March 21, 2018 at 2:15pm
Dane Lisser / Video by Michelle Hassel

Millikin student-run arts businesses on full display at Commons Celebration

Students within Millikin University's College of Fine Arts are continuously enhancing their talents and making the most of their experiences by engaging in student-run ventures in the areas of art, theatre and music.

To kick off Millikin's week-long University Commons Celebration, the College of Fine Arts hosted a presentation in the Doug and Diane Oberhelman Center for Leadership Performance on March 19 titled "Leadership in Performance: a Concert." The event featured student groups, organizations and arts business ventures that regularly work behind the scenes to showcase the work of artists in the spotlight.

Millikin University Commons Celebration

Various Millikin student-run arts businesses provide students with unique opportunities to practice Performance Learning with real risks and rewards of making and sharing art in a commercial setting. On March 19, the campus community had the opportunity to explore the work of the ventures and meet the students who run them.

"What the student-run ventures allow our students to do is to have the experience of running a business with real world risks and rewards," said Laura Ledford, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Millikin. "It gives the students a window onto the industry in a very hands-on kind of way so when they walk in and apply for a job at a production company, or something alike, they know they have the skills, they're confident and they can demonstrate it."

Millikin University Commons Celebration

The ventures featured at the event were Blue Connection, Big Blue Productions, Millikin Arts Café, Mobile Audio Recording Services (MARS), Millitrax Studios, First Step Records, Music Industry Studies Tour (MIST) and Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre.

The event concluded with a concert featuring the singers of MIST, selections from a performance produced by Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre, performances by Beats, Etc., - a MIST ensemble, mixed acapella ensemble Dissonance, and a performance of Motown hits from MIST artists.

Millikin University Commons Celebration

The concert, produced by Millikin Arts Café, featured video animation by student Tyler Clemons, a senior arts technology major from Decatur, Ill. Technical support was provided by Big Blue Productions and the concert was recorded by MARS.  

Prior to the concert, an opening video was shown featuring an inside look at several of the student-run arts businesses as well as comments from students involved with the ventures.

Sydney Doherty, a senior graphic design major from Lake Saint Louis, Mo., has been a part of Blue Connection, Millikin's student-run retail art gallery, as well as an artist who has displayed her work at the gallery. The gallery in downtown Decatur provides student artists and entrepreneurs with space to display and sell their work, while practicing the skills of managing a retail business.

"I got involved with Blue Connection because it seemed like the perfect match for my two passions, arts and entrepreneurship," said Doherty. "It's been a dream space for me and I've really flourished there because it's two of my favorite things to do. There's not many other schools who have an art gallery to work at. It's an experience that no other universities are replicating."

Andres Rivera, a senior music business major from Aurora, Ill., is part of three student-run ventures: MIST, First Step Records and Blue Brew.

Millikin University Commons Celebration

MIST is an entrepreneurial collective of singers, songwriters, musicians, arrangers, beat makers, rappers, technologists and music business personnel. The goal of the venture is for students to learn and apply entrepreneurial skills toward the objective of creating gig and touring opportunities in their communities and beyond. First Step Records is a student-run record label and publishing company that promotes the diverse quality music of Millikin.  

"A student-run venture is basically Performance Learning at its peak," Rivera said. "You are a part of the business that is centered on its students. With a lot of these student-run ventures, it's very much learning on the fly, it's an adaptation, it's you seeing a problem and pivoting. Being a part of three ventures is an awesome opportunity, and it's great because we're put in a position to succeed."