Know Your Audience: Self-Employment in the Arts Conference

A core principle of arts entrepreneurship, at least as I teach it, is that the work must connect with its audience. That’s why we spend so much time getting to know that audience in a project-based course like Arts Entrepreneurship Seminar. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may know I go to a lot of conferences; as I write this I am on the plane home from the Self-Employment in the Arts (SEA) Conference, held annually in the Chicago suburb of Lisle. This is a conference that really knows its audience!

shelby mollieThe SEA audience is undergraduate arts students, primarily from Midwest colleges and universities. All of the programming, with the exception of two or three sessions designed for faculty, is geared toward introducing these young artists and designers to core self-employment business principles: how to communicate with clients; how to craft a financial plan; business models for artists. This last was delivered by two of my graduate students, Mollie Flanagan and Shelby Maticic, who led the 20 or so attendees at this session (there are ten or more sessions at any one time) in an interactive revenue generation ideation session. Another graduate student, Elisa Gonzalez, who launched ¡Habla!AZ out of the Pave Arts Venture Incubator program, was a plenary panelist, along with four other student from across the country who had started arts-based businesses while students.Elisa SEA

The conference was not perfect (although it ran perfectly thanks to conference organizer Amy Rogers); there were what I considered to be missteps by some of the presenters. Nevertheless, the enthusiastic young artists could learn so much by participating in the workshops, sessions, and networking events. If you are in their well-defined audience segment of undergraduate arts students (especially in the Midwest), I encourage you to mark your calendar now for the last weekend in February 2017.

For myself, I attended to connect with this very audience in the hope of inciting interest in our new MA in Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership, giving away cards, flyers and pencils. The students were so busy running from session to session, few stopped to talk to me, but by the end of the day and half, almost all of our materials had made their way into the hands of the students and their faculty companions.

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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