Make. Good. Art.

It’s my birthday today and I only have one wish: I want everyone to take 19 minutes and 55 seconds to watch this video featuring author Neil Gaiman’s 2012 Commencement Speech at the University of the Arts. It’s inspirational, funny, and downright smart. At the core of his speech, Gaiman drives home the mantra “make good art” and the best part is you don’t have to be an artist in order to take it to heart.

The really thrilling thing about being in this field, even if you aren’t on the officially labeled professional artist side of things, is you get the opportunity every now and then to be creative, break out of the barriers built up by others, and bring something to life that you are sincerely proud of.

For me, beyond this blog (which is still just a glorified 800lb gorilla of a hobby), bringing The Venture Platform to life is my latest affair to make good art. After sitting around for over a decade watching performing arts groups churn out terrible websites because they are boxed in with all the wrong tools, inadequate help, conflict of interest ridden advice, and costly bear traps that penalized creativity and individual control, it was time to do something about it.

I gave a Venture demonstration yesterday and at the end of our session one of individuals on the other end of the conference call said something I wasn’t expecting. “Congratulations.” I paused for a moment not entirely sure how to respond and he thankfully filled in the silence by going on to say that Venture was something to really be proud of and a terrific accomplishment.

I’m not sharing this experience as an exercise in self-aggrandizement; rather, as an effort to demonstrate what I think Gailman is expressing when he advocates the need to make good art and what can be accomplished when taken to heart.

You don’t do it with the mindset of creating a product or service to attract a Venture capitalist, get the attention of a larger company, and get bought out for sacks of cash (not that I’d ever reject such an offer). Instead, you begin with the idea to fill a need and make the world a better place then let your creativity and skills guide you through to the final product.

So take Gailman’s advice in your own world and find a way to make good art. In the meantime, if you have some good art you’ve created (on the arts management side of things), take a moment to share.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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0 thoughts on “Make. Good. Art.”

  1. Happy belated birthday! Particularly proud of the contemporary classical group I co-founded with two other students in 2010 (sound samples at and am still helping to manage with three other undergrads. We all act as performers (some conductors), planners, advertisers, and coordinators. It’s small-scale administration… but I’ve decided it counts.

    Thanks for sharing the vid! Extremely uplifting– especially for a current music student.

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