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SEA (Self Employment in the Arts) conference

SEA Self Employment in the Arts conference 2017
SEA Self Employment in the Arts conference 2017

This weekend I will be both attending and participating in programming at the SEA (Self Employment in the Arts) conference for artists which is being held at the Hilton Hotel in Lisle, Illinois. The first SEA Conference was held at Columbia College in Chicago in 2000 and has been growing since then. The conference is currently hosted by North Central College, Naperville IL.

The focus of the SEA conference is on helping artists, particularly emerging visual, performing, literary, and media artists, succeed by providing relevant programming as well as providing networking opportunities. With more than 60 speakers, the lineup of programs, presentations, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and one-on-one mentoring is really impressive. And yes, portfolio reviews are a part of the conference.

For students, the conference also features the SEA Juried College Art Competition, which is open to all college students. There is also an Idea Pitch Competition open to those students who either have a creative business or an idea for one. The Idea Pitch Competition has over $3,000 in prizes for competition winners.

There are multiple parallel programming tracks with the track blocks divided into sessions based on time. The good news is that with the number of concurrent programs going on, attendees will have no problem identifying a program they want to attend. The bad news is that there will be many times when there are two or more programs you want to attend and will be forced to choose just one.

The presentation I’m leaning towards attending during Session 1 is The Art of Networking by Brandy Sales where she shares her insights into networking and how those insights have helped her art business.

During Session 2 I would have loved to attend the workshop LICENSING KNOW-HOW – Creating Profits from Art + Design as that is an area I would like to learn more about. Unfortunately I will be a panelist on the Marketing your Creative Talent or Business panel which is at the same time. The panel consists of Larry Brown, Lauren Ramsey, Jessica Segal, and myself. Our discussion will be addressing the various marketing strategies that we have used and the role changing technology plays in marketing. For my part, my area of expertise is in the online aspects – although I hope to have the opportunity to comment on some other devices that have worked for me.

During Session 3 I’m looking forward to attending the panel Which Way to Go: Paths to Publication which addresses the multiple issues associated with getting your book published. This is very relevant for me since I have not one but two books in the works. In fact the first book, which is a portfolio of my algorithmic art, is largely done – and has been for some time. However, identifying who and how to publish the book has been a stumbling block. I initially thought I would go with Blurb or Lulu but quickly came to the conclusion that those options, though the easiest, were not the best. This session will be led by Jennifer McCord and Robin Strachan and I look forward to peppering them with questions.

Friday’s conference dinner will feature a keynote address by Tom Varano whose topic is Live Life with Passion.

Session 4 begins after dinner and is sponsored by Illinois State University. This session consists of a total of 17 roundtables for artists to choose from. Subjects of interest to me include publishing, crowdfunding, social media, and artist management. Unfortunately I’ll be missing them since I will be leading the roundtable discussion on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – an increasingly important aspect of being "found" online.

Friday evening concludes with a variety of entertainment choices for the attendees. A drum circle, dancing, and comedy are all attractive options but not as appealing to me as the Electroskip demonstration which features dancers wearing motion sensors used to generate sound. Wearable computing and interactive digital art have long been a subject of interest to me and I have previously given presentations that have the audience creating art on-screen via their vocalizations.

Saturday starts early with an 8:00am breakfast and is followed by Session 5. I would have liked to attend the Selling Yourself and Your Art panel discussion. For many artists, myself included, selling (marketing, the act of talking up, etc.) our art can be a challenge – not that we don’t know what to say or how to do it but considered from the emotional angle that turns the artist from creator into something of a used car salesman – if you get my meaning. Leading this session is Dr. Sean Flanigan from Colorado Mesa University.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend that session since I’ve been slated to provide one-on-one consulting during that time. People sign up for the opportunity to ask me questions about web design, technical writing, HTML, SEO, and digital photography.

For Session 6, I am undecided on whether to attend Gallery Chat or Trademark. Gallery Chat is a workshop led by Chris Cosnowski that teaches artists how to improve their odds of getting accepted into juried art competitions. Trademark looks at the risks and legal issues associated with trademark law and is led by Elizabeth Russell and Russell Law.

The keynote address for the luncheon is by Gene Weygandt whose topic is Go into the Arts, I’m not kidding.

For Session 7 I would have loved to attend the Freelance in the Visual Arts panel discussion featuring Catherine Borzym, Elaine Luther, John McDavitt, and Tim Plum. The panel is slated to address legal issues, getting your first client, building your client base, and other related issues. For my part I’ll be leading a roundtable discussion on Print on Demand (POD). Specifically I’ll be looking at issues associated with platforms, commissions, marketing, and the steps involved in evaluating the many print on demand offerings available.

I’ll close with a quotation from Pablo Picasso that is prominently displayed on the 2017 SEA Self Employment in the Arts conference web site: "Action is the foundational key to all success." So what are you waiting for?

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