Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: July 26, 2021

By July 26, 2021No Comments

July 26, 2021

Greetings WESTAF Community:

Wowza — already time for another biweekly! So much outstanding activity in all corners of the organization these past few weeks. This time of the year, we’re deep in planning for FY22, and the Mackenzie Scott gift we received recently has added a wonderful, if complex, dimension to our thinking. In addition to the planning that we’ll be doing in various upcoming meetings and retreats (see below), this article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy by Bianca Casanova Anderson has also kept us grounded and inspired. Additionally, we’ve been thinking a lot about mission-aligned investing and what that means to our organizational values, and we have also drawn valuable direction from this 2018 Grantmakers in the Arts blog post about their investing journey. Some more comings-and-goings at WESTAF as well. We’re thrilled to have some new WESTAFers to the SRI team (but we’re holding off on the official welcome for now until they begin the week of August 2 — more below!). We’re also excited to welcome Tim Carmichael to the ZAPP coordinator role, as well Raymond Wilson and Sara Graydon, who will start this week in part-time roles that provide customer support to CaFE and ZAPP customers. Welcome, Tim, Raymond, and Sara; we’re so glad to have you! I’m kicking off this biweekly, though, with news of a departure from the leadership team:

We’re saddened to report that Adam Sestokas, director of technology and innovation, will be leaving WESTAF. Adam’s last day will be Thursday, August 12. Since arriving at WESTAF in March 2013, Adam successfully migrated the organization to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and led the change to Atlassian’s technology-management ecosystem. Adam completely transformed and stabilized the technology infrastructure of our business platforms and the IT infrastructure of the organization as a whole. We all have loved watching Adam and his partner Trish become such wonderful parents to their son Ryder (who is beyond adorable), and we’re really going to miss the Sestokas family in our WESTAF community. Adam has big plans, and his wide range of technical competencies and experiences make him an extremely attractive and highly sought-after prospect within the technology sector, so watch out, world! Our search for Adam’s successor has already begun, but in the meantime, please join me in wishing him all the very best in the next chapter of an illustrious career! Read more about Adam here, and see below for more updates from the Technology department. Thanks for everything you have done for WESTAF, Adam!

The following partners, speakers, facilitators, and panelists have been confirmed for the Creative Vitality Summit:

  1. Roberto Bedoya, Cultural Affairs Manager, City of Oakland (Speaker)
  2. Felipe Buitrago, Former Minister of Culture, Republic of Colombia (Speaker)
  3. Eddie Torres, President and CEO, Grantmakers in the Arts (Partner)
  4. Nadia Elokdah, Vice President and Director of Programs, Grantmakers in the Arts (Partner/Facilitator) 
  5. Susan Soroko, Director, Creative Economy, Arlington Economic Development (Partner/Facilitator)
  6. Jonathon Glus, Executive Director, City of San Diego Arts and Culture (Partner/Facilitator)
  7. Jen Cole, Chief of Staff, ASU Herberger Institute on Design and the Arts (Partner)
  8. Gabriela Muñoz, Senior Program Coordinator, ASU Herberger Institute on Design and the Arts (Partner)
  9. Laura Callanan, Founding Partner, Upstart Co-Lab (Panelist)
  10. Laura Zabel, Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts (Panelist)
  11. Tariana Navas-Nieves, Director, Cultural Affairs, Denver Arts & Venues (Panelist)
  12. Dee Schneidman, Senior Program Director, Creative Economy, New England Foundation for the Arts (Panelist)
  13. Zannie Voss, Director, SMU DataArts (Panelist)
  14. Hollis Wong-Wear, Founder and Principal, (Panelist)
  15. Hakim Bellamy, Deputy Director of Cultural Services, City of Albuquerque (Panelist)
  16. Alberto Mejia, Deputy Director, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (Panelist)
  17. Adriana Gallego, Executive Director, Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona (Panelist)
  18. Jessica Stern, Manager, Local Arts and Business Partnerships, Americans for the Arts (Panelist)
  19. Hasan Bakhshi, Director, Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, Nesta (Panelist)
  20. Althea Erickson, Former Vice President, Global Public Policy & Impact, Etsy (Panelist)
  21. Randy Engstrom, Creative Vitality Summit Co-Director (Partner/Facilitator)

Fourteen speaker, panelist, and facilitator invitations are pending. 57% of speaker, panelist, and facilitator invitees are BIPOC and 66% are women. Shortly, the Convenings team, led by Leah Horn, will launch event registration through the Aventri site built by Natalie Scherlong. Kelly Ernst has provided design direction on developing the visual identity of the convening. Sam Ortega has developed a social media strategy for the conference. Moana HoChing is conducting background research for the pre-conference paper and organizing resources and written assets for the conference. David is developing the conference agenda, inviting and confirming speakers, building a priority invitation list of thought leaders, drafting the pre-conference paper and planning meetings with each conference partner and panel in the coming weeks working closely with Summit Co-Director Randy Engstrom. 

David will be moderating a case study workshop “Arts and the Rural West – Regional trends and Colorado leadership” with Mandy Ritter, program manager of the Sterling Creative District, and Richard Saxton, founder and director of M12 Studio (an artists collective), at the Creative Industries Summit organized by Colorado Creative Industries in October. Both Ritter and Saxton are creative entrepreneurs who have gained local, statewide, and national recognition for their work to advance arts, culture, and creativity in rural communities. Ritter is an artist and creative entrepreneur who has designed and managed a downtown beautification grant learning the ins and outs of community projects. Ritter has also been a part of the Sterling Creatives Cooperative and the Creative District from their early planning stages. The M12 Collective founded by Saxton  is an interdisciplinary group based on Colorado’s American High Plains that creates context-based art works, research projects, and education programs. M12 is known for groundbreaking and award-winning creative projects that explore the aesthetics of rural cultures and landscapes. 

Following a conversation with Laura Way, executive director of Arts Greensboro and Nate McGaha, executive director, Arts North Carolina in May, David has been invited as a keynote speaker for a creative industries summit in October/November being organized by this local arts agency and a number of university partners in North Carolina’s Triad. Inspired by the NASAA Creative Economies and Economic Recovery report and conversations with WESTAF, Laura has developed an advocacy platform for a $7.5 million arts and culture recovery investment in the Triad. 

David and CAG colleagues Heather Noonan and Najean Lee of the League of American Orchestras have invited and onboarded WAAN Co-Chair Manny Cawaling and Mid-America Arts Alliance Director of Marketing and Communications Margaret Keough into CAG. Prompted by discussions initiated by WESTAF about the expansion of the group to include state arts advocates, Americans for the Arts has extended an invitation to the State Arts Action Network for other state arts advocacy groups to join. Sue Hildick, executive director, Cultural Advocacy Coalition of Oregon; Nate McGaha, executive director, Arts North Carolina; Quanice Floyd, executive director, Arts Education in Maryland Schools; Anne Katz, executive director, Arts Wisconsin; and Matthew Henry, executive director, Arts Council of Central Louisiana / Louisiana Citizens for Culture have stepped forward. Ann S Graham, executive director, Texans for the Arts also joins the group alongside Claire Rice, executive director, Arts Alliance Illinois and Julie Baker, executive director, California Arts Advocates, who had previously been invited by WESTAF. This expansion of CAG membership to include state arts advocates represents a new direction for the group and holds the promise of being transformative. 

With a budget rider bill recently signed by Governor Newsom of California that included $600 million in investments in arts and cultural programs to support the recovery of the sector, the total of state relief and recovery funding secured by arts advocates in the West is now estimated at over $830 million. (This does not include the $65 million new creative real estate program announced in Colorado.) Our partners, Californians for the Arts and California Arts Advocates, were instrumental to the unprecedented level of investment in California as part of a coalition of arts and cultural advocacy organizations.

Following the announcement of the new Manager of Public Policy and Advocacy position on 7/14, WESTAF has already received 72 applications for the position. The application deadline is 8/20/21. Please share the job posting with your networks if you know of people who may be interested in applying. This position is partially funded by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust over the next three years.

Applications for the WESTARP closed on Thursday, July 15. Here are some facts about the applications:

  • 288 applications were submitted from all 13 states in the WESTAF region (they will still be checked for eligibility)
  • Application Breakdown by State
    • Alaska – 7
    • Arizona – 24
    • California – 81
    • Colorado – 34
    • Hawaii – 19
    • Idaho – 5
    • Montana – 7
    • New Mexico – 10
    • Nevada – 16
    • Oregon – 43
    • Utah – 20
    • Washington – 18
    • Wyoming – 4
  • Application Breakdown by Organizational Budget Size
    • Up to $149,000 – 79
    • $150,000 – $349,999 – 88
    • $350,000 – $549,999 – 42
    • $550,000 – $749,000 – 25
    • $750,000 – $1,000,000 – 54

WESTAF has received more than 90 nominations for its upcoming review panels for the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Fund for Organizations. Panels will take place on August 23 – 26, with a total of four panels and each panelist reviewing approximately 75 applications. Panelists will receive a stipend of $750 each, and WESTAF anticipates approximately 25 panelists.  Invitations have gone out to 20+ nominees with a deadline of August 2 to confirm their participation.  All 90+ nominees will be kept on a database for consideration in future panels and to broaden our networks.

WESTAF has hired a Grants and Access Manager and a Grants and Equity Manager. Both new hires will start on August 2. A joint announcement with biographies for the two hires will be sent out during that week. The process entailed a robust, six-week process of more than 40 diverse candidates for each position from throughout the WESTAF region and beyond. The search process included two rounds of interviews and recording footage review conducted by WESTAF employees from various departments. The top four finalists included three members of the Leaders of Color Network. We look forward to sharing further details once the new hires have officially started their positions.

We have a busy few months coming up with various in-person (gasp!) convenings of the leadership team, RAO leadership, the WESTAF executive committee and the full board of trustees in October:

  • Leadership Team Retreat (August 17 — 19)
  • Executive Committee Meeting (September 22 — 23)
  • RAO Retreat (September 27 — 29)
  • WESTAF BOT Annual Meeting (October 27 — 28)

Not a whole lot new to report on this front, except to say that David, Anika and Christian are working on around four funding concepts for the Satterberg Foundation, following our great meeting with CC Gardner-Gleser. For FY22, we have put a placeholder of $300K (up from $200K) in the FY22 planning budget for new foundation funding. We’re also monitoring closely the areas that can be funded through new fundraising sources, as opposed to areas currently restricted through other funding sources.

Budget version 1 has been compiled and the leadership team is now adjusting for version 2 due by the end of next week. As part of the budgeting process, supervisors will be meeting to discuss the guidelines for them to advocate for their teams regarding year-end compensation adjustments. As of this Friday, most staff have toured our new shared office space at the Alliance Center. We are excited to be a part of this vibrant new community: our staff has been invited to four in-person events happening in July, along with a virtual wellness challenge! Amy & Christian discussed impact investing with our broker, Tim Schott, who will be providing some further information to the executive committee on this topic. Quarter 3 fully-allocated project calculations have been shared with leadership along with FY20 numbers as context. Amy and Becca continue to take numerous training sessions for the new HR information system, Paylocity. Becca will be using the new system to onboard the new grant and customer experience team members starting in August. In addition, we are rehiring for the finance coordinator position after John Carpenter resigned during his training period: this role wasn’t a good fit for him, so we’ve reposted the position! Amy is proceeding with the employer tax credit calculations and is beginning the paycheck protection program loan #2 forgiveness filing. 

The MarComm team just launched a new GO Smart Features page, a paid social media campaign on Facebook, another Google Ads campaign, and its newest blog on arts, culture and the American Rescue Plan. We also sent out a Q4 Public Art Archive newsletter that highlighted PAA’s newest features, functionality, and collection spotlights, and launched our first-ever Google Ads campaign for PAA, which got 459 clicks in its first week. We are also working towards launching a new paid social media campaign that will start at the beginning of August. The team continues to work on the Creative Vitality™ Summit social media strategy and toolkit and is finalizing the main event pages on the Aventri site as we prepare to officially open summit registration on July 30!

The MarComm team has also been working on numerous communications for the Creative Vitality™ Summit as well as other announcements. We are heavy into the build phase of the Creative Vitality™ Summit website, with the team collaborating on final touches to be added throughout the site. The team recently announced Adri Norris as the artist for the Women’s Suffrage Mural Project, a collaborative project between the Social Responsibility & Inclusion team and Public Art Archive. We are also in the process of compiling a list of items to be included in next month’s NEA newsletter. The team also launched a brand new News page on with a fresher, more modern layout and a new search feature so that our many audiences can easily get to the content that is most relevant to them. We are also finalizing a communications plan for a mailing address change, as along with our transition to a fully distributed workplace, we are shifting to a mail service that will open and scan our mail and deposit our checks.

The communications cohort has outlined the discovery report and worked out a timeline to finish the report before the October board meeting. They are moving into phase 2 of our brand analysis project and preparing for our July 29th meeting. The next steps are compiling the Discovery Report and all of the research we have been collecting into one cohesive deck. The cohort has broken down into groups to complete outstanding action items and research to accomplish for the first draft of the report. The policy cohort met on July 22 to discuss the next steps for the Regional Partner Handbook project. Once they receive feedback from our survey to state art agencies and state art advocacy groups, they will begin outlining the handbook itself. Meanwhile, the cohort is embarking on a discovery phase by researching existing resources, compiling feedback about said resources, and brainstorming new ideas.

The CaFE project is coming to a close, and the team has worked hard to facilitate the launch of this endeavor. The completion of the continuous integration pipelines for ZAPP and CaFE are going to be launched, as well as an update to PHP. This past week a vulnerability was disclosed that would affect most servers at WESTAF; it was remediated with the BRI team within several hours of its announcement to the security community. While this is happening, the technology team, business team and technology vendors are preparing for the departure of Adam Sestokas. Off-boarding training and “brain dumps” are occurring and being scheduled with different members of the BRI and WESTAF teams. Documentation is being written and tasks, responsibilities are being transferred.  

Christina recently created more defined guidelines for the program managers to complete their quarterly business recaps (QBRs), and we’re working on finalizing the QBR for the third quarter by the end of the month. With Adam’s departure, Blair, Natalie, and Christina have participated in meetings and helped to prioritize technical and business tasks that need to be completed and/or reassigned. We also completed hiring for our customer experience team and will welcome Sara Graydon and Raymond Wilson starting the week of July 26. Natalie and Blair continue to focus on testing and preparation for the CaFE admin UI launch (things like helping to add and format new help center content in WordPress) and test for a PHP upgrade for ZAPP, CaFE and GO Smart required for security and compliance.

CaFE is just about ready for the new admin UI launch scheduled to be released August 5. Clients have received three webinars and regular notices starting in July. Our more frequent users were personally notified about some key changes. The internal testing team (Justine, Natalie, Ben, Blair, Stephanie) have and continue to put in an incredible amount of hours conducting manual testing of the site. We’re excited and ready for the release. 

In technology, Trevor and Natalie have been creating tickets for developing the nonprofit chart on our Snapshot report. In business, Christina reviewed and updated the CVSuite contract and is making updates and changes according to some updated WESTAF policies. We have decided to shift the contract from a letter of agreement to a service agreement in order to better align with the rest of the business department. The Data Education project has been taking up more CVS time as we work through producing the tutorial videos. The script has been sent to a non-CVSuite team member to test for readability and clarity outside of the “data world,” and David and Trevor have begun writing the second data education script. Kelly completed a new demo with the marketing agency TRIPTK, who is looking for data on the creative economy for a report they are preparing, and she has an upcoming demonstration with San Diego Arts Commission. 

Jessica chatted with current clients South Dakota and Miami Beach to help them better understand features they had not previously been using, which are NEA tools and Final Reports, respectively. Miami Beach contracted us to do the simple build of their Final Reports for four cycles. We met with the Business Management team for a monthly meeting that will be skewed biweekly with the build meeting to review in-progress development and we were able to better prioritize current and upcoming tech work for the remainder of the year. Jessica provided a demo for Tallahassee Arts / Leon County Arts Council who is just gathering information with the hopes to launch their online grants October 2022. We had a promising demo with NTC Foundation, an organization in San Diego that manages the ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station and offers five annual applications for varied purposes. They were referred to us by our current client San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. Along with the rest of WESTAF, GO Smart completed their monthly budget projections and their Q3 business recaps and OKR analysis.

PAA has been working through a bug identified during the data load process that has since been resolved. Now the team prepares for the release of enhancements and fixes the week of 7/26 that will include the ability to search PAA by date, add additional collaborators and their roles to individual artwork records, and fix minor issues lingering from the previous release. Lori is analyzing the City of Phoenix’ public art data to format for importing into the CMS system. The Comm/Marketing team is currently promoting a Google Ad campaign that so far has received 66,000 impressions.

July has been full of bug fixes on the ZAPP front! On July 15, we resolved a bug that made saving event information pages and sending communications unavailable along with resolving a few other issues related to logging and our internal demographics report. The past few days, we have been working to resolve a financial error that occurred during the June check run. About 40 clients were mistakenly overpaid by the amount they were to receive from artist check payments. This has since been corrected and we were able to recoup most of the balances owed already. The finance team has updated their documentation to ensure this does not happen again. Big shout-out to Julia and Brandon for their hard work as they calmly dealt with all the clients who noticed the various issues across the site in the past two weeks. We are also so excited that we have hired Tim Carmichael for the ZAPP customer support coordinator position. He will start next Monday, July 26!


Respectfully Submitted.