Utah Teen Becomes Entrepreneur and Digital Artist to Raise Money to End Bullying

The 13-year-old artist has created more than 3,000 ‘Dude Alien’ images, which will be sold as NFTs.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Zion Guevara, a 13-year-old boy who launched an NFT art collection to raise funds to raise awareness of bullying, in Lehi on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

Zion Guevara, 13, often uses the word “fascinating” when describing the world of tech entrepreneurship, NFTs, and digital art.

His passion for the countryside shows, as it often does with kids his age, in his sparkling eyes, unbridled enthusiasm, and sheer joy in doing something they love.

Guevara said he is trying to put what he knows to good use. In mid-June, he launched an NFT collection, a non-fungible digital asset or token that represents real-world objects as unique collectibles, called “Dude Alien.” The collection features 3,364 images of various alien beings drawn by hand and generated by computer code. Some wear hoodies with the word “bullying” crossed out, others include the words “racism sux.”

“I always wanted to be in the tech industry and make a big 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 up, and is now selling. Guevara plans to add individual art pieces in July that will be auctioned on his website.

Digital art, and the coding behind it, is common and seen in video games, for example. But NFTs are different, Guevara explained, something that “does not have identical matches” and cannot be exchanged.

“It’s on a blockchain,” Guevara said, “which is a decentralized network where the code [lives] on the back of the art. It’s kind of a coded collectible.”

The fact that NFTs are unique is fitting, given the general idea and Guevara’s inspiration behind “Dude Alien.”

(Zion Guevara) A screenshot of some of the digital images from Guevara’s “Dude Alien” NFT collection.

“I took my life experiences and thought, ‘Well, what could I make a brand out of?’” he said. “I always refer to my friends as ‘friend’ and I always felt alienated. From there, he just took off.”

Guevara created the project in part because he heard stories of youth in Utah who have taken their own lives as a result of being bullied. It was an ongoing conversation he had with his mother about bullying, when they heard that his dentist’s son took his own life as a result of bullying. Other stories, like those of Drayke Hardman and Izzy Tichenor, Utah kids who killed themselves after being bullied, also struck a chord.

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 difficult. It was a way of expressing my feelings in art,” he said. The Guevara family moved to Utah three and a half years ago.

With his passion for technology, starting a business in the NFT space to raise awareness against bullying was a no-brainer for Guevara. He is 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 “heartbreaking” to hear that her son was being bullied. “As a parent, you never want to hear that your child is being hurt,” she said.

She said it was a “double whammy” to see the community of adults she trusted to care for her son lack the training and tools to deal with bullying.

For six months, Ellen said, Zion would wake up and draw on his tablet. She told her mother that she would get over her experiences with bullying, and she did. Now, she told her, he is helping other children.

“I always tell my kids that everything has a purpose and not just money,” he said. “[Money alone] it will not give you satisfaction in life.”

Zion said he’s committed to continuing to develop “Dude Alien” for now, but dreams of one day getting into real estate in the metaverse.

“I really learned a lot of valuable lessons and experiences, like coding and learning how to make art,” Zion said.

If there’s one message people can take away from his work, which celebrates diversity, quirkiness and being “foreign,” Zion said it’s to spread the word about bullying and it needs to stop.

“Everyone needs love, everyone has been loved,” he said, “and I just want everyone to feel that at least once in their life.”


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