Project Tarsus: A Model for Co-creation in Digital Art

I entered 2023 with a personal goal to put into practice the concept I describe in my pinned tweet of “co-creation” - recognizing that artist and collector play different roles in this Digital Art marketplace and together they give meaning and purpose to a piece of work.

This concept forms the basis of a new model for the creation of Digital Art where Patrons and Artists collaborate to launch projects that result in amazing Art that will be immutably memorialized on chain in the service of a higher purpose.

The first Project is called Project Tarsus and involves a commission I’ve made with the exceptional aerial photographer @Beh0ldingEye Paul Seibert whose work I’ve collected and who I consider a friend.

This project involves Paul photographing the area where I grew up in New Jersey from the sky with a specific focus on my local Church, St. Paul’s,  which has been my family's place of Baptisms, Communions, Weddings and Funerals since the late 1800s.

It was by chance that when I told Paul that I was thinking about this project, he went into his archives and found an older shot from his past trips that is almost a perfect match for what we hope to do!

The steeple is that of St. Paul’s in the shadow of the NYC skyline. We’re producing prints of this image, and several others that include the steeple in the frame, to sell at the event with the proceeds going to the Church.

On the weekend of June 23, 2023, Paul will get up in a helicopter and capture some new images specifically for Project Tarsus. During this weekend the Church is also hosting a Festival so we hope to capture colors and lights from the Festival as part of the aerial shot.

I’ve committed to paying Paul a fee for a 1:1 of the project, and have agreed to cover the costs of his trip to the NYC area. I’ve also paid him a one-time fee for the images above for the right to sell them as prints.

In return, Paul generously offered the prints at a reduced price to his typical fee and has agreed to donate a number of the images that are not ultimately minted as the 1:1 to be available for sale as part of a small collection with proceeds going to the Church. Royalties will be set to benefit the Artist for any secondary market activity.

This is an example of co-creation that is a win for me, for Paul and hopefully for the Church.

Funny thing is I don’t consider myself a devout and practicing Catholic. I tell people I’m a “recovering Catholic” and have grown away from the teachings of the Church.  But, I have strong interest in the convergence of Art + Symbolism + the Human Experience. Making Project Tarsus’ focus on a 160 yr old church a compelling project.

The convergence of Art + Symbolism + the Human Experience is especially relevant today given the dramatic shifts toward a more digital age. One path this shift takes us is a more isolated future. Another is a more connected community.

I’m in favor of the more connected community. So a good jumping off point for me at least in the Projects I choose to pursue will be those that take the lessons of the past and build on them for the future.

And over the course of human history the best example of the convergence between Art + Symbolism + the Human Experience has centered around World Religions, the historic source of our common stories, myths, beliefs and memes.

This is not unique to Western civilization.

Ancient Egyptian civilization: Art was heavily influenced by their religious beliefs. Their understanding of the afterlife, for example, is depicted in the elaborate wall paintings found in tombs. The well-known Book of the Dead is a collection of spells and images that guided the dead through the afterlife.

Ancient Egyptian wooden stela depicting Lady Djedkhonsuiwesankh giving offerings of food, drink, and flowers to Re-Horakhty (c. 950–700 BC); Photograph by Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago; painter unknown, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mesopotamian civilization: Like ancient Egypt, religion played a significant role in their art customs. Many of their works were devoted to their gods, with intricate reliefs and statues found in temples and ziggurats. The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest known pieces of literature, includes many spiritual and religious themes.


Chinese civilization: Art in ancient China was deeply tied to Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Scroll paintings, pottery, jade carvings, and architecture often reflect these spiritual beliefs. The Forbidden City in Beijing, for example, is filled with symbolism derived from Chinese cosmology and numerology.

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in "Water Moon" Form (Shuiyue Guanyin) 11th century. China. Liao dynasty (907–1125). Wood (willow) with traces of pigment; multiple-woodblock construction. H. 46 1/2 in. (118.1 cm); W. 37 1/2 in. (95.3 cm); D. 28 in. (71.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1928 (28.56)

Indian civilization: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism have greatly influenced the art of the Indian subcontinent. Temples and sculptures representing deities and religious narratives are common. The intricate carvings in the Ajanta and Ellora Caves or the massive temple complexes of Khajuraho and Hampi provide great examples.

Painting of Padmapani. Cave 1, Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra, India

Mesoamerican civilizations: The Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas incorporated their religious beliefs into their art extensively. From the monumental pyramids dedicated to their gods to the detailed ceramics and textiles depicting their cosmology and rituals, their spiritual beliefs were central.

Head of the Aztec Moon goddess Coyolxauhqui. From Tenochtitlan, carved during the reign of Ahuitzotl, 1486-1502 CE. Green diorite. (Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City)

African civilizations: Many African cultures have a long history of integrating their religious beliefs into their artwork. Masks, sculptures, and textiles often represented deities, ancestors, or spiritual concepts.

Pair of Diviner’s Figures, 19th–mid-20th century (Baule peoples, Côte d’Ivoire), wood, pigment, beads and iron, 55.4 x 10.2 x 10.5 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art; photo: Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Western civilization: While I’m most familiar with Western traditions, it's clear to anyone who has toured Europe the role that Art has played in the cultural development of Europe over millennia across all art forms.

The Transfiguration, Raphael, 1516-20, Oil tempura on wood, Piancoteca Vaticana, Vatican City

In 1999, Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to Artists that reads in part: “Obedient to their [Artists] inspiration in creating works both worthwhile and beautiful, they not only enrich the cultural heritage of each nation and of all humanity, but they also render an exceptional social service in favor of the common good.”

The letter in its entirety is worth a read that describes the role of Art in advancement of human’s desire to get closer to the divine.

Hopefully, Project Tarsus is the first of several co-creation efforts where I join with an Artist in the service of some higher purpose to bend the arc of this digital shift to one that brings us closer together.

3 Myths about Web3

Web3 is the decentralized web, a new way of using the internet that puts artists in control of their data and digital assets. It's a powerful tool for artists, allowing them to create, store, and monetize their work without relying on centralized platforms or third-party services. For example, when you share to Instagram, the app takes a copy of your image and controls it. They also have legal rights to use your image without paying you. Instagram, Facebook, most social media apps all make a LOT of money off of the content that people upload to them for free. Many artists don't find it easy to make money off Instagram or Facebook.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of misconceptions about Web3. Even though there are a lot of things that aren't perfect yet, we'll clear up the top three misunderstandings so you can make an informed decision about whether Web3 is right for you.

Misconception 1: It's too late to join the NFT craze.

As an artist, have you ever felt like you've missed the boat on the high priced art sales and don't want to feel like you are starting over on another social media platform? We get it; many artists are hesitant to dive into the NFT world, discouraged by low sales, big learning curve, lots of scams, and high transaction fees in the crypto market. But let me share a secret with you: at MeLlamoArt, we see immense long-term value in NFTs for artists.

Like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter and NFTs is a tool that can help artists diversify their income streams, make greater connections, and bring one's artwork in front of new people.

This makes us bring up the wise words of Vincent van Gogh: "Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."

Small steps forward. You don't need to become a crypto blockchain expert overnight. Or take a 3 month long course on marketing and funnels. For every artist they will have to create their own path suited for their situations and goals.

MeLlamoArt's Founder, Matt, likes to say, "There is no one strategy for everyone, but everyone needs a strategy."  With an effective marketing strategy and the right approach, taking the leap into the NFT world now can be the catalyst that propels you to a place you never thought possible with your art.

Misconception 2: You need a large social media following to get into web3 and sell art.

We are here to tell you, it's not about the number of followers you have; it's about the quality and engagement of your community.

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady progress can lead to big wins, and that's especially true when building a community in Web3. It may take time, but investing in genuine connections is what truly matters.

Think about this: how many artists do you know who have created a successful career without millions of followers? The key lies in the quality and value you bring to the table and the relationships you nurture. Digital art sales are on the rise, and you can make a significant impact even without a massive social media presence.

As the great Maya Angelou once said, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." So, why not focus on engaging with your community and creating authentic connections? For many, the human connections they have made in web3 have led to deeper relations to other art enthusiasts and even to some exciting and new opportunities with their art that they never got after years on Instagram.

Success in Web3 isn't just about the numbers. It's about cultivating a loyal, engaged community that resonates with your work and your message. We encourage artists who are interested to embrace the learning curve. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – and that first step could be the beginning of something extraordinary.

Misconception 3: You need special skills or knowledge

It's true that having some technical knowledge can be helpful when working with Web3 technologies like blockchain and smart contracts – but it's not essential! There are plenty of tools out there designed specifically for non-technical users who want to take advantage of what the decentralized web has to offer. For example, Manifold makes it easy for anyone – regardless of their technical background – to publish art securely on the blockchain without needing any coding experience whatsoever!

Web3 offers tremendous opportunities for artists who want more control over their work and greater freedom from centralized platforms and third-party services – but only if they know how to take advantage of it. By debunking some common misconceptions about Web3 technology, we hope this article has given you a better understanding of how it works and why it could be beneficial for your creative career going forward.

Defying Societal Norms Leads to Innovation and Progress

Picture this: You're standing at the edge of a vast, uncharted territory. It's unfamiliar, daunting even, but it's also teeming with potential. What if you took that leap into the unknown, defying expectations in pursuit of something groundbreaking? History has shown us time and time again that embracing the unknown and following our creative passions can transform not only our lives but the world around us.

Throughout history, trailblazers in art, literature, science, philosophy, and politics have dared to challenge the status quo, leaving indelible marks on society. Think of Galileo, who defied the Church's geocentric view of the universe, or Virginia Woolf, who pushed the boundaries of literary conventions with her stream-of-consciousness narrative style. These visionaries didn't just create outside the lines—they obliterated them.

But why is it so important to embrace the unknown? Because doing so challenges our preconceived notions, sparks creativity, and drives growth and change. As the renowned scientist Marie Curie once said, "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." By stepping beyond our comfort zones and embracing new ideas, we open ourselves up to incredible possibilities.

And let's not forget the impact of such bold thinking in today's rapidly evolving digital landscape. In the realm of art and technology, web3 artists are breaking new ground, pushing the boundaries of traditional artistic expression and reshaping the way we interact with and value art in the digital space. Their willingness to explore uncharted territories has paved the way for a vibrant art ecosystem that empowers creators and collectors alike to connect in vastly different ways.

So, how can we recognize and celebrate those who think differently, create something new, and ultimately pave the way for the future? At MeLlamoArt, we like to start by fostering a culture of inclusion and community. Encourage dialogue and collaboration, and most importantly, be willing to support those who are just starting out. As the great poet Robert Frost once wrote, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

We ask you dear reader, Do you challenge expectations in your art, your work, or your life? If it doesn't, what is the purpose of your art? What narrative are you conveying through your work? Why do you create?

The future is shaped by those who dare to defy convention and embrace the unknown. So, go ahead, take that leap—we are here to celebrate and elevate those willing to take a risk and create art for themselves

We have seen firsthand how embracing authenticity often means defying norms and trends. When we choose to walk our own path, rather than following the crowd, we uncover our true selves and tap into our deepest potential. Remember Rosa Parks, who courageously refused to give up her seat on the bus, or Steve Jobs, who dropped out of college only to revolutionize the tech industry? These remarkable individuals dared to defy norms, and in doing so, they stayed true to their authentic selves.

Ask yourself this: Are you living your life according to others' expectations, or are you forging your own path?

When you make decisions based on what feels right to you, you align with your inner compass, and that's when the magic happens. As the legendary Oscar Wilde once said, "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

By defying norms and trends, you become the architect of your own destiny, and your light will inspire others to do the same.

A Collector’s Perspective: Me Llamo Matt

It is pretty quiet right now. Some people are leaving Web 3, some are sitting on the sideline waiting.  Others continue to create everyday seeming oblivious to the Bear Market. In times like this some perspective is needed. We have been doing this “Web 3” thing for a very short time. Yet artists have been creating for thousands of years. Web 3 is not a miracle cure for all that ails us. Sure, it has the potential to create previously unattainable opportunity for some. But it probably isn’t right for all. The pace of Web 3 the last 24 months is not sustainable for most of us, and this has created stress and anxiety for many.

I believe we are at a predictable inflection point in which some of us will continue to embrace and thrive in Web 3 while others will opt out. This is ok. It is healthy.

Do you want to stay? Great, but maybe you are anxious, or spending too much time online, losing sleep, possibly even finding yourself envious of other’s success. What can you do? Acknowledging these emotions or behaviors is the first step. It could be time to rebalance and lessen the priority of Web 3 in your day-to-day activities.  Touch grass, adopt a long-term outlook regarding Web 3 if you haven’t already and stay patient. Understand the danger of FOMO.  Create, create, create. Most of you were creating art prior to Web 3. So why not adopt a pre Web 3 mindset and focus on creating?

Stay original. Resist the urge to copy the latest trend. If it is hot, it is likely too late. Go ahead mint and vault work each year so that when demand returns, you have work available. In the meantime, think of yourself as a collector of your own pieces.

Right now, those that are actively collecting are looking to established artists as kind of a “flight to safety” This is a common human reaction much like stock investors avoid growth stocks and accumulate large blue chips in times of economic uncertainty.  This will likely continue for a while until collectors become comfortable with the markets again.

Once the market loosens up, and I believe it inevitably will, offer your work at a price attractive to others. I believe when sales pick up, the key will be to get work into other’s vaults rather than focusing on maximizing the price of individual pieces.

Remember, these are the thoughts of one collector. Every artist ultimately needs to do what feels right to them. Don’t overthink it, just make sure you have a plan you can execute.

In closing, if you only take one thought from this article, please keep this in mind: No strategy is correct for every artist. But every artist needs a correct strategy. Good luck in the world of Web 3!