When the Coleman Foundation began its journey into entrepreneurship education, much of our focus was on promoting the concept of self-employment and supporting activities that could inspire students to consider creating a job rather than just getting one. Business schools were home to Entrepreneurship program development. Over time, with help from the Coleman Professors and our experiences with aspiring entrepreneurs, we began to see other groups of students – including artists - that could benefit from exposure to entrepreneurship. Professors Gary Ernst at North Central College and Joseph Roberts, then at Columbia College, along with Michael Hennessy, President of the Foundation, took interest in this area.The first Coleman Arts Entrepreneurship Forum was hosted by Columbia College in 2001. It was a modest 1 day event, held in one large room. From the beginning the presenters had to be practicing artists earning the majority of their income from their art. The presenters and participants were so enthusiastic; we knew we were on to something.
Other Coleman Professors took interest in the event and a working group was established. The conference was to be rotated among Coleman funded entrepreneurship programs at a series of campuses. North Central College would host the second followed by Illinois State University. North Central’s first successful event in 2002 built upon the inaugural forum and served as further proof of the concept. During the planning of the event to be hosted by Illinois State University, the entrepreneurship program director succumbed to an aggressive form of cancer, so Gary Ernst and Amy Rogers at North Central volunteered to host again. Since Amy and Gary had become great hosts and the hotel interested in the event provided a convenient, cost effective venue, the conference continues to be held there.
As the Self-Employment in the Arts Conference (SEA) continues to evolve, it has remained one of the Foundation’s favorite annual events. The energy and creativity remain high as does the level of personal contact. Students can schedule one-on-one time with practicing artists and get advice on everything from business plans to portfolios reviews. By supporting 4 regional conferences and conducting arts tracks at the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization (CEO) conference, SEA provides program activity beyond its own conference and outside of its primary service area. Professors in Coleman funded programs actively engage students and serve on an advisory board with local stakeholders.
Overall artists and arts educators are much more aware of and interested in the business side of their art. As with entrepreneurship education in general, arts entrepreneurship has evolved from awareness and inspiration to information and competence. It is much more readily viewed as interdisciplinary education. SEA’s goal is to help artists develop the skills, experiences, knowledge, resources, and contacts to be successful.
The Foundation's Entrepreneurship Impact plan can be found in the entrepreneurship section of what we fund. The SEA conference continues to support strategies that: increase the quality and frequency of experiential activities and promote interdisciplinary learning and stakeholder engagement.
See the “Save The Date” posting under recent events on the homepage of our site for specific details on the upcoming 13th annual Self Employment Arts conference or go to their website.