NSU art students pose for photo with the Cloudgate sculpture.
A twelve-hour drive is not for the faint of heart, but Art Department students and Dr. Greg Blair, Associate Professor of Art, made the trek to Lisle, Illinois, for the Self Employment in the Arts Conference (SEA Con). The annual two-day conference is an event for performing, literary, media and visual artists. The conference’s mission is to, “provide resources to help aspiring artists gain the entrepreneurial knowledge and skills needed to establish and maintain a career as an independent artist.” For many of the Northern students, it was the first time they attended such an artistically focused conference. Senior Levi Seefeldt stated, “I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the conference was pretty phenomenal.”
Sessions discussing networking, social entrepreneurship, creative licensing, and marketing were available for students and staff to attend. Portfolio reviews and one-on-one mentoring with creative professionals were an opportunity for students to register for and gain significant feedback and advice. Northern art students seized the opportunity to make connections with other students in attendance as well as presenters, taking notes from their past and current experiences. Seefeldt sought such advice. “It was great to be able to network with professionals who are in the exact same industry as I am and doing what I hope to someday do.” He continued, “That there were so many opportunities like one-on-one sessions with professionals, portfolio reviews, and workshops that we weren’t just sitting in sessions listening to someone talk, you get a really personal, in-depth look into what your future could look like and that just revitalizes my energy for the things I’ve been studying.” An exhibition of artwork that was juried prior to the conference was also on display, with work from Northern students on display as well. Senior Bridget Solsaa was awarded one of the juror’s choice awards for her piece, “Sunny Days.”
Late night conference activities, such as salsa and swing dance lessons, participating in a drum circle, and a Create Room were opportunities for students to let loose and experiment with new art forms if they so desired. Creative experiences also took place outside of the conference. For many of the Northern students this was their first-time touring Chicago and the surrounding area. A full day was dedicated to seeing some iconic Chicago landmarks, including the Cloudgate sculpture at Millennium Park, better known as “The Bean.” The Art Institute of Chicago elicited much excitement from the group upon seeing works by Van Gough, Monet, Jasper Johns, and others. Of course, delving into a classic Chicago style pizza was on the list for a few of the students, their only concern being what toppings to get. SEA Con 2017 was a colorful success. The conference left Northern students with more knowledge — and business cards — from creative professionals to sift through.