Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: June 14, 2021

By June 15, 2021No Comments


Greetings WESTAF trustees and staffers:

It’s hard to believe that we are heading into the home stretch of the third quarter of FY21. Holy Moly — where does the time go?! At WESTAF, FY22 budget planning is already well underway, and in Denver, after a soggy May, the June heat has been merciless! Before we jump into this biweekly, I wanted to give a big “thank you” to the celebration committee for organizing a WESTAF summer staff party last week — a virtual paint n’ sip. Masterpieces were produced, libations were imbibed, and by all accounts, loads of fun was had by all (I’ve definitely got to make it to the next one!). Here’s this past fortnight’s news:


Since the May board meeting, the executive committee has been working on a WESTAF 100% Participation Trustee Giving Policy. We hope this policy language resonates with our WESTAF trustees following our recent board meeting discussion. As the policy states, the most important aspect of this new policy is that “a requirement to give financially to the organization does not determine, limit or alter the landscape of diverse, knowledgeable and representative recruits to the WESTAF board of trustees.” To this end, a financial gift in any amount conveys — particularly to more traditional foundation funders — a joyful gesture of collegiality, commitment, and support. Trustees, please take a good look at this policy and let me know if you have any suggestions on how to fine-tune and improve this policy. You can put your comments right into the document or drop me an email if you’d prefer.


Right now, we’re at about 70% trustee participation for our giving goal, which is excellent! A huge thank you to all the trustees who have sent in their donations! Our goal is to be at 100% participation by the end of Q3 (or the end of June — in about two weeks). If you are a trustee and haven’t made a donation yet — now’s your chance! There is a handy-dandy “donate” button on the password-protected trustee page at (contact Cameron or me if you need the password), or you can simply write a check to WESTAF and send it to: Cameron Green, WESTAF, 1888 Sherman St., Suite 375, Denver CO. 80203. Let’s get to 100% participation by the end of June! Woot!


Thank you to everyone who has responded to our survey regarding comfortability as to the possibility of an in-person board meeting in Denver on October 27 and 28, 2021. The responses so far have been illuminating and will be super helpful as we plan for the annual meeting. If you haven’t yet completed the survey, please do so before Friday, June 18 — it just takes a minute or two, and the results are confidential!


State arts agency staff have been invited to register for a professional development session to be led by Kevin Yoshida and Bill Marino of the Creativity Lab Colorado on July 8 from 12-1:30 p.m. (Mountain Time) titled “Building Momentum: Storyboarding for Creative Communities.” Creativity Lab Colorado has worked with WESTAF’s state arts agency partners Colorado Creative Industries and ArtsWA to provide support around the formation of creative districts and/or provide resources for arts and culture constituents. This creative session will “share a field-tested framework to align stakeholders and help move community transformation forward” that has shown particular success in communities that are forming creative districts. Participants will gain access to new resources to facilitate creative community building in their states, including: • A Vision Framework • “The Momentum Formula” • “The 10 Principles of Community Leadership.”


Following a comment period, the Cultural Advocacy Group will release the Rebuilding America’s Arts Infrastructure policy statement for endorsement. David has led the drafting of the policy statement and fielded comments from the field as the point of contact, working closely with Heather Noonan and Najean Lee of the League of American Orchestras, who host CAG. The statement seeks to build from consensus positions that many in the arts community have agreed to on a variety of policy issues (including and beyond elements of the Put Creative Workers to Work policy recommendations and the Arts Sector and COVID-19 Policy Recommendations). The statement was also developed in response to recent Biden Administration proposals like the American Jobs Plan that set an expansive framework for national infrastructure investments. The purpose of this statement is to demonstrate to the U.S. Congress and Administration the role of the arts within the broad context of economic recovery and how the arts can be of service in addressing federal priorities for infrastructure development. By providing context, background, and specific suggestions, arts stakeholders aim to ensure that the arts are considered within federal investments in the nation’s infrastructure. This statement aligns the recovery of the arts sector directly with infrastructure and jobs proposals currently being deliberated by the Administration and members of Congress.  Given that related legislation to be shaped by Congress will likely cover policies well beyond infrastructure and jobs, this statement includes a broader array of policy priorities. The intent of this statement is to encourage elected officials to:

  • Integrate creative placekeeping, public art, and creative workforce opportunities into plans to upgrade transportation infrastructure.
  • Invest in the creative workforce by supporting efforts that stabilize employment, expand protections, and address systemic discrimination and exclusion from pathways to participation in the creative workforce.
  • Designate libraries and arts and cultural centers as hubs for the provision of high-speed broadband to low-income and rural communities as part of plans to open up access.
  • Designate cultural facilities as eligible for investments aimed to upgrade homes, commercial buildings, schools, and federal buildings. 
  • Support efforts to reopen the creative economy to support innovation and job creation. 
  • Integrate creative workers more fully into the federal disaster response system.   


HB21-1285 Funding to Support Creative Arts Industries, sponsored by Reps. Benavidez and Herod and Senators Jaquez Lewis and Buckner transfers $5 million to the Colorado Film Office for use in the incentives program, appropriates $3.5 million, and authorizes any non-expended small business relief funds (totaling $15 million in the end) to Colorado Creative Industries for artists impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and appropriates $1.5 million to Colorado Creative Industries for grants through non-profit organizations for cultural facilities that focus on programming for and have board representation from historically marginalized and under-resourced communities. The bill was passed by both chambers. SB21-252 Community Revitalization Grant Program, sponsored by Senators Fenberg and Holbert and Reps. Titone and Lontine create the Community Revitalization Grant Program within CCI to help finance various projects across the state that is intended to create or revitalize mixed-use commercial centers. The grant program is intended to support creative projects in these commercial centers that would combine revitalized or newly constructed commercial spaces with public or community spaces. Lastly, the bill transfers $65 million to this new grant program. The bill was passed by both chambers. Both bills are due to be signed by Governor Polis in the coming weeks. Arts funding in Colorado was restored to pre-pandemic levels through earlier successes in which $797,000 was allocated to Colorado Creative Industries to return to 2019 levels of funding. These restorations and expansions in funding would not have been possible without the partnership of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, WESTAF, Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, Colorado Creative Industries, and the Colorado Cultural Partners. This year, WESTAF led a leadership transition in state arts advocacy in the state and has managed the contract with the lobbyist BBMK directly. With the approximately $15 million in relief funding that will be transferred to CCI in this most recent package, this brings our estimate of state relief funding garnered for arts and culture across the region to over $180,000,000.


Randy Engstrom, former Director of the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, has been appointed the Seminar Co-Director for the Creative Economy Convening coming up this fall. He is working closely with David to identify additional priority invitees and speakers, develop panel sessions, and build the agenda and other content. The initial priority invitation list (which includes creative economy experts and practitioners) currently stands at 115 people. The Convenings team has had their first meeting to discuss the project plan and assignments for the upcoming convening and will begin building out the event branding, initial communications, and the draft agenda this month. Session planning has begun with convening partners ASU Herberger and the Creative Economy Coalition.


WESTAF is now accepting an optional Intent to Apply from each organization that is interested in WESTAF ARP.  WESTAF ARP is a competitive grant program supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (Arts Endowment).  WESTAF ARP provides general operating support to arts and cultural organizations in the West that are most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In alignment with Arts Endowment priorities, WESTAF ARP will focus on funding to organizations that serve and/or are led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and organizations that support the independence and lifelong inclusion of people with disabilities, among others. We strongly encourage potential applicants to notify us of their intent to submit an application. Applicants that do not submit a notice of intent to apply may still apply for funding; applicants that do submit a notice of intent to apply are not bound to apply or bound by the information provided. Intents to Apply must be submitted by June 28, 2021. The full application process is tentatively scheduled to launch in July 2021. Awards will be made to organizations across the 13-state WESTAF region, with at least one grant awarded per state. This program will disburse grants at an average level of $50,000 each. 


The SRI Team has been undergoing a search for two newly constructed positions: 1) Grants and Accessibility Manager and 2) Grants and Equity Manager.  From a robust applicant pool of over 40 applicants for each position, the team narrowed down the list to six applicants each and is headed toward finalists, having included a panel of internal and external stakeholders in the selection process.  Tentatively, both positions will be staffed in July 2021.


The Performing Arts Discovery Program launched on June 3 with a deadline of June 25. In 2021, Performing Arts Discovery is a virtual international showcase opportunity designed to convey the cultural and aesthetic plurality of American life to domestic and international audiences. For more information, see the program background and guidelines. A Steering Committee of RAO staff and performing arts leaders will begin meeting shortly to discuss the evolution of the program and practicalities related to its implementation.


David and Christian were contacted by the consultant leading the search for executive director Jaime Dempsey’s replacement at the Arizona Art Commission — big shoes to fill, to be sure. The consultant was looking for our candid feedback on the qualities and competencies we thought should be part of the search and the next ED’s profile. Know anyone who might be a suitable candidate? Here’s the preliminary job listing.


Exploring office & meeting space options with The Alliance Center – they are a much better cultural fit for WESTAF than WeWork and they are much less expensive now that WeWork’s pricing has changed. Lauren and Becca hired a new finance coordinator to start in late June! Amy is building out a schedule that will track restricted funding – which is new for WESTAF! So far, Murdock, the paycheck protection program (PPP), and the employer tax credit would qualify as restricted so we need to be sure the expenses they cover receive special coding. Discussing with Becca what we do with the furniture in our Sherman St office. Continuing to work with budget managers to establish their first budget draft, due on July 2nd. Amy is preparing to (finally!) take a week-long vacation this month.


The grant agreement for $147,000 with the Murdock Charitable Trust has been fully executed. Lori, Adam, and Christian met last week to discuss our approach to the AWS Imagine Grant which we are applying for with a focus on Public Art Archive and has a June 30 deadline. Torrie Allen from Arts Midwest and Christian are meeting this week to strategize on the next steps with the American Express Foundation which has not responded to our February 24 letter of inquiry  Also, still waiting on a response from the Sloan Foundation, submitted on April 1. The Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project declined our PAA request, but we’ll get back to them before too long. The RAOs still have a separate request pending with Mellon regarding the Regional Arts Resilience Fund 2.0. We should have a big announcement this week, so watch your email. Here’s the updated Foundation Funding Tracker.


The policy cohort is working on creating a list of questions to send to state art agencies and state advocacy organizations to gather more information about what they would like to see in a regional partner handbook. We are also thrilled to be welcoming two new members, Cameron and Paul, to the cohort and will be meeting later in June to introduce them to the project. WESTAF’s communications cohort wants to hear from you! We are currently conducting research to help inform how we can best serve our many stakeholders in the field—so we need your valuable feedback! Please take a few moments to complete this short eight-question survey on WESTAF’s brand, programs, and services and help us by sharing with your networks. The survey will close on Friday, July 30 at 5:00 p.m. MDT.


The business department has been busy planning for FY22, by creating a new budget template, simplifying the OKR process, and setting brainstorming meetings with each program manager to help solidify our FY22 objectives and key results. Blair and Natalie V. have also been working with each SaaS team to develop technical product backlogs that will help inform their direct technical budgets. We’ll be using Asana (now that we have the business version – woohoo!) to build out our OKR templates by early July. We’ve also developed a new projection process for FY22 with Blair as the “facilitator” who will assign tasks for program managers and implement an Asana workflow to keep us all on track.


CaFE is excited to welcome Paul Barrow to the team as operations coordinator. Paul originally started in customer experience for ZAPP & CaFE in April. This internal transition is great news for CaFE because Paul brings administrative and managerial experience with him as well as an arts-writing background. The team brainstormed ideas for our FY22 OKR roadmap with an emphasis on customer engagement and infrastructure improvements. The next step is refining our objectives and getting approval from the business team. We’re seeing a small increase in former organizations from a few years back returning to CaFE. As always it’s great to welcome back former organizations and get them re-acquainted with our great service and new team members. Did you know CaFE has a YouTube channel? Every month Justine invites CaFE admins to an informative and helpful webinar about all things CaFE. This is another great resource and a part of the CaFE service that customers appreciate and come back to monthly.


CVSuite has prepared and delivered two COVID-19 impact reports for the Indiana Arts Commission and two snapshot reports to the Montana Arts Council who are inquiring about two specific regions in Montana. New clients, Nevada Arts Council and United Partnership of Raleigh and Wake County, have begun onboarding. Kelly has been responding to interest in more snapshot reports from Durham Arts Council, an important ZAPP client as well. We also had a conversation with Colorado Creative Industries around data training for the creative districts. Trevor and Kelly will meet again with Christy Costello at the end of June to brainstorm data education offerings for the districts at their 2021 Summit.


Jessica and Anika completed the initial elements of the WESTAF ARP GO Smart site in order to invite applicants to complete the Intent to Apply beginning June 8th. Arts Orange County, a past CaFE client, reached out for a short demo of GO Smart. They will be offering some COVID relief funds and are looking for an alternative to SlideRoom. They seemed very impressed with the system and we should hear back before the end of the week. Development of the Program Cycles update is nearing completion and the business and tech teams are working on a bug that skews the custom reports when the NEA page is included.


PAA is in the final sprint for a suite of new functionality that will allow users to filter views no longer on view. We expect this to greatly improve the user experience for using the Locate App to find art on the go. PAA also inches closer towards finalizing the sale of the CMS and engagement tools to the City of Phoenix.


The ZAPP team has been preparing for our annual partner meeting which will happen on Monday, June 14. This gives us the opportunity to update our partners with the happenings at ZAPP and get their perspective on our work and get a better sense of their post-pandemic recovery. Additionally, we have started our work building out our OKRs for FY22, where we hope to focus on building our relationships with artists, work more internally with our other tech products to build a better connection across our programs, and expand on our sales to stay competitive and expand our reach.


Respectfully submitted,