Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: January 27, 2020

By January 29, 2020No Comments

Hello WESTAF Trustees:

It’s been wonderful receiving so many thoughtful messages from you since our time together in Reno last week! Our time during the meeting as well as at dinner provoked some really helpful follow-up conversations across several topics like equity, advocacy and the creative economy, so thanks for that! As we get back into office life, here are some operational updates from the leadership resource team (LRC) along with some of my comments and observations:


January is a busy month for the finance & administration department with the filing of the 990 tax documents, preparation of 1099 forms for vendors, health benefit filings and a significant amount of human resources changes and updates. In addition, January is the first month we are asking all budget managers to provide projections for the rest of the year: there has been a lot of education and coordinating to compile these numbers for the first time.


Two independent staffing changes have recently occurred on the technology team. Ellis Garaudy, who many of you met at the meet-and-greet, abruptly decided that he will pursue work with a startup company out of Aspen working on an app for veterans. The past months have been challenging for the tech team and Adam Sestokas, and the coming months of transition will continue to be challenging. Simultaneously, the team has added a new remote software engineer named Jon Cantwell. Jon has close to a decade of experience coding and has previously had a successful working relationship with Adam. This is an exciting hire. While a technology team of 4 is more suited to the department’s work volume (and is what was planned for FY20), we’re going to evaluate the impact of an additional hire.


The focus of the department continues to be ensuring that technology services remain available, reliable and secure: 28 machines in the offices were purchased 7 years ago, and starting to fail, so they are now retired and replaced. The new equipment has been configured with the software and deployed to the staff using Mobile Device Management technology that is being tested for its efficiency in better servicing the staff’s needs. The Financial Server Software was from 2013, and, due to new licensing from Microsoft, will be updated. Amazon Web Services continues to innovate and change its services and standards and as they do, the team is working to keep up our infrastructure with those well-set standards. Our Software as a Service applications continue to be maintained with a focus on ensuring the scalability, speed, accessibility and deliverability of the services to their artists, arts administrators and grant administrators. This is part of where Jon’s expertise will be most helpful. Data Privacy laws have come into effect in at least 10 states with more states proposing changes each month. We are always working to ensure we keep data as private as each piece of data merits, and is determined by law and/or our clients’ and users’ needs.


We ran some data analysis of the results of the 2019 CaFE artist survey, which received 2,300 responses. Here is what he found:

  • The average rating for ease of applying to a call was 3.98/5.
  • The average rating for customer service was 3.79.
  • 74% of the CaFE clientele is 45 years of age or older with 65 and up being the largest age demographic with 39.2%.
  • Most customers have been using CaFE with 34.6% being 4-7 year users. 6% have used the tool for more than 10 years.
  • Average likelihood of recommending to a friend: 78.5%.
  • The likelihood of CaFE being recommended is highly correlated to positive comments about “opportunities for clients” and the “ease of use.”
  • Bad reviews are highly correlated with fast deadlines and inability to custom filter and navigate.
  • Top requested improvement: Improving searching functionality (probably similar to above complaints) and being able to filter during searches.


GO Smart is in the contract phase with a potential new client, World Heritage Office in San Antonio. Their team attended a successful demonstration along with other office department heads who may use the system for additional grants. We are focusing marketing efforts on a Personas campaign that will combine knowledge about our best and most desirable users with pointed marketing messages and delivery methods. We have also created a presence on LinkedIn with plans to utilize that space for content sharing and market attention. 


The Public Art Archive (PAA) team has nearly completed the migration of the City of Santa Monica’s public art data into a new PAA Collection Management System. Once the process is complete, PAA will deploy the system to the City of Santa Monica to manage their collection and to push data directly to the Public Art Archive for web publishing. Marketing efforts continue as part of the Collection-Specific Maps campaign and communications will be directed to organizations that currently have at least a sample of their public art collections on our site. This way, the PAA team can set up a sample map with the potential client’s existing data if desired.


Brandon Jay, our part-time customer experience coordinator, has joined the ZAPP team full time to replace Justina Braziulyte, who left WESTAF to move back home to Chicago. Brandon will manage Justina’s tasks and will also provide some sales support to Julia Alvarez, as he has experience with sales and cold calling. As part of a decade-in-review for our quarterly newsletter, we determined that ZAPP had 6,771 application deadlines, processed 1,403,307 artist applications, and saw a 55% increase in artist applications from 2010 to 2019. 


You all received a presentation on our creative economy strategy from CVSuite Project Manager Kelly Ernst. To help us visualize a communications plan around the CV List project and other sales and marketing initiatives, we’re going to invite Common Notice to help us. Company principles Amelea Gritter and Todd Herring are former colleagues of mine from ArtPrize and are very talented at communicating story and laying out strategy. I trust their work, especially in the area of creative direction. This is a low-risk, low-fee ($2K) preliminary pilot engagement to meet the team and have a conversation about what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to go. Then once they’re up to speed — and only if they have won the enthused consensus of the WESTAF team that’s working on this — we would invite them to submit a scope for future implementation work. Thanks in particular to trustee Ann Hudner for focusing our thoughts on direction, particularly as it relates to the design community.


It’s worth mentioning that we continue to get some great feedback from our state arts agency executive directors. In the coming weeks, we’ll be putting together a brief report on the forum, which will include pertinent follow-up items as well as links to the various presentations, including Richard Evans’ fascinating workshop on Adaptive Change. In the meantime, I’ve included below a really thoughtful note from Anthony Manfredi, ED of the Nevada Arts Council and our host for the week. I wanted to share it with you because I wanted you to have an idea of the impact the Forum had on our EDs. In particular I wanted to thank  David Holland and our chair Tamara Alvarado, who’s presence at the forum (not just great welcoming comments, but involved all the way through) was really felt and appreciated!


During Megan Miller’s Burning Man presentation at the BOT meeting, she mentioned Fly Ranch and in particular something called the Land Art Generator Initiative LAGI) Fly Ranch. One thing I didn’t have a chance to mention during the presentation is that (cough cough) yours truly was honored to be invited to serve on the jury of the competition (cough cough).


We’ve been busy on the new board member development front since the BOT meeting last week. We have reached out to two potential new candidates (representing Burning Man and Meow Wolf) to gauge their interest in serving as WESTAF trustees. Nothing confirmed yet, but encouraging communication so far. If we were to proceed with their candidacy, we would get a letter of interest and introduction from them to share with all of the trustees, then vote on them at the May meeting in Boise, and their first meeting would be in Denver in October. We’ll keep you posted!


It’s worth mentioning that WESTAF representatives will be attending two convenings being organized by the National Endowment for the Arts (Arts Endowment). ELC Alum Robert Martinez from Wyoming is part of the Northern Arapaho tribe and will be attending as WESTAF’s representative at a convening on Native Arts and Culture on February 14, along with some other representatives from our western region. To ensure that WESTAF will be as prepared as possible in the event of a federal audit from the Office of the Inspector General, Amy Hollrah and Grants Coordinator Lani Morris will attend a day-long Federal Audit Convening in Washington, DC for state arts agencies and regional arts organizations. The convening is hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts in coordination with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and will take place on March 18. This convening includes face-to-face time with the Arts Endowment’s Office of the Inspector General to discuss the Annual Audit Plan and answer audit questions, Q & A with the Arts Endowment Office of Grants Management, tips and guidance, including lessons learned from recently audited state arts agencies and regional arts organizations, conversation with Arts Endowment partnership staff, as well as program updates and 2020 Arts Endowment initiatives.


From May 24-26, Chair Tamara Alvarado and I will be attending the regional arts organization (RAO) annual retreat in Fort Collins, CO. The WESTAF region will be hosting the convening (we have assisted with some hotel logistics—thanks, Leah Horn). Tamara and I are also serving on the committee that is crafting the agenda for this convening, but a significant desired outcome shared by all of the RAOs is increased and continued collaboration.


Not too much for me for the immediate future! Hooray! I like getting to know our magnificent western region, but I also like getting to know the amazing city where I live! That being said, I will be taking two personal days on January 30 and Jan 31 head to Taos and Santa Fe for a relaxing birthday weekend. As an additional heads up, I will be going to Japan for a two-week trip from April 5-18. I’ll be visiting the famed Naoshima art island and then going on a walking tour.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or anyone on the WESTAF team if you have any thoughts, questions or ideas. Thank you for reading this far! 

As ever,