Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: March 22, 2021

By March 22, 2021No Comments

Dear WESTAF trustees and colleagues:

Another busy fortnight has passed at WESTAF, and you can read all about it below. 

Most urgently though, we want to let our trustees know that we reached out to the WESTAF team last week with the following message: “WESTAF will be posting this statement on the horrifying murder of Asian American women and others in Georgia this past week. The statement also includes some resources to help educate ourselves about these issues and advance advocacy on behalf of AAPI communities everywhere. As the statement says: “we rededicate ourselves to supporting leaders of color, particularly AAPI leaders; investing in organizations led by and primarily serving communities of color, particularly AAPI organizations; and to the crucial work of advancing equity and continuing our journey toward being an antiracist organization.” To the AAPI identifying members of our WESTAF community, I want you to know that we all stand with you in solidarity and mourn along with you as we try to process these tragic hate crimes. You have our support in showing up at work fully as yourself as you process these events. You are free to take personal time and space if you need. Please reach out to me, your manager or HR if you need our assistance. Special thanks to David and Leah for their work developing and distributing this statement.”


In the end, seventeen leaders (the largest cohort in the program’s history) from all of our Western states are participating in the 2021 Emerging Leaders of Color program: 

  • Delbert Anderson, Artist/Educator, DDAT Management | San Juan College, Farmington, NM
  • Dayo Ayodele, Producing Artistic Director, Global Lounge Incorporated, Boise, ID
  • Ruby Barrientos, Customer Service Associate, ANIMARTERENO Collective Program Coordinator, Reno, NV
  • Cameron Green, Art Show Coordinator, Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, Cheyenne, WY
  • Grace Gutierrez, Curatorial and Administrative Assistant, Firehouse Art Center, Longmont, CO
  • neelam ibrahim, Art Education Coordinator, Kodiak Arts Council, Kodiak, AK
  • Stacey Mei Kelly, Conservator, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Kamakani Konia, Project Manager, The Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Honolulu, HI
  • Jessica Lagunas, Arts And Culture Coordinator, Latino Network, Portland, OR
  • Nawahine Lanzilotti, Program Assistant, East-West Center Arts Program, Honolulu, HI
  • Janissa Martinez, Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
  • Luis Tomas Martinez, Chief Entertainment Officer, CASA ALTA LLC, Los Angeles, CA
  • Monique Michel, Director/Owner/Teacher, Ballet Folklorico Mexico Lindo, Nampa, ID
  • China Reevers, Event Coordinator, Arts Council of Big Sky, Bozeman, MT
  • Rosie Saldana, Program Associate/ Volunteer Coordinator, Tieton Arts and Humanities, Yakima, WA
  • Tatiana Ticknor, Unguwat Program Coordinator, Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK
  • Herbert Washington, Artistic Director, Phoenix Boys Choir, Phoenix, AZ

Margie Reese, Salvador Acevedo, Madalena Salazar and David completed the first two days of the Emerging Leaders of Color program on March 18 and 19 with this incredible cohort, covering sessions on U.S. cultural policy, professional communication through an equity lens, self-care, strategic foresight, and cultural equity. The first two days also included discussions with artist Ana Teresa Fernandez, known for her socially conscious conceptual work, and Dr. Nancy Maryboy, a pioneer in indigenous education and science who has partnered with the National Science Foundation and NASA over decades, on their artistic, cultural, and leadership paths. This year’s program has already been an exceptionally moving and impactful intergenerational exchange for all of us, as participants, guests, and faculty have shared deeply about their journeys. 


These past few weeks, Christian and David have had the opportunity to become more acquainted with the new Biden administration appointees at the National Endowment for the Arts in a series of separate meet and greet and listening tour occasions. The appointees are Ra Joy, chief of staff; Jenn Chang, White House liaison and senior advisor, Sonia Tower, director of strategic communications and public affairs and Ben Kessler, director of congressional affairs. Careers staffers Michael Orlove and Andy Mathis along with the new appointees used these meetings — first with the RAOs and then with the western region SAAs — to impart as much information as they had on plans for the NEA rollout of the $135M American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding, and to gather as much intel as possible from the field in terms of how to improve this round of relief funding — especially in terms of how to make re-granting as equitable as it can possibly be — compared to the $75M CARES Act granting earlier in the pandemic. As things currently stand (and it could still change), the endowment expects to have the process set and re-appropriations made by the end of April. In general, we’ve been impressed by the intentional and thoughtful approach of the new appointees. Christian’s favorite (paraphrased) quotation from Ben Kessler: “The legislators that worked on this bill hope that you will feel a sense of pride that comes with this responsibility. When including these dollars for arts recovery, they weren’t necessarily thinking of your work/life balance…”


As reported a few biweeklies ago, we are awaiting a final decision from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust on a $174K request for support in our AAP work, with a final decision expected on May 27, when their trustees meet. In the meantime, Christian had a warm follow-up call with the Mellon Foundation to discuss two pending funding possibilities: through the Monuments Project fund as well as through their standard arts and culture program, we are exploring the possibility of some accelerant funding for the Public Art Archive. In addition, there is a stated interest in a version 2.0 of the RAO’s Regional Arts Resilience Fund, loosely conceived at this stage as a recovery program involving capacity building and consulting for each of the grantees funded in the first round. The RAOs will be getting together to put together a concept paper within the next few weeks. Other early stage funding requests include the American Express Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Thoma Foundation and the Satterberg Foundation — all of whom are in different early stages of approach.


We recently received news from trustee Jonathan Johnson that the fiscal year 2020 Annual Report for the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts has been published. The PDF can be downloaded here: FY2020 SFCA Annual Report.  This Annual Report of 2019 – 2020 offers an overview of the past year’s efforts by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA) to focus on the implementation of the goals of its 2019-2023 Strategic Plan priorities of Culture, Education, Engagement and the Arts.


On March 11, David, Professor Doug Noonan of Indiana University, George Tzougros, executive director of Wisconsin Arts Board, and Karen Mittleman, executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, joined NASAA staff for a discussion of the findings of the Arts and Economic Recovery research project and strategies for state arts agencies to pursue to connect the creative sector to state economic recovery efforts. This was the first of NASAA’s 2021 Learning Series for their state arts agency members, which replaces their in person NASAA Assembly. The recording of the session has now been released and is available on the NASAA website and YouTube.


WESTAF has invited over 200 organizations across the region to submit information about creative workforce projects happening across the country as part of a national data collection effort being mounted by the Getting Creative Workers Working Coalition (of which we are a part) and to endorse the policy proposal Put Creative Workers to Work. This includes 170 local arts agencies identified using the Americans for the Arts Field Directory. We will be developing and refining our local arts agency contact list over the coming months to more effectively engage with this vital constituency.


David and Megan Wagner of Brandeberry McKenna Public Affairs (the WESTAF contracted lobbyist in Colorado) presented on state and federal arts advocacy at Colorado Creative Industries’ 2021 Creative Districts Convening, discussing developments in the past and current Colorado General Assembly sessions, creative districts policymaking nationally even during the pandemic, and national arts advocacy and arts policy developments like Save Our Stages, Put Creative Workers to Work, and Arts Workers Unite.


On 3/18, the Colorado Joint Budget Committee voted to restore the Colorado Creative Industries and Office of Film, Television, and Media to their 2019-20 levels. This means an increase of $797,000 to CCI and $209,000 to Film. This is exactly the action that WESTAF, BBMK, Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA), and the Colorado Cultural Partners have been advocating for in recent weeks. This decision will not be completely final until the passage of the FY 2021-22 budget bill, but we do not expect the committee to decrease this funding. Looking to further stimulus, Rep. Leslie Herod, a leader of the Colorado Arts Caucus, is working on a bill to allocate additional state relief dollars to CCI and film.


Collectively, with the voice of California’s arts community and lobbying from California Arts Advocates, California Association of Museums, and CalNonprofits for state relief funding specifically for arts and culture,  SB 87 was signed into law, approving $50 million in funding for nonprofit cultural institutions (double the amount proposed by the Governor) on Feb 23. Round 4 of the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, The Arts & Cultural Program, supports California eligible cultural institutions defined as registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit entities. Unlike previous rounds, there is no limitation to apply based on annual gross revenue. Applications are being accepted until March 23, 2021. WAAN member Californians for the Arts has been awarded a contract to provide technical assistance in support of this vital program. WESTAF led discussions between Californians for the Arts/California Arts Advocates and the WESTAF supported lobbyist Shaw Yoder Antwih Schmelzer & Lange to prioritize state relief funding for the arts as one of the priorities for the legislative session. Also of note is Californians for the Arts/California Arts Advocates coverage in the New York Times, highlighting their collaboration with Otis College of Design on creative economy advocacy. 


Creative New Mexico, the volunteer-led state creative economy advocacy organization in New Mexico, has developed a campaign highlighting the contributions of arts & culture to New Mexico’s larger economy that they’ve directed at New Mexico legislators. Having engaged New Mexico First to facilitate advocacy capacity building efforts in FY20 supported by WESTAF, Creative New Mexico is beginning to take on a more organized and strategic advocacy role in the state.  


The SRI team has completed all final reporting for all NEA funds for 2018. Our reports are in review. 


TourWest completed the first webinar in our two part series for this year’s application cycle. The first webinar was an overview session of the grant, its goals, and eligibility criteria. The second webinar in our series, on tips for success, will be on March 23rd.


Lani Morris has been promoted to Grants Manager and Accessibility Coordinator effective March 15, 2021. Lani will continue to support WESTAF’s expanded grantmaking portfolio with a focus on managing TourWest, providing technical assistance to grantees, and refining and streamlining our grantmaking systems and processes. Lani is also leading new work on disability culture, contributes to building a more equitable culture at WESTAF, and has taken on an increasingly visible role in the field. Over the coming months, Lani will be working with our new Director of Social Responsibility and Inclusion, Anika Kwinana, and me to manage the last stages of final reporting for WESTAF CARES, CNMI CARES, and the Regional Arts Resilience Fund and to build new programs with a focus on equitable grantmaking. 


South Arts are in conversations with WESTAF about delivering a second Emerging Leaders of Color program as early as later in 2021. As we look to refine the program for a new cohort, we are reflecting on the results of our evaluation survey. 71% of participants were extremely satisfied by the program and the remainder were somewhat satisfied. 86% agreed that workshops helped to strengthen their competencies in order to more confidently step into leadership positions. 100% of participants agreed that they will be able to reach out to the network to better support the communities they represent and serve. 100% of participants also agreed that they have gained a network of like-minded peers and colleagues in their region. To see a testimonial with one of the participants, performing artist Carly Jones, Senior Program Director, North Carolina Arts Council, visit Instagram or LinkedIn. In her words, “I cannot say enough about this program. It has made such an impact on me. To be able to meet other arts administrators and arts leaders of color from throughout the South was just so fulfilling. To be able to network with them, talk about equity issues in the arts, and how to navigate these spaces together. We problem solved together. We got to know each other. And, I can’t wait to see what we build from here.” 


The Emerging/Leaders of Color website has been completed and gone live (now for some time), and we will be launching it officially to the network and other targeted stakeholders in the coming weeks. 


The audit and tax form 990 will be reviewed by the executive committee this week and will go to the full board via email shortly thereafter. The F&A team continued group coaching with Val Atkin and are considering next steps. Amy attended a webinar regarding “How the Office Will Evolve in 2021” and found we are in good company as we consider a distributed workplace. This is certainly on the minds of many companies across the country right now. With the help of Employers’ Council, Amy & Becca are identifying the HR policies that will need to be updated this year. WeWork is being considered as WESTAF’s office once our lease expires in December. We would secure a small private office and share the access cards among staff. Most work would continue to be done in a distributed manner but WeWork could provide meeting spaces and valuable opportunities for staff to get together in person and think creatively.


The communications cohort met on March 10 to go over progress in evaluation of materials and experience and to begin putting the finishing touches on a survey draft for gathering stakeholder information. We hope to compile this information into a brand analysis that highlights WESTAF products, processes, and brand awareness. The cohort will then use this analysis to synthesize and ideate the next steps toward cultivating community and strengthening the organization’s position and reach as a thought leader in the field, which relates directly back to the strategic plan. The policy cohort met on March 12 to debrief ALAS and prepare for the meeting with their Trustee Advisors. At the time of this update the cohort would have conducted this meeting with the TAs on March 19. The goal of the meeting is to discuss our scoping document and discuss how the cohort can benefit from the Trustee Advisors’ areas of expertise. Updates to the scoping document following this discussion will be the cohort’s next plan of action.


We recently updated and clarified the monthly projection process for business, marketing and technology as those budgets for the SaaS products are so intertwined. We will also begin interviews in the next week or so to fill the new role of business project coordinator. There are a lot of logistics to manage during this period of transition, and we’re working hard to switch things like Microsoft accounts, ownership of documents, etc. over from Seyan who had managed many operational processes. 


This month has been busy for the CaFE team. We spent over a week testing a major upgrade ticket. Ken has more than 10 new sales from fresh inbound leads, including the Peter Bullough Foundation and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Justine’s BOGO Eblast sale was a huge success. Eliza added over 70 new call listings from returning clients, and four new customers received Eliza’s personalized 1:1 training. Also coming up in this month’s CaFE webinar, Justine discusses tools and tips for public art calls. And the month is not even over yet!


CVSuite is in full production mode for two important projects. The first, the CVList, is in the draft copy stage. Lori is working on the public art narratives and Kelly is working on the creative economy narrative. The drafts will be handed over to the team for the first round of edits next week. Meanwhile, the CVList photographer is completing the road trip and will have some sample photos for us to look at early next week. The second project is the work we are doing on our sales site. The team has given feedback on all pages. Once the changes are made they will be sent to Christina and Leah for final review. Trevor, Kelly and David partnered with one of our clients, Cultural Planning Group (CPG) to submit a proposal to conduct an economic survey of creative activity centers of Midvale, Utah. We should hear back from the city in a few weeks. Trevor and Natalie have been working on the specification for our latest enhancement, a password reset option, and this past week, Kelly has been tuning into sessions and events at the online SXSW conference


GO Smart released three medium enhancements and one bug fix. The first enhancement was an update to generate a new, read-only preview at the time admins and applicants view forms in GO Smart. The second enhancement was the addition of a delete confirmation modal to the grant builder along with updated icons. The third enhancement was an improvement to the panelist user editor to ensure that 100% of panelist settings are more intuitive and appropriate by default. A bug that affected the use of quotations when used in the questions was fixed.


PAA completed the program’s first major release since spring of 2020 to improve the search and explore functionality of the public database. Improvements include the ability to sort search results by title and date — essentially offering any grouping of public art (an artist’s portfolio of work or a particular collection) to be ordered chronologically.  The release also included the ability to link to sorted and filtered searches — a great way to share content from PAA beyond the object records. PAA is in the process of developing public art narratives as part of the CVSuite List Project and has received a great deal of excitement from public art colleagues in the cities being featured. PAA continues work on the WESTAF Women’s Suffrage Mural Project and is collecting submissions from eligible artists with the help of the CaFE team.


We have made quite a few internal shifts within the ZAPP team— Brandon Jay will take over Mareike’s position as operations coordinator and Tess Emslie, one of our part-time customer experience coordinators, will take over for Brandon as full-time customer support coordinator. We’re excited for this shift and the opportunity for team members to learn new things. With the hope of vaccine availability, we have seen a positive shift in March sales and are seeing more shows getting approval to host shows in late summer. We are also seeing more juries happening, another positive sign for the recovery of ZAPP shows as they proceed to plan their events.

With thanks to our biweekly contributors, and respectfully submitted,