DECATUR — Since its opening in 2003, Millikin University’s Blue Connection retail arts shop has been the university’s primary venue for student, faculty and alumni artists to showcase and sell their wares to the public, but this fall the store will focus more than ever on the work of current student businesses.

Working more closely with the new “BC Studios” course, which began last fall, the store space will be used as a “retail laboratory” to feature the work of students operating microbusinesses in the Blue Connection’s lower level. Everything from custom T-shirts and handbags to whole leaf tea will be on sale as five new student businesses officially open at the Blue Connection tonight.

“My studio arts major doesn’t really touch on the business aspect too much, so I wanted to get some experience in actually selling my work,” said Millikin junior Jessica Greenslade, who will be operating a tote bag business called “Carry On” this semester. “It’s my first business class ever, so I think I’ll probably learn a lot. Obviously, if you’re an artist, you have to learn how to make money doing this.”

Students such as Greenslade aren’t just handed studio spaces and seed money to operate a business in BC Studios. They must first go through a business model pitch phase, explaining their idea to the university’s “investors.” Those who make it through this stage are given a small amount of start-up funding and are allowed to work in the BC Studios space below Blue Connection, and they are expected to make back that investment. In the case of Greenslade, that will mean selling a good number of tote bags, which she adorns with her own style of woodcut prints learned in the university’s printmaking class.

“I am lucky that our printmaking instructor, Lyle Salmi, is allowing me to use the press there,” she said. “I’m going to be making a variety of totes that will appeal to people with different hobbies, like painting or running. I’ll have five designs on Friday that I’ll be selling at Blue Connection.”

Millikin senior Peter Bushnell is majoring in the university’s entrepreneurship program and operated a particularly successful business at BC Studios in the fall of 2011, “Stencil-vania.” He and his two partners, Amanda Sagan and Favian Lobo decided to keep the business going after passing the course, and have since revamped the T-shirt business to focus strictly on their creative designs.

“We figured that it would be the best use of our strengths to focus on what we can be the best at, which is designing and not printing,” he said. “We like clean, simple, funny designs. We’ve made shirts for frats and sororities, businesses and personal requests, and it’s been a good experience for us.

“I think we’ll probably end up going different directions after graduation, but there’s no reason we can’t continue the business online. I don’t know if it’s a full-time job but it’s definitely a viable source of income.”

The Stencil-vania crew will be offering five of their designs tonight at the Blue Connection, selling alongside BC Studios’ five new businesses. Bushnell said the experience of marketing his own work there has actually added value to the degree he will receive at the end of this year.

“It’s been very educational,” he said. “Without the BC Studios course, I don’t think my entrepreneurial degree would be as valuable as it is.”

Greenslade, meanwhile, doesn’t think she’ll have too much trouble meeting her own sales goals. She’s already taking orders for tote bags that haven’t even been printed yet, and is working on a website and Facebook page to sell her products to anyone who can find them.

“I’m fairly confident that there are people who will want to buy them,” she said. “The experience will be really helpful for me as an artist, especially if I follow my interest in freelance illustration. I think I’ve learned a lot of things that I’ll use later in life.”

GALLERY 510: Decatur’s downtown Gallery 510 Arts Guild will partner with the Decatur Area Arts Council in October to present the annual October National Exhibition, hosted in the arts council’s Anne Lloyd Gallery. This exhibition brings together a variety of media from artists across the nation in a juried competition, and lasts until the end of the month. The exhibition is sponsored by the Come Together … Let’s Walk organization, along with the Andreas Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council.

Gallery 510 is also hosting a medical educational dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in partnership with Macon County Medical Society Alliance. Speakers will be radiation oncologist Edward C. Elliot, M.D. and urologic oncologist Thomas M. Tarter, M.D., speaking on issues related to their respective fields of cancer study and treatment. This dinner also will be held at the arts council’s Madden Arts Center. Cost is $25 with reservations made by calling 422-1509.

Meanwhile, the Decatur Airport is featuring an animal exhibit from the Decatur & Macon County Animal Shelter Foundation in October, and the Decatur Library will feature the artwork of Shelbyville artist Carol Kessler.

PERKINSON ART GALLERY: Millikin University’s Perkison Art Gallery will be showcasing the Millikin University Alumni Art Invitational in October, featuring various two- and three-dimensional works from selected art department alumni and faculty. The exhibition will be open until Nov. 2, and features the work of artists such as Annette Russo ’80, Jamie Niess Kotewa ’01, Katie Hinton ’03, Tabitha Pennekamp ’09, Richard Keen III ’95 and Nathan Cox ’97. A reception for the artists will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m., open to the public.

OGLESBY MANSION: A reading by internationally published poets Drs. David Gardiner and Dan Guillory will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at Decatur’s Oglesby Mansion at 421 West William St. The event is sponsored by local Irish literary group The Back Row.

Gardiner, a Chicago resident, was the founding publisher and editor of “An Sionnach,” an internationally recognized publication featuring the work of Irish poets. He has written five books and authored more than 60 journal publications.

Dan Guillory is a professor emeritus of English at Millikin University and is the author of eight books, including two books of poetry. He has won awards from the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Academy of American Poets. A new book of his poetry, “Housepoems,” is scheduled for publication in 2013.

ERLANSON ART GALLERY: Richland Community College’s Erlanson Art Gallery is featuring the 2012 Annual Faculty Exhibition until Oct. 23. New works in paintings, drawings, ceramics, photography and mixed media will be on display, and a reception for the artists will be held from noon to 1 p.m. at the gallery Thursday, Oct. 11.

ROCK SPRINGS NATURE CENTER: The nature center’s North Wing Art Gallery will continue its exhibition of the oil paintings of local artist Jim Poling in October. Poling’s work covers a variety of nature scenes, including images of Illinois wildlife such as wolves, eagles and goldfinches. Meanwhile, the South Wing Art Gallery will continue its exhibition of the nature photography of David Staff.

TARBLE ARTS CENTER: Three new exhibitions will be opening in October at Eastern Illinois University’s Tarble Arts Center. The Main Galleries will host the 2012 Art Faculty Exhibition until Dec. 2. The Brainard Gallery will be hosting “Beyond the Afterglow: Recent Paintings by Justin Henry Miller” until Nov. 4, with a visiting artist’s lecture at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11. Finally, the Egallery will be hosting “Carmon Colangelo: iM here” beginning Saturday, Oct. 6 until Nov. 18, with a visiting artist’s lecture at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5.

BICENTENNIAL ART CENTER & MUSEUM: The Paris art center will be hosting its popular Annual Fall Juried Exhibition in October, currently in its 58th year. The exhibition is open to artists from within 100 miles of Paris and features artists from Champaign, Effingham and Decatur. Works were accepted in all mediums except for photography. The exhibition opens today, but the opening reception will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12.

PARKLAND ART GALLERY: The art gallery for Champaign’s Parkland Community College is featuring “Beside the Point: An Exploration in Architecture and Identity, Paintings by Morgan Craig” in October. The Philadelphia artist “explores how the abandoned architectural edifices from a post-industrial era affect and influence a society.” Craig’s large-scale paintings “depict the stark interiors of forgotten and ruinous factories, prisons or urban structures.” The gallery will be open until Nov. 3, and a reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, with an artist talk by Craig at 7 p.m. and music by the Parkland Guitar Ensemble.

KRANNERT ART MUSEUM: Four exhibitions continue and two new ones open during a busy month at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Krannert Art Museum. Continuing are “Fields of Indigo: Installation by Rowland Ricketts with Sound by Norbert Herbert,” “Fashioning Traditions of Japan,” “Egungun! Power Concealed” and “Expressions in Color: Selections from the 20th-Century Collection,” all of which are on display until Dec. 30. Opening on Oct. 12 are two more exhibits, “Encounters: The Arts of Africa” and “Rising Dragon: Contemporary Chinese Photography.”

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