The owner of CryptoPunk 7610, known to some as financial services giant Visa, is launching a non-fungible token (NFT) support program to help artists get involved in the digital art space.

The payments provider is partnering with Micah Johnson – a former Major League Baseball player, turned NFT artist and the creator of “Aku” – an animated astronaut character.

Visa, with Johnson’s help, will choose a small group of artists through applications and then build a program to help them learn more about the crypto and blockchain industry.

Artist Micah Johnson. (Source: Visa. Credit: JN Silva)

Aku is already a big deal, having become the the first NFT to be optioned for a feature film and TV projects – by Anonymous Content and Permanent Content, connected to the film director Shawn Mendes.

Aku was released in February 2021 on Nifty Gateway and sold more than US$2 million in NFT tokens in less than 24 hours. “Aku Chapters” NFTs currently have a floor price of 0.54 ETH (about US$1,960) on OpenSea, and a highest last sale of 4.25 ETH (US$15,427).

“NFTs unlocked an opportunity for me to build a community of people interested in supporting my work – in a way that goes way beyond simply liking or sharing,” said Johnson.

“With guidance from the early crypto community, I’ve been able to build a small business around my crypto-native character, Aku, that can grow into a global media company rooted in driving value back to that same community that evangelised my work.”

The Johnson/Visa program will also build connections between the selected NFT creators and Visa’s network of payment partners.

“We’ll be sponsoring this small group and providing consultative services to navigate the world of both crypto and traditional payment infrastructure,” said Visa’s Head of Crypto, Cuy Sheffield. “We’ll also look to foster meaningful relationships between creators and Visa’s network of payment partners, who can help creators reach new audiences and grow their businesses.”

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work alongside and learn from a trusted brand like Visa,” added Johnson. “We want to arm creators with the resources they need to stay at the forefront of this revolution.”


Other big recent NFT moves: Coinbase, TikTok, Ripple

It seems Visa’s recent delve into NFT buying, which included the purchase of a CryptoPunk for US$150,000, was a precursor to the global financial services company’s further expansion into the sector with program’s such as the Johnson collab.

The news also comes on the back of crypto-exchange giant Coinbase’s announcement this week that it will be creating an NFT marketplace to rival the likes of OpenSea, Rarible and Nifty Gateway.

Meanwhile, as also recently reported by Stockhead, social media behemoth TikTok and XRP creator Ripple Labs have both got their own big non-fungible plans launching and brewing.