how hownowbleucow came to be, an interview with Artie handz

Over the last week or so, you may have seen people discuss the Proof of Steak project, a unique project in its own right. Using elements of arguably 2 of the most popular cc0 pieces as of recent (tjo’s ‘BLeU’ and Grant Yun’s ‘Cow’), a new piece was created titled ‘HOWNOWBLeUCOW’ and was made available for sale, with ALL proceeds going towards the LA Food Bank. As of the publishing of this article, funds for over 71,500+ meals were provided to charity. This piece is a true testament to the power of community and how we can come together for a great cause. We had the pleasure of chatting with Artie Handz, one of the people who brought it to life, to discuss a little bit more about it and how we can use the power of cryptoart to make the world a better place.

Can you introduce yourself, and then tell us a little bit about this project?

I’m Artie Handz, 40 year old attorney/entrepreneur/rancher living most of the year in Venice, CA with my wife and 3 boys all 4 and under.

Proof of Steak was a project to essentially take cc0 materials and use them for the public good.  

We used Grant Yun’s Cow and Tjo’s BLeU, two of the most famous cc0 works in the community, combined with my friend Jules’ artistic skills to make HOWNOWBLeUCOW, which we sold as an OE on Ethereum, Tezos, and Bitcoin (Counterparty).

Overall we sold over just over 1,300 editions as well as a signed 1/1 and raised just shy of $18k, putting 71,717 meals on plates in Los Angeles.

What was the inspiration behind this project?

We called the project Proof of Steak as a play (albeit an obvious one) on Proof of Stake, the topic de jour of course bc of the recent MERGE.  I come from a ranching family (5th gen) so the Grant Yun’s Cow immediately came to mind and then things just fell into place from there.

The Amy Castor Artnet article was inspirational in that it pissed me off so much that I began to push this project (too hard?) from a fun thing into a very serious thing.

I want the world to see what is possible with the creativity, tech, and support of the NFT community, especially the artist community.

Can you tell us a little bit about the charity you guys chose to support?

LA Food Bank was an obvious choice. We both live in the Greater Los Angeles area and see the problems with homelessness and food insecurity on a daily basis.  Its something not talked about nearly enough (at least in a non-political context). 

They do a great job of getting meals to those in need.  96% of donations go to food so they are extremely low overhead.

How did this project begin to come to life? What initially got the ball rolling?

The seed of the idea for the artwork came probably just 10 minutes after Grant Yun minted Cow.  I loved the work and the idyllic nature of the Cow but knew all too well that that same Cow likely would end up in a Feed Lot eventually.

I long wanted to make a piece commenting on the food industrial complex and when the merge approached and everyone was talking about Proof of Stake … my mind wondered to Grant’s piece again.

This past Wed/Thu I  tweeted out something like “Have an idea for a @grantyun2 piece but don’t know how to execute.”

Grant RT’d that and minutes later, my new partner in crime Jules offered up his services no questions asked.  We worked like peanut butter and jelly from the first minute and it all came together incredibly fast.

For this charity event, you used tjo’s ‘bleu’ and Grant’s Cow piece as core aspects of the art behind it, was there any reasoning behind that?

I think I already mentioned why Grant’s piece, using the Cow as a symbol.  But we added BLeU as the water trough upon the suggestion of legendary artist Justin Maller, who understood inherently the power of collaboration. 

He was so incredibly right.  That added collaboration and the overall notoriety of both pieces pushed this way, way further than we expected.

You guys went the unique route of minting on ETH and on XTZ and on xchain/btc. Was there any specific reasoning behind this?

I collect on all three chains regularly and felt that we would be leaving out too much of the greater community by sticking to just one chain.

Options are a good thing! 

Unless its the Cheesecake Factory menu and then its too many options.

How do you see crypto + NFTs + cryptoart be used for charitable fundraising in the future? What tools would you recommend to people looking to get involved with NFTs + fundraising?

Were these choices an ode to the strength of CC0?

I’m absolutely NOT a cc0 maxi. I believe in the ownership of your own ideas.  Must be the lawyer in me speaking.

But I also understand we live in a remix culture, and allowing work to be used by anyone can unlock things you never could have imagined.

I think some things work amazingly well as cc0 and others do not.

Cow and BLeU, I think fit the profile perfectly for cc0 bc they are minimalistic with powerful traits, lending themselves well to be using in a myriad of creative ways by the community.

Ultimately, pieces that are cc0 are public goods and we should use them for the public good.

As a collector, how did it feel to be on the other side of minting rather than collecting?

It was incredibly nerve-wracking!  I have such a newfound respect for the hustle that artists have to commit to here in order to succeed.  I could never put myself out there as artists do.  I could only have shilled so hard for 3+ days by doing it for others.

Did you have any goals you wanted to achieve with this project prior to minting? 

Artistically, I wanted to make a statement about the cattle industry and the greater industrial food complex.

From a social dynamic perspective, I wanted Artnet, etc. to eat their words.  I wanted to prove that we are more than just “beanie babies.”  I even tagged Artnet and Amy Castor on my announcement tweet, saying something like “come see what the community is actually all about.”  I was met with an immediate block by Ms. Castor.

Financially, I thought maybe if we were incredibly lucky we could sell 4-500 total over 3 days and feed 20,000.

Do you have any words to say to those who have been inspired by this project to create something similar? 

There would be no greater honor for me than if we saw a whole bunch of copycats. 

If someone wanted to do 0xHOWNOWBLeUCOW (remember that 0x trend?) to raise money for NYC food security, for example, I’d be happy!

I truly hope people can use this as inspiration and a model of how to fundraise in our community for the IRL communities they care about.  

I’m here, willing to help those who want to do something similar.

If I can do it, you can do it.  There was nothing “special” about what we did. Plenty of accounts have a bigger following and reach.  We didn’t get any institutions involved nor any concurrent media coverage (traditional or web3). We didn’t use paid promotion, or enlist the help of influencers.

You don’t need anybody but your authentic self and an idea.  Go for it. 

Do you have any plans for future projects similar to this?

NOT ruling anything out but nothing immediate.  Although I think we found a repeatable framework, the authenticity of the project was something that I think really resonated with people.  So I wouldn’t want to force something just to do it.

But I hope to help others do something similar and we’ll see where it all goes! 

There was no overarching “plan” for this, we allowed room to improvise and I’d like to continue with the same mindset.