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These Wilmington creatives don’t fear AI

Entrepreneurs Linda Watson and Marcus Smith are celebrating AI and Black History Month with an exhibition at the Emerging Enterprise Center.

AI art by Linda Watson (left), with Marcus Smith. (Photo by Holly Quinn)
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Everything changed on Dec. 23. That was the day Linda Watson and Marcus Smith, two entrepreneurs working out of the Emerging Enterprise Center in Wilmington, realized the potential of AI.

“It was life changing for us,” Watson, who is the founder of MADO, a creative digital agency in Wilmington, told “Marcus discovered ChatGPT. … He was so excited about it,  saying that he had to share it, and that’s how him and I bonded. Then I discovered [AI art creation tool] Midjourney and told him about it.”

Soon they were teaching themselves prompt engineering and using AI as part of their creative processes, even as other creatives have spurned the technology.

“What we figured out was that there are so many designers and creatives that are saying that this art is going to replace us,” said Smith, founder of the early-stage AR startup Moooves. “In reality, people that use the software understand that it’s more of a supplement for creators.”

To showcase what AI can do for entrepreneurs and creatives while celebrating Black History Month, Watson and Smith are putting on an interactive event called “The Art of AI: Honoring Black Excellence” at the EEC on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Linda Watson and Marcus Smith

AI art prompted by Linda Watson. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

Attendees will get a hands-on experience from the minute they enter the exhibition room. They can start by scanning QR codes to create a wallet for their AI creations and to join the Moooves Discord. There, right on their phones, they can use Midjourney to create images and, if they choose, turn one into an NFT, or nonfungible token.

The exhibit includes AI art created by Watson using the prompt engineering skills she’s developed. Her prompts range from simple (“black boombox face-s 750-q 2”) to paragraph-length combinations of words and numbers that is more like code than English.

The artwork celebrates elements of Black American culture, from HBCUs to hip hop. It can be purchased in its physical printed-out form, including the NFTs, which buyers are free to keep, sell or trade.

One striking part of the exhibition is a video that includes a ChatGPT-created animation of Harriet Tubman.

“Let us embrace this experience, for it will indeed be life changing,” the Tubman AI says. “As we walk through the exhibit, let us reflect on our history, celebrate our present, and imagine the future that we can create together.”

Looking to the future and how artificial intelligence can shape it is, in fact, one of the goals of the exhibit, with its interactive aspects showing that AI is increasingly accessible to creatives and entrepreneurs.

Watson plans to start hosting prompt engineering workshops at the EEC to help other entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs incorporate the technology into their work. That series kicks off with a March 8 follow up to the exhibit where attendees will learn the basics of prompt engineering for ChatGPT.

“Your help is here,” Watson said. “If you’re a graphic designer and you’re concerned about AI, don’t be, because your help is now here.”

The Feb. 28 event is free with registration.

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