Welcome to SEA.


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.  Within these events there are a variety of activities including keynote presentations, artist-led sessions, one-on-one mentoring, round table discussions, networking events, as well as creative releases such as a gallery reception, create room, and improv.


SEA is housed at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. Program support is provided by staff, advisory board members, ambassadors, volunteers, sponsors, and collaborative partners.  To learn more about each, click on the category below.


SEA evolved out a need Dr. Gary Ernst saw while he was a marketing and small business instructor at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. 

In 2000, Gary worked with several alumni on developing a video series called, The Entrepreneurial Artist.  This series featured a variety of artists and focused on key business concepts that helped these artists succeed.

The video was such a big hit and the idea to bring student artists together with successful artist practitioners seemed the next logical step.  In 2000, the first SEA Conference was held at Columbia College in Chicago. 

Now in its 20th year, SEA continues to hold an annual conference in addition to partnering with several other institutions and organizations to hold regional events throughout the country.  In addition, SEA has compiled years of resources to help artists as they follow their artistic passions.


Where are they now?  Our goal is to help more emerging artists succeed at what they love to do.  So, we wanted to share a few stories with you of those who have attended one or more of our SEA events in the past and are now out there living their dreams.





Want to start a SEA Club on your campus? Or perhaps incorporate SEA focused activities into an already existing arts or entrepreneurship club?

Are you from the press?  Please click on the button below for information.

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The mission of SEA is to provide educational resources to help aspiring artists gain the entrepreneurial knowledge and skills needed to establish and maintain a career as an independent artist.

"The conference had an immeasurable effect on my life. The conference gave me a firm grounding as an artist and business woman. As a result of the SEA Conference, I was able to land an internship with one of the most respected theaters in Chicago. Also, I was given support to branch out on my own artistic business."

Lauren Connor

Southern Illinois University



"Listening to panels and then being able to participate in workshops are what made this conference great. The SEA Conference exposed me to art professionals with authentic stories and ideas. Hearing real stories from professional artists clicked my head and my heart together, making me realize that a career in the fine arts is not only possible, but probable for my track in life."

Amy Kampf

St. Olaf College



"The SEA Conference exposes my students to information they, despite my best efforts, will NEVER get in the classroom. Real-life experiences from more professionals than could ever come to campus. This conference is a fledgling artists dream come true."

Paula Frasz

Northern Illinois University



"Every year I attend the SEA Conference, I leave with a wealth of information and several new contacts. SEA is a must-attend conference for self-employed artists."

Heather Allen

Business Consultant for Visual Artists

North Carolina



"What an incredible experience! The workshops were informative and motivating. The presenters were enthusiastic and obviously knowledgeable. There are multiple concepts I plan to bring back to the classroom. I especially value the copyright information and will cover this in-depth with students. The connections that I made with other teachers and businesses will become excellent resources in the future."

Jacquelin Settipani

Schaumburg H.S.



"We bring at least a dozen students here every year. It’s an integral part of our learning platform. We think of it as an extension of the classroom. Networking, sessions, workshops. It’s fantastic for young people, young artists, who want to break in. I don’t care where you come from. SEA is where it’s at." BettyAnn Mocek, Chair of the Art Department at Concordia University Chicago


SEA is coordinated by North Central College in Naperville, IL | NCC's Privacy Policy & Legal Notice