new technologies like augmented reality headsets.
“It’s very important that people have the basic building blocks – they understand what that space is, why it’s valuable and how to enter it,” he said.
The remainder of the three days will require a mix of events ranging from panel discussions to “immersive displays” including musical performances and a fashion show to teach artists and other creatives how to use technology to enhance their work and them then convert to an NFT.
Richardson said there would also be time for networking and other events.
Deputy Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney sat down with Richardson last year to discuss the conference. He threw out words – Blockchain, Web3, NFTs. She admitted she didn’t know what he was talking about at the time.
But she understood that these new technologies represent a $100 billion industry, Lemon Kearney said.
That’s one of the reasons Cincinnati hosts events like MidwestCon and Black Tech Week, which took place in Cincinnati last month.
“It’s something Cincinnati needs,” she said. “We must understand. We have to get over this. That’s how we grow. This is how we increase our jobs. This is how we bring young talent here and keep our talent here.”
The home base of the first MidwestCon is the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
One of the main rooms is the academy’s engagement room at location 1212.
On the surface, an art school may not be the most obvious first choice for hosting a tech conference, Girandola acknowledged.
The institution, whose roots date back to the mid-19th century, has spent decades teaching students traditional fine arts such as painting, sculpture and even photography.
But innovations in technology open new doors for his students to not only explore their creativity but also to harness their talent.
Of course, as we evolve with new digital technologies, creativity will not sleep,” he added. “The Art Academy of Cincinnati and our students must drive transformation in how creatives are shaping and inspiring the future.”
The idea of combining art and technology makes perfect sense to Pete Blackshaw, CEO of Cintrifuse, Cincinnati’s startup incubator. That’s because they both focus on two key ideas: creating something new and pushing boundaries.
During a recent event at Cintrifuse’s home base, Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine, several Cincinnati-based organizations showcased ways they are already using these new technologies to support the arts.
The Children’s Theater of Cincinnati used an augmented reality headset to give visitors a virtual tour of their new theater space, which is still under construction. The organization uses the tool to collect donations for the project.
Gavin Weiss, 19, worked with the University of Cincinnati to create a platform to help fellow students create NFTs easily and for free. It’s called The viewing gallery Project.
Artists receive 70% of sales, while the other 30% goes towards grant money and cryptocurrency research at UC, Weiss said.
At the next table, ArtsWave was demonstrating a Pokémon GO-like video game that they hope can make museum exhibits and art installations more engaging.
“Our goal is to bring the arts alive in Cincinnati,” said Jeni Barton, the game’s creator. “And we can literally do that with these technological advances.”
During a recent trip to Los Angeles, Blackshaw took notes on what Cincinnati needs to do and emulate to reflect success there and across the country.
While noting that Cincinnati is already doing a lot of things well, Blackshaw believes the region could “win in the Metaverse” if it better leveraged its competitive advantage: the local arts scene.
“The opportunity is huge and we must seize it,” Blackshaw said.
More Information is available on the MidwestCon website.