Work began on WESTAF’s Archive in 2015, with dozens of sagging file boxes taking up space in the office and on bookshelves. What they contained illuminated not only the history of WESTAF, but also of the evolution of public support for the arts in the United States.
From its beginnings in 1972 as an offshoot of the “Sagebrush Rebellion,” whose policymakers recognized the cultural as well as the economic value of the region’s arts, WESTAF has offered technical and operating support to its members, growing from eight to 13 states.
Today, WESTAF looks like a leader of the avant-garde, moving the idea of arts support into the realm of technology. Even in its first decade, however, its staff sought to harness what were then state-of-the-art technologies to its vast programming efforts, ranging from a widely read employment listing, which moved from newsletter to online database, to leasing computers to help artists sell their work. Over the past 45+ years, WESTAF has helped send dancers, musicians, authors, and artists into towns large and small across its far-flung region, ensuring access for millions to the variety of activities that we call the arts.