Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: January 25, 2021

By January 27, 2021No Comments

Greetings WESTAF trustees and colleagues:

Like me, maybe you’re feeling relieved — even optimistic and inspired — after an Inauguration Day that went by pretty smoothly last week given the circumstances we face as a nation. While I definitely gave myself the space to soak up what this transition and new chapter means for our fragile democracy (there may have been a January 20th, 12:01 PM mimosa involved) as you can see from this biweekly recap the work of WESTAF has not skipped a beat and indeed, seems to be ramping up across the organization. There’s much to be thankful for, but in particular we’re excited about: our own Teniqua Broughton’s ASU MLK Leadership Award — it was a wonderful virtual event and here are the highlights, including Teniqua’s superb speech; the Creative Economies and Economy Recovery report; our latest ELC21 call for applicants (get your candidates in, folks — February 1 deadline!); our very fun and very silly long-awaited WESTAFAGANZA (virtual) holiday party this past week (thank you, celebration committee); the much anticipated upcoming ArtX featuring Emma Osore from BlackSpace; CaFE’s artful and informative end-of-year recap, as well as the various complex and essential tweaks and updates to our technology products shared with you below. While the pandemic continues to pose challenges, there’s no doubt that we’re rising to meet them on all fronts. I have been feeling so proud of WESTAF these days, and I hope you do too!


Sent this news along to you last week when we first heard through an email from Chairman Carter, but this news became official. I sent along a personal thank-you email right away on behalf of WESTAF to both Mary Anne and Tom Simplot, former senior deputy chairman, who also resigned at the same time. We have Mary Anne’s forwarding contact information and other formal entities (like the RAOs and the western SAAs) are considering sending a farewell message as well. Here’s the official message on the Arts Endowment’s website. As we’ve previously opined, Mary Anne was the right appointee at the right time, and she served the agency well, particularly through a pandemic. She’ll be missed. Ann Eilers, the agency’s deputy chairman of management and budget, will temporarily lead the agency. This past Friday, Ra Joy announced on Twitter that he has joined the Arts Endowment as chief of staff.


Two relatively recent articles have come out that  position an arts policy agenda for the incoming administration, recapping the history of the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the future of Federal arts funding. On January 13 — The Arts Are in Crisis. Here’s How Biden Can Help, followed two days later on January 15 by Trump Tried to End Federal Arts Funding. Instead, It Grew


I joined my first NASAA meeting in an official capacity as a new board director — a board orientation. It was valuable and informative. I also joined a NASAA membership briefing on the presidential transition. A highlight (for me) was for NASAA leadership to announce the debut of the Creative Economies and Economic Recovery report, with a big shout out to WESTAF to about 100 participants in the meeting. It’s great to get the acknowledgement, but it was also great word-of-mouth for Creative Vitality Suite in front of a very receptive and very relevant audience. Bravo to all involved!


In addition to our update about the Thoma Foundation (below), we have a proposal that we’ll be submitting relatively soon to the Murdock Charitable Trust (following some great feedback on our initial draft from the trust itself), an inquiry to the Mellon Foundation that is still pending, a preliminary inquiry to the Windgate Foundation that will be submitted before their Feb 1 deadline and an internal meeting to strategize around the best approach to the Surdna Foundation. We’re letting all of this activity filter through before sending out any more inquiries from our initial target list.


I’m excited for board trustee Susan Garbett, who’s been part of the team that’s getting the next big Meow Wolf project in Last Vegas up and running. The Omega Mart looks weird and wonderful, and I can’t wait to experience this new artist collaboration/installation/spectacle/attraction for myself!


These past few weeks, I’ve been deep into reviewing entries into this LAGI competition in my role as a juror. As a quick recap, LAGI  and the Burning Man project have partnered to launch a multi-disciplinary design challenge that will create the foundation infrastructure at Fly Ranch near the Black Rock Playa in northwestern Nevada. In 2021, selected design teams will be provided an honoraria grant for the purpose of building a functional prototype on site. It has been super fun and inspiring to serve as a juror on this project


Last week, WESTAF and NASAA announced the release of Arts and Economic Recovery research, conducted in collaboration with Douglas Noonan of Indiana University, demonstrating how the arts strengthen the economy following periods of acute economic distress. In addition to utilizing Creative Vitality Suite™ data and in-depth qualitative research, WESTAF’s report, Creative Economies and Economic Recovery: Case Studies of Arts-Led Recovery and Resilience, features a collection of stories that demonstrate how communities small and large are harnessing their creative assets to grow economic opportunities and rebound from hard times. Profiles of diverse communities in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia showcase the creative economy in action. Developed primarily for policy audiences, Creative Economies and Economic Recovery highlights how the arts can be part of comprehensive economic development strategy in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. It also provides timely tools for cultural leaders looking to participate in recovery initiatives and advocate for federal, state, and local investment in the arts. At this time of economic uncertainty, the findings of this report offer the field evidence that the arts are an agile and resilient sector with the capacity to ignite job growth, reduce economic risk through diversification, stimulate commerce, and attract tourism. Kelly, Trevor, Sam, and Laurel thank you again for all of your hard work on this project. 


The following full slate of panelists for ALAS (February 24 – 25) has been confirmed: Heather Noonan, vice president for advocacy, League of American Orchestras (Washington, DC); Hal Real, founder, World Cafe Live and board member, National Independent Venue Association (Pennsylvania); Allentza Michel, program officer, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Massachusetts); Julie Baker, executive director, Californians for the Arts (California); Manny Cawaling, executive director, Inspire Washington (Washington); Lauren DeNinno, senior policy advisor, Western Governors’ Association (Colorado); Laurel Sayer, CEO, Midas Gold Corp (Idaho); Asanti McGee, district representative, U.S. Representative Susie Lee (Nevada); Karmen Rossi, WESTAF Board Secretary (Wyoming); Cézanne Charles, co-founder, rootoftwo (Michigan); Abdiel López, program officer, Center for Cultural Innovation (California); and Jen Cole, chief of staff, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University (Arizona). During the next two weeks, David will be conducting briefings with individual speakers and the four panels to help them to prepare for their sessions. The covenings team, Leah, Samantha, Laurel, Natalie Scherlong, and David, are currently working on building out the event site, with a focus first on a registration site. 


David, Madalena, Salvador Acevedo, managing partner at consulting firm Scansion (and ELC faculty member), and Jorge Arango, senior systems strategist at Scansion, interviewed with the Hewlett Foundation in consideration of a joint consulting assignment to undertake a systems change strategy origination for the Performing Arts Program that would redefine their advocacy, policy, and infrastructure grantmaking for the field in the Bay Area.


Today, David will join moderator Julie Baker, WAAN co-chair and executive director of Californians for the Arts; Jennifer Laine, executive director, San Benito Arts Council; Ron P. Muriera, owner/consultant, RPM Consulting; and a representative of the National Independent Venues Association, to discuss current federal, regional, and state funding and legislative opportunities for artists, cultural workers, and the creative industries. From Save our Stages to PPP and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for 1099 and mixed income earners to state programs to artist relief grants, the webinar is designed to inform California arts and culture constituents about opportunities to support the sector.


On January 8th, the SRI department launched the WESTAF ELC 2021 program application. As of today, applicants have little over a week to complete their application found at as the application is due February 1, 2:00 p.m. Mountain time. With the upcoming deadline, we encourage board members to share the application information (linked above) with all their networks and recommend qualified applicants, when applicable. For more information, please reach out to Madalena.


In early December, WESTAF launched the CNMI CARES Relief Fund for Artists. This grant supports artists whose projects were cancelled or negatively impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. This grant will be awarded to eligible applicants on a first come, first served basis, and adjudicated quarterly by WESTAF’s SRI team. The first quarterly deadline is coming up on January 31, 2021 and as of today, seven applications have been submitted, with nine in progress. We will be working with the finance team to deposit awards directly into artists’ accounts beginning in February. 


In December 2020, Madalena was introduced by Gabrielle Uballez (ELC14/NM) to Sarah Rovang and Christine Dong of the Thoma Foundation. The Thoma Foundation is a family foundation based in Santa Fe and Chicago, that serves the states of AZ, NM, OK, and IL. Historically, the Foundation has supported art collecting in diverse areas. More recently, the Thoma Foundation has shifted their priority to support equity and emerging arts leaders, specifically in rural areas, and technological innovation in the arts. Madalena had an introductory meeting with them in December, with a follow-up that included David last week. It was agreed that we will continue to discuss partnership opportunities over the course of the coming months as they pertain to our work in arts leadership, equity, and rural arts support in the states of AZ and NM. This could take the form of a regranting opportunity for WESTAF or another form of engagement with our networks in these states. We will be integrating Thoma Foundation into future discussions with our rural arts network.


Last week, Tamara Alvarado, Christian Gaines, David Holland, and Lani Morris met to discuss the future of accessibility work at WESTAF and within the region. As vice chair of the DisArt board, Christian connected WESTAF to the DisArt team. We are looking forward to further discussion and collaboration to build competency internally and within the region. Our team is motivated to build more intentional and authentic relationships with the disability community and work at the intersectionality of accessibility, inclusion, and racial equity. 


Margie Johnson Reese, a member of the Emerging Leaders of Color faculty, invited David to lead an Americans for the Arts Arts & Culture Leaders of Color Fellowship session on January 15 to discuss professional communication and writing with a cohort of leaders from the Great Lakes Region. The session explored these topics through an equity lens, considering communication styles, components of personal communication, executive presence, writing skills for leaders, biases, and inequitable practices in communication based on white supremacy culture, plain language and plain English, and language liberation. 


The candidate review committee has selected three finalists for the SRI Director position, and  final round interviews will be conducted this week.


The WESTAF Wellness Committee is excited to announce that their first-ever We Eat Super Tasty Awesome Food (WESTAF) cookbook is finished! It’s filled with recipes from home chefs to internet faves; with cuisines from Europe to the American South; with meals that will pique your palate and fill your soul. Most importantly, it’s filled with recipes from the WESTAF community! Please enjoy, pass on to others, and give a shout-out to the recipe contributor if you make something.


WESTAF has applied for a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program and we are awaiting further instructions from USBank. According to the required calculations, our loan amount could be up to $436,962. This calculation is based on payroll and benefits for 2.5 months in 2020. The auditors have requested a change in the audit approval timeline: the final draft will be shared with the full board electronically after the executive meeting meeting on March 24th. With the search process for the new SRI Director progressing, the HR team is establishing a process for setting new hire compensation based on the requirements in the Colorado Pay for Equal Work Act. December financials are being compiled and will be shared in the board book prior to the February meeting.


The equity cohort met earlier this month and has plans to meet again to complete a survey to staff that will support the creation of an equity values statement. Lauren and Eliza have led this initiative as our first project of our internal work centering people and practice. This values statement will allow our work to have a clear mission that will be used to help staff understand the purpose of all equity development initiatives as they relate to the strategic plan moving forward. The policy cohort will meet on January 28 to finish identifying which projects from the scoping documents that we will begin to work on this year. Justine and Janae will also attend the next planning meeting for the Arts Leadership & Advocacy Seminar (ALAS) and determine if there is an opportunity for the policy cohort to be involved in its planning and/or execution. The communication cohort continues to work on our project plan for the WESTAF research phase. Phase one will include the evaluation of WESTAF products including process product interaction, stakeholder experience, and materials experience. We have adjusted our meetings to take place on a monthly basis, with the next communications cohort meeting taking place on January 25th. 


The business team focused on updating and evaluating our OKR progress for the first quarter, which ended Dec. 31, 2020. Much of quarter one was focused on planning and adjusting timelines as we discovered new information. Q2 will focus on executing planned initiatives. Sales and revenues are top priorities along with changing our goals to accommodate ongoing COVID impacts. 


Justine put together CaFE’s end-of-year recap highlighting stats in 2020. In spite of the pandemic and the challenges involved, the team kept busy by delivering excellent customer service with care and empathy. In December, Justine also interviewed our very own Lori Goldstein for the monthly webinar series titled, Developing Virtual Public Art Experiences and Exhibitions. This cross-program webinar introduced the Public Art Archive to CaFE customers. Lori featured PAA virtual exhibits and offered tips to organizations about ways to activate their own art collections as well as best practices for organizing virtual exhibitions, and general considerations when thinking about alternative exhibition formats. 


The team has shifted focus to the next CVList and has had a kickoff meeting for the project. We are in the data research phase where Trevor will process data lists for the top three ideas and will come back to the team for final review. This round of the CVList will feature a partnership with PAA in order to capitalize on some cross-product promotion. The details are still being finalized, but we hope to put together a data set that also shines a light on the Public Art Archive collection in the West. In other news, David completed a WESTAF Data Briefing for a potential client, the California Arts Council. The brief included a high level overview of nonprofits in the state of California. This resulted in $500 for CVSuite along with a proposal for more work valued at $2,000. The Creative Economy Recovery project the team completed several weeks ago has been released by NASAA. CVSuite expects to receive the final payment for this project in the coming weeks and is operationalizing a communication distribution plan for the project.


GO Smart is working on follow-up emails that will be sent to recipients of a marketing campaign two weeks ago. The tech team continues to work on several tickets, fixing a Safari compatibility issue, and updating UX/UI on the edit and removing buttons on the admin portal. We sent a survey about current clients’ communication desires and received a 25% response rate. Several requested emails about bugs and enhancements, with some asking to hear about industry trends and DEI topics. Several complimented the top notch customer support they receive throughout the year. 


The PAA tech team successfully completed five CMS client upgrades to CollectionSpace 6.1, which will allow clients greater flexibility for reporting and batch data updates. The team is in the process of scheduling the remaining upgrades. Additionally, Lori is working with the CollectionSpace team on a new extension for the Public Art Profile that will allow clients to utilize the “Checklist” feature for timeline and project management of particular components of public art projects — a feature that is largely unavailable in competitor systems.


We recently signed three new clients to ZAPP, an optimistic sign and the first new sales of the fiscal year. Our team has also been busy with the launch of an initiative to get our clients transitioned to EFT for their monthly payouts. We sent out our first 75 invites and have signed up 50% of those invitees so far. As many organizations still are uncertain about their 2021 plans, our team has had to do many more check-ins than normal to ensure that we are not providing ZAPP access to customers who have not paid or signed a contract renewal. 

Respectfully submitted,