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A Beloiter’s experience learning “about the business of art” at SEA conference

March 13, 2014
By Carolyn Stransky’15

Thanks entirely to Beloit College’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Liberal Education at Beloit, I recently was given the opportunity to attend the 14th annual Self-Employment in the Arts Conference, held in late February in Lisle, Ill.

Described as an event specifically for performing, literary, media, culinary, and visual artists, the conference is designed for those who attend to both learn about the business of art and interact with other artists, speakers, and educators.

As one of the official co-sponsors for the event, CELEB has sent students to SEA on scholarships for 14 consecutive years. In total, there were 32 Beloit College students who attended this year’s conference, including nine members of Voodoo Barbie and eight dance troupe members who all attended and received a full registration scholarship for performing during the conference. CELEB paid for the remaining fees, including the remaining registration fees for the 15 other students and all hotel rooms.

As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I went to my room then straight to registration because there was no time to lose. There were welcoming remarks by the SEA director, founder, and executive director of the conference followed by a keynote presentation titled “Why and How Can You Succeed in the Art World” by Chicago-based visual artist Paul Klein.

The rest of the day continued with various sessions ranging from presentations and roundtable discussions to a business plan pitch competition and a juried art show. During dinner there was a keynote titled “Productive Procrastination” where comedian and Illinois-native Adam Grabowski light-heartedly discussed some of the drawbacks to pursuing a career in the arts.

I ended Friday night by making a few drawings in the Create Room, grabbing a few late-night snacks and then watching Voodoo Barbie perform. After all of Friday’s sessions, I really appreciated that the SEA Conference offered some of these unwinding activities. It was a great way to reflect back on the night and prepare for the morning ahead.

Saturday began in full swing with a breakfast keynote by Seth Braun, who went from high school dropout to a full-tuition scholarship at a private school with fine arts training. The all-conference breakfast also included a dance performance from our very own Beloit College Dance Company.

Personally, being able to support fellow artists from the Beloit College community was my favorite part of SEA. Not only was I able to watch my classmates pursue their passion in front of a greater audience, but we also had various opportunities throughout the conference to get to know each other on a deeper level. Although I believe SEA is an ideal place to pass out business cards to higher-ups and get your foot in the door, I also believe that it is important to recognize and build upon previously existing connections. These experiences made me truly appreciate the community that we have here at Beloit College.

Sessions continued throughout the day with a lunch keynote by John J. Thompson, who has been involved in the music industry for more than 25 years. The conference closed with a panel discussion on how to translate what you have learned at SEA into an arts career.

On the drive back to campus, people in my car discussed everything we liked and disliked about this year’s SEA Conference. Since we all had different interests in the art industry, we all took different things back with us. Overall, I would say that my first experience at the SEA Conference was a success. I really did learn a lot about being an entrepreneur in the art world, and I was able to gain valuable insight from people in the industry. I would highly recommend this conference, and I am very thankful to CELEB for the opportunity to attend.