In 2009, New York City–based rock climbers Mikhail Martin, Pieter Cooper, and Davide Glace founded Brothers of Climbing, a group dedicated to getting more people of color into the sport. The community has since grown and hosts meetups across the country, operates an active Instagram account, and helped launch the Color the Crag climbing festival, which celebrates diversity in the outdoors. Now Cooper—a former employee of the Brooklyn Boulders climbing gym—wants to build a gym in New York City that reflects the mission of the group he cofounded.
“Brothers of Climbing created spaces for people of color when many people were not being welcomed and were hesitant to go inside another white space,” said Cooper. “We want to have a place where people can come and feel comfortable.”
In late 2020, Cooper teamed up with Samantha Zo, a creative strategist and community builder, Marcus J. Brooks, a former general manager at Brooklyn Boulders, and Raheim Robinson, a creative director and climber, to explore the idea of building a climbing gym with a team of people of color, to better represent a broader swath of the climbing community. The timing coincided with the exponential growth in popularity of Web3 technology and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and the team wondered if they could leverage blockchain technology to fundraise. They launched their project, called Chalk Plant, on April 7 in an Instagram post.
“Our road map leads to a physical space but also a virtual experience where anyone can support and participate,” said Zo.
By using the revenue from NFT sales, the group members say they will avoid paying costs taken out by other crowdsourcing platforms like GoFundMe or Kickstarter, which can take anywhere from 2.9 to 5 percent of the total amount raised.
“This is the first project of this type that I’ve heard of,” said Laura Allured, senior manager of membership and marketing at the Climbing Wall Association, a trade group for indoor climbing gyms. “It’s neat to see innovation in the industry and a community-based fundraising model.”
Chalk Plant will need to raise several million dollars to move forward with the project, and its founders are eyeing potential locations in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The exact details—like whether the gym will feature sport climbing, bouldering, or both—are dependent on the success of the fundraising campaign. But team members are certain about one thing: they definitely want a resident DJ.
An initial round of 1,000 NFTs will launch later this summer to a curated white list of family, friends, and core fans. Ultimately, they hope to raise around $250,000 with these tokens before minting NFTs for the general public later this year.
Over the past few months, minting and selling NFTs have helped niche communities raise millions of dollars in funding. One project, called LinksDAO, sold $10.4 million in NFTs to pay for the creation of a golf course, the location of which will be chosen by its members. …….