March 2, 2016 at 11:15am
Dane Lisser

Students score big at Arts Self Employment Conference

SEA Conference

Millikin University art students were recognized for their efforts at the 16th annual Self Employment in the Arts (SEA) Conference held Feb. 26-27 in Lisle, Ill. Each year, the Self Employment in the Arts Conference solicits submissions from participating colleges and universities for the annual SEA Juried Art Show. Millikin students earned two of the six awards at this year's Juried Art Show.

The SEA Conference received over 70 submissions from 26 college artists for the Juried Art Show. The Competition Juror selected 31 pieces for the exhibition, and of the pieces selected, the following Millikin students were included: Taryn Pepping, a junior art therapy major from Eldridge, Iowa; Katie Stitzel, a senior art major from New Athens, Ill.; Emma Morrison, a senior studio art major from Forsyth, Ill.; Kat Scarim, a senior art therapy major from Palos Park, Ill.; and Kayla Lovel, a senior art therapy major from Carrollton, Ill.

Kayla Lovel was awarded Best of Show and Emma Morrison won a Juror's Choice Award.

"As far as the award goes, I am still in shock that my work allowed me to receive such a high honored award," Lovel said. "My work would not be at a level that it is without department teaching and guidance as well as input and critiques from my fellow classmates. I have my peers and faculty to thank for the opportunity and recognition."

SEA Conference

This year's Competition Juror was Millikin alumna Amanda Voltz '08. Voltz is a Chicago-based artist and teaches drawing and art appreciation at McHenry County College and Elgin Community College. Voltz received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Millikin University in 2008 and a Master of Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University in 2011.

"The SEA Conference was a wonderful opportunity that allowed me to learn and grow from real, professional artists in my field," Emma Morrison said. "I received a lot of valuable information from experts about how to survive an entrepreneurial career in the arts after graduation. Getting my work into the Juried Art Show and winning the Juror's Choice Award solidified that putting in hard work and dedication will return reward."

In addition to the art show, students attended sessions and panel discussions on topics such as community involvement, branding, running a performance arts center and time management.

"The significance of Millikin art students entering into a juried exhibition is that it becomes an important aspect of them engaging with a third party stakeholder in a professional setting," said Lyle Salmi, chair of Millikin University's Art Department. "Obviously, this is one of the high levels of partnership as a hallmark of Performance Learning, even as it dovetails nicely with entrepreneurship. The fact that the students are winning awards is an even more impressive indication of professional success."

SEA Conference

The conference also featured a Pitch Competition for Creatives where selected finalists were able to pitch their business ideas to a panel of SEA "Sharks." Millikin student Trevor May, a senior commercial music major from Dundas, Ill., received 2nd Place.

"The SEA Conference was an enlightening opportunity for me as an emerging artist and I would recommend it to any student who wishes to spend their life in or around the arts," May said. "The conference provided the tools for students to think on a higher level and understand attributes that help define a successful career."

Millikin University was well represented at the SEA Conference with 21 students and six faculty members in attendance.

May noted, "I was a finalist in the pitch competition and was challenged immensely by leading entrepreneurial mentors in the industry. I walked away wanting to change the world by inspiring others to do the same."

SEA is a program geared towards helping emerging visual, performing, literary and media artists gain the resources and connections they need to be successful self-employed artists. Programming includes conferences, workshops, panel discussions, webinars, competitions and more. For more information on Self Employment in the Arts, visit