Art News

Austin Zucchini-Fowler's Healthcare Hero Mural Auctioned as an NFT

This Healthcare Hero mural at Colfax Avenue and Williams Street is being turned into an NFT.
This Healthcare Hero mural at Colfax Avenue and Williams Street is being turned into an NFT. Austin Zucchini-Fowler
Last Easter, people traveling down East Colfax Avenue were greeted by a new mural that went up near the intersection of Williams Street, depicting a masked health-care worker wearing blue scrubs, pink boxing gloves and luminescent purple-pink wings. The mural made national headlines and Austin Zucchini-Fowler went on to paint more murals of other essential workers, including a teacher, a construction worker and a chef.

Now, Zucchini-Fowler is hosting an auction to sell the image of his Healthcare Hero mural as an NFT — a non-fungible token. The auction began on March 31 and will continue through April 12.

An NFT is a one-of-a-kind file, supported by Ethereum blockchain, which grants a buyer ownership of the work. In early March, a JPG file created by the artist Beeple sold for $69 million. The New York Times's report on the story claimed that “NFT mania” was taking hold. In late March, columnist Kevin Roose sold his own Times column as an NFT for $560,000.

“I think that the coolest concept about NFTs right now, for me, is that people are not just selling art, but they’re selling cultural moments,” Zucchini-Fowler says. “The digital side of things is just another avenue that I’m really excited to explore.”

Zucchini-Fowler has several family members in the health-care field, and he felt compelled to express gratitude to health-care professionals in the early days of the pandemic. Photos of his mural reached millions. Governor Jared Polis and Mayor Michael Hancock shared the image, and people around Denver posed for photos with the mural. Zucchini-Fowler says he received dozens of messages from health-care professionals who expressed how much the mural meant to them.

Zucchini-Fowler sees his auction as an opportunity to educate the broader community in Denver about the possibilities of NFTs, which have gained increasing attention in arts and music in recent weeks. The process of bidding for an NFT requires possession of a cryptocurrency wallet, and Zucchini-Fowler hopes the auction encourage more people to learn about cryptocurrency.

Even though ownership of the mural's image will belong to the highest bidder,  the image itself could be reproduced however the owner pleased. If a hospital won the auction, for instance, it could continue to use the image in positive ways.

“I really think that NFTs are great for artists, because it cuts out a lot of middlemen in the process of selling work,” Zucchini-Fowler explains.

And don’t worry — the NFT auction won't affect the physical mural, which will remain up in its current location.

Interested in bidding? Find out more the Healthcare Hero NFT Auction here. But hurry: It ends Monday.
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Jasmine Liu writes about arts and music for Westword, where she is currently a reporting intern.
Contact: Jasmine Liu