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Two alumnae receive UNCSA Creative Startup "Artpreneur" Grants

Two alumnae are recipients of the inaugural Chancellor’s Creative Startup Artpreneur Grants at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Chancellor Lindsay Bierman has announced. Tonya Sheffield, a 2008 B.F.A. graduate of the School of Filmmaking, and Christal Schanes, a 2003 M.F.A. graduate of the School of Design and Production, will receive business consultation and networking services and funding totalling $25,000.

Bierman announced the awards Sept. 29 at a breakfast that concluded the capstone week-long “Deep Dive” of the Creative Startups Accelerator hosted by the Center for Creative Economy (CCE). Sheffield also received a third-place seed funding grant of $10,000 from the CCE.

Tonya Sheffield

Film alumna Tonya Sheffield is founder of the Dream School.

“When I came to UNCSA I felt the boundless creativity, passion, dedication, and grit that defines the campus, and I knew we could become catalysts for transformational and disruptive arts-based enterprises,” Bierman said. “We are pleased to partner with the Center for Creative Economy and the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts to present our inaugural Artpreneur Grants, and we congratulate Christal and Tonya for their creativity, passion, dedication and grit.”

The Artpreneur Grants are given to individuals affiliated with UNCSA who complete the eight-week Creative Startups Winston-Salem accelerator and who agree to locate their creative enterprises in Winston-Salem for at least a year. UNCSA’s grants are administered by the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts, which also is a sponsor for the accelerator.

Christal Schanes

D&P alumna and faculty member Christal Schanes (in mirror) is the founder of MEDwigs.

“The Kenan Institute for the Arts is thrilled to be a catalyst and supporter of the creative economy in Winston-Salem,” said Executive Director Corey Madden. “We look forward to partnering with CCE and UNCSA to provide ongoing support for Christal and Tonya this year as they move forward with their creative enterprises.”

In 2011, Sheffield founded the Dream School, an afterschool and summer camp provider that utilizes podcasting, digital video and coding to enhance student’s basic learning skills. The Dream School recently completed a summer residency at the S.G. Atkins Community Development Corporation Enterprise Center with funding from the Urban League. of Winston-Salem.

Sheffield is a Winston-Salem resident and U.S. Army veteran. She has been involved in many facets of production, in filmmaking, television, afterschool programming, management and radio broadcast and has worked with major producers and directors on films, television series and commercials. 

Schanes, who has taught in D&P since 2011, plans to open MEDwigs, a high quality, custom, medical wig-making company for people experiencing hair loss due to a medical treatment. She enrolled in the Creative Startups Accelerator to develop a self-sustaining business model that will enable MEDwigs to offer up to 60 wigs annually.

With nearly three decades of experience building wigs and prosthetics for the entertainment and medical industries, she obtained administrative support and donations from individuals to incorporate medical wig building into the D&P curriculum in Spring 2016, supplementing the training students receive in creating wigs for theatrical, film and television productions.

By attracting and supporting artpreneurs and through partnerships with the Center for Creative Economy and the Kenan Institute, UNCSA will help Winston-Salem fulfill its potential to become a leading cultural capital in the South.”

Chancellor Lindsay Bierman

“The Center for Creative Economy is grateful to UNCSA and Chancellor Bierman for promoting participation in our Creative Startups Accelerator among the faculty, staff and alumni with the catalyst of the Artpreneurial Grants,” said Executive Director Margaret Collins. “Entrepreneurs like Tonya Sheffield and Christal Schanes are vital contributors to Winston-Salem’s creative ecosystem. Their emerging businesses have big potential. We look forward to seeing how they transfer the business skills acquired in the accelerator to build successful businesses.”

UNCSA defines an artpreneur as “an artist who’s not defined by what is, but inspired by all that could be; who’s business savvy and technologically aware; who’s devoted to creating value and impact through their creative practice; who reaches beyond existing disciplines to discover new ways of connecting with others; who’s willing to take creative risks in order to positively transform our world,” Bierman said.

Schanes and Sheffield were among 10 entrepreneurs who took part in the second annual Winston-Salem accelerator, competing for a share of $50,000 in seed stage investment funding. The top prize winner was Oh My Goodness, a boutique offering customized natural and holistic products and services to enhance health and overall wellbeing. Jenni Earle, a design house specializing in hand-dyed bandanas inspired by tradition, Southern culture, and courage, took second place.

UNCSA has a connection to last year’s top prize winner in the accelerator: Embodied Labs, a creator of custom immersive, interactive, health education curricula to help healthcare providers understand the perspective of vulnerable patient populations. Ryan Lebar, a 2016 School of Drama graduate, is its creative director.

The Chancellor’s Creative Startups Artpreneur Grants support a strategic initiative of UNCSA to catalyze arts-based community and economic development.

“By attracting and supporting artpreneurs and through partnerships with the Center for Creative Economy and the Kenan Institute, UNCSA will help Winston-Salem fulfill its potential to become a leading cultural capital in the South,” Bierman said.

by Lauren Whitaker

October 05, 2017