(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Zion Guevara, a 13-year-old who launched an NFT art collection to raise money to increase awareness about bullying, in Lehi on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.
Zion Guevara, age 13, frequently uses the word “fascinating” when he describes the world of tech entrepreneurship, NFT’s and digital art.
His passion for the field shows — as often happens with kids his age — in his shiny eyes, his unbridled enthusiasm, and the pure joy of doing something they love.
Guevara said he’s trying to put what he knows to good use. In mid-June, he launched a NFT collection — a non-fungible token or digital asset that represents real-world objects, like unique collectibles — called “Dude Alien.” The collection features 3,364 hand-drawn, computer-code generated images of diverse alien beings. Some wear sweatshirts with the word “bullying” crossed out, others include the words “racism sux.”
“I’ve always wanted to be in the tech industry and make a large impression and be an entrepreneur,” Guevara said. “But for a good cause.”
The collection is priced at $200,000, when the prices of each image are added together, and is now being sold. Guevara is planning on adding one-on-one art pieces in July that will go on auction on his website.
Digital art, and the coding behind it, is common, seen in video games, for example. But NFT’s are different, Guevara explained — something that “has no identical matches” and can’t be traded.
“It’s on a blockchain,” Guevara said, “which is a decentralized network where the code [lives] on the back side of the art. It’s kind of a collectible with code.”
The fact that NFT’s are one of a kind is fitting, given Guevara’s overall idea and inspiration behind “Dude Alien.”
(Zion Guevara) A screenshot of some of the digital images from Guevara's NFT collection "Dude Alien."
“I kind of took my life experiences and was like, ‘Well, what could I make a brand name out of?,’” he said. “I always refer to my friends as ‘dude’ and I always felt alienated. From there it just took off.”
Guevara created the project in part because he heard of stories of youth in Utah taking their own lives as a result of experiencing bullying. It was an ongoing conversation he had with his mother about bullying, when they heard their dentist’s son took his own life as a result of bullying. Other stories — like those of Drayke Hardman and Izzy Tichenor, Utah children who died by suicide after being bullied — struck them, too.
Guevara said he has his own experiences with bullying, because he was different and a new kid. “Being a 13-year-old in Utah, moving from Los Angeles, California, can be very hard. It was a way for me to express my feelings into art,” he said. The Guevara family moved to Utah 3½ years ago.
With his tech passion, starting a business in the NFT space to raise anti-bullying awareness was a no-brainer for Guevara. He’s in the process of partnering with an anti-bullying organization, called No Bully, which helps “train teachers and administrators on how to find and identify bullying and eliminate it in their schools.”
His mother, Ellen, said it was “gut-wrenching” to hear about her son being bullied. “As a parent, you don’t ever want to hear that your child is being hurt,” she said.
It was a “double blow,” she said, to see that the community of adults she trusted to watch out for her child lacks the training and tools to deal with bullying.
For six months, Ellen said, Zion would wake up and draw on his tablet. He told his mom he would get through his experiences with bullying, and he did. Now, she said, he’s helping other kids.
“I always tell my kids everything has a purpose rather than just money,” she said. “[Money alone] isn’t going to give you satisfaction in life.”
Zion said he’s committed to continuing to develop “Dude Alien” for now, but he has dreams of one day getting into real estate in the metaverse.
“I really learned a lot of valuable lessons and experiences such as coding and learning how to do the art,” Zion said.
If there’s one message people can take away from his work — which celebrates diversity, quirkiness and being “alien” — Zion said it’s to get the word out about bullying and that it needs to stop.
“Everybody needs love, everybody has been loved,” he said, “and I just want everybody to feel that at least once in their lifetime.”
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