Hello again, WESTAF community of staff and trustees:
These past two weeks were abbreviated for me as I was away for a bit reuniting with parents, siblings and children in a more fully-vaccinated world. It felt pretty glorious and dreamy, gotta say. WESTAF continues to grow, adapt and change, with big, full-hearted “hellos!” to Blair, Lilly and Paul over on the business side of things (more on that below), and fond farewells to Janae and Eliza, who said their goodbyes to WESTAF this past week. So much activity on the hiring front at WESTAF right now, which is exciting and intense! Still, tons of activity underway in business, in public policy, in advocacy and social responsibility as you’ll see below, so let’s get right to it, shall we? First, some exciting baby news!
TRUSTEE PAUL NGUYEN AND PARTNER JAMIE ADD A NEW LITTLE ONE TO THE NGUYEN FAMILY (CG)
Please join me in congratulating Jamie and Paul Nguyen for adding a third little one to the Nguyen family! His name is Owen Nguyen, or as his sister likes to call him: “Owen Potato.” Paul is on paternity leave for the time being and sent his regrets for missing out on ArtX last week. No worries, Paul, Jamie and you have your hands full! We can’t wait to meet Owen when the circumstances should align sometime in the not-too-distant future!
EXECUTIVE COORDINATOR SEARCH (CG)
Of special interest to trustees, interviews are now well underway for a candidate to take over for the hard-to-replace Natalie Scherlong, who will be moving over to WESTAF’s Marketing and Communications department. A small interview committee comprised of Becca, Sam, Natalie and Christian have interviewed four very strong candidates so far, with six more candidates to be interviewed this week and next. We hope to have a final candidate in place by mid-May. Judging by the caliber of the candidates, it’s going to be a very difficult decision!
ARTX WITH DR. LISA COOPER (CG)
Dr. Lisa Cooper gave a fascinating ArtX presentation this past week on her work addressing the racial and economic disparities in healthcare. Overall, we had about 25 participants who dropped into the Zoom meeting. In trustee Ann Hudner’s own wonderful words: “Dr. Cooper’s talk was exactly what I had imagined for ArtX – to explore and hear from experts across a broad range of subjects to amplify how we exist in one large interconnected ecosystem – and how these conversations elevate our awareness, and in turn, how they enhance our collective ability as a board to govern from diverse perspectives.” Special thanks to the development committee and in particular to trustee Dr. Bassem Bejjani for his artful introduction and facilitation of the Q&A session afterwards. Three successful ArtX events and counting!
WESTAF GIVES TESTIMONY AT COLORADO GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN SUPPORT OF STATE RELIEF FUNDING FOR THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES (DH)
On Wednesday, April 28, David testified virtually before the Colorado General Assembly’s House Business Affairs and Labor Committee in support of SB 1285 “A BILL FOR AN ACT CONCERNING THE ALLOCATION OF GENERAL FUND MONEY TO PROVIDE SUPPORT TO CREATIVE ARTS INDUSTRIES, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, MAKING AN APPROPRIATION” sponsored by Representative Adrienne Benavidez, Representative Leslie Herod, Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, and Senator Janet Buckner. This legislation would increase investments (roughly $7 million in total) in Colorado Creative Industries and the Colorado Office of Film, Television, and Media, supporting the full spectrum of the creative industries, for profit and nonprofit, and directing funding to cultural organizations that are “led by and serve historically marginalized and under-resourced communities.” This legislation would provide increased funding through the legislature for Scientific and Cultural District Tier III organizations, smaller organizations many of whom directly serve BIPOC communities. (Our own Leah Horn chairs the Denver County Cultural Council, which distributes funds to Tier III organizations in Denver.) The audio recording of the full meeting, including WESTAF’s testimony, and the notes of the testimony are being shared for anyone interested in learning more. The bill passed the committee with a vote of 8-5 and now moves to appropriations. WESTAF has also been supporting CCI as they consider a new program that would be created under SB 252 A BILL FOR AN ACT CONCERNING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A STATE GRANT PROGRAM TO PROMOTE PROJECTS IN COMMERCIAL CENTERS THROUGHOUT THE STATE THAT WILL REVITALIZE COMMUNITY SPACES AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, MAKING AN APPROPRIATION. This legislation, if successful, would set up a $65 million grant fund within CCI to allocate to what will essentially be a creative real estate development program building on CCI’s strong existing work with Space to Create. WESTAF is working closely with our contracted lobbyist in Colorado, BBMK, as well as new WAAN member Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, and Colorado Creative Industries, to advance these pieces of legislation.
WESTAF FY21 FEDERAL ADVOCACY PROGRAM LAUNCHING SHORTLY INFORMED BY EQUITABLE GRANTMAKING PRACTICES AND WITH AN EXPANDED AND RETOOLED SUITE OF RESOURCES (DH)
Moana and David have been working on retooling our Federal Advocacy Program for FY21. In addition to WESTAF’s ALAS 2021 delivered in February 2021, we will be making some modest investments in our WAAN members who are leading federal advocacy work using some cost savings due to the virtual delivery of our convenings this year. In our ongoing efforts to bring equitable and trust-based processes to all we do, we have eliminated a separate application and final report processes for this funding as well as the reimbursement process and will be working directly with grantees to determine how best to allocate funds to support their needs. We have also redeveloped the Federal Advocacy Toolkit based on Moana’s recommendations for developing an action-based framework that leverages the power of our network. We are sharing a preview of the standard document, the matrix of our 61 Congressional targets this year, and a beta-version microsite that aims to bring this work into a living, adaptable, and more dynamic form. David and Moana discussed the new program design and previewed these resources at our latest WAAN meeting on Friday, April 30.
WITH $31.6 MILLION RELIEF PACKAGE IN WASHINGTON STATE, STATE RELIEF FUNDING DESIGNATED FOR ARTS AND CULTURE ACROSS THE REGION SURPASSES $165 MILLION (DH)
WAAN Co-Chair Manny Cawaling, executive director of Inspire Washington, recently wrote to us with exciting news about an over $31 million relief package signed into law in Washington state. Arts and cultural sector relief funding includes: (i) $25 million through Dept. of Commerce for science, heritage, and arts organizations statewide. Proponent was Inspire Washington; (ii) $2 million through ArtsWA for arts and cultural organizations statewide. Proponent was ArtsWA. Congratulations Karen! (iii) $1 million through Humanities Washington for humanities programming and organizations. Proponent was Humanities Washington, who partners with WESTAF in funding lobbying in WA; and (iv) $3.6 million through the state library as grants to museums, tribal partners, and libraries. Championed by Washington State Historical Society and Eastern Washington State Historical Society. We continue to see sophisticated coalitions of advocacy partners developing across the region to advance relief efforts and other vital measures for the field during this time. With this new package, the total of state relief funds for arts and culture garnered across the region has risen to over $165 million. To put this in perspective, this is nearly double the total of all state arts agency revenues in the 13 state region.
WESTAF PARTNERS WITH CREATIVE ECONOMY COALITION ON INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL CONFERENCE SESSION (DH)
David is working with fellow Creative Economy Coalition executive committee members, Susan Soroko, director creative economy at Arlington Economic Development and former colleague Jeff Foster, associate director of the Center for the Creative Economy at VCU, to develop a panel for the upcoming International Economic Development Council (IEDC) 2021 Annual Conference in October after our proposal was accepted by the conference organizers. In the session, titled “Creative Economy: Economic Development for a Sustainable Future,” we hope to feature a range of domestic and international speakers on the creative economy and build on some of the conversations we will have had at the WESTAF organized creative economy convening on September 21-22. From the proposal, “With every country in the world impacted by the pandemic, this proposed panel at the IEDC Annual Conference will inspire Economic Development leaders to implement creative economy programs and strategies to aid recovery and illuminate a path forward.”
PLANNING AND PARTNERSHIP DEVELOPMENT UNDERWAY FOR WESTAF CREATIVE ECONOMY CONVENING IN SEPTEMBER (DH)
The Creative Economy Coalition has agreed to work with WESTAF on co-developing a session focused on networks in the creative economy for our creative economy convening in September. Arizona State University’s Herberger Center for Design and the Arts has also agreed to co-create a session with WESTAF for this convening focused on creative work. An initial list of 65 invitees (speakers and participants) has been developed, and the Convenings Team (Leah, Sam, Natalie Scherlong, and David) will meet later this month to begin planning the event and draw in the CVSuite team thereafter.
WESTAF PARTICIPATES IN NEW CULTURAL ADVOCACY GROUP INCLUSION COMMITTEE (DH)
Since February, David has been serving on an Inclusion Committee set up by the Cultural Advocacy Group to implement new practices, including mandatory-for-membership shared agreements (adapted from WESTAF’s shared agreements and other models), new member orientation, and other practices aimed at transforming the culture of the group to be more inclusive of an expanded network and better manage conflict. The group recently shared their findings and launched these new processes and we continue to repair the harm caused to current and former members.
WESTAF IN DISCUSSION WITH ASU HERBERGER CENTER FOR DESIGN AND THE ARTS ABOUT FACILITATING EXCHANGE BETWEEN LC NETWORK AND PROJECTING ALL VOICES ALUMNI (DH)
David met with Jen Cole, Gabriela Munoz, and Yolotzi Lopez Ortega of ASU Herberger to continue conversations on potential partnerships on Monday, April 26. In addition to collaborating on a session on creative work at the WESTAF creative economy convening in September, we discussed ways that we can connect the Leaders of Color Network with ASU’s Projecting All Voices alumni and Arizona Commission on the Arts’ Creating Values cohort in order to facilitate interconnections between networks of BIPOC arts administrators and BIPOC artists in Arizona and the South West. Their team is considering making a modest initial investment to kick things off with a first virtual gathering before the end of June. The Mellon Projecting All Voices Fellowship and Visiting Artist Series is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and provides opportunities for BIPOC artists and culture workers to advance ideas and projects that investigate race, identity, cultural heritage, power, policy, ability and/or place and community.
WESTAF AWARDED OVER $1.7 MILLION FOR REGRANTING IN THE REGION AND THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS THROUGH ARTS ENDOWMENT AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN FUNDS (DH)
On Wednesday April 28, WESTAF was notified that we will be distributing $1,592,100 to western states, and an additional $171,900 to the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The team is currently discussing program design for these grant funds as we close out the CNMI CARES Relief Fund for Artists and Organizations in the next few weeks.
FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION (AH)
Amy, Becky, Christian and program staff attended a federal funding webinar focused on federal audits. It was very informative and we expect WESTAF to be subject to a federal audit in the years to come. USBank has reached out to us regarding the process to get the second PPP loan forgiven. Amy will be compiling this information as soon as we’re able to submit. We have uploaded our final tax 990 tax documents to the Guidestar portal, making this information available to the public. We have now been awarded a silver seal of transparency on the Guidestar site. Establishing a plan to handle the many boxes of paper in our office and storage room by shredding, scanning or moving to a new storage space. Departments will determine what we keep and what we destroy based on our document retention policy. Reviewing the position descriptions of coordinators with their supervisors to confirm exempt or non-exempt status of each position. Amy & Becky had an Insights review discussion and spent some time reviewing big projects that may be coming our way. The F&A team will be coordinating to ensure coverage during a vacation for Lauren and a house move for Becky. In addition, Jess will be shifting to the Office Coordinator position following Janae’s departure, and Lauren is recruiting for a new finance coordinator. Becca is managing multiple staff transitions. It’s a very busy spring for the department!
STRATEGIC PLANNING COHORTS (NS)
The communications cohort continues the research phase of our year. The cohort has put together a WESTAF survey that will help inform our research for WESTAF’s rebrand. The survey is currently in review until Monday, May 10. In other news, new staff member Blair Carpenter will be joining the communications cohort team. She will be onboarded and begin her tenure at our next meeting. The policy cohort met on April 20 to discuss the projects we will be undertaking, now that the scoping document has been more or less finalized. The cohort decided that creating the Regional Partner Handbook will be our next project, with the goal of providing resources for State Arts Agencies and other state arts advocacy groups. To begin with a better understanding of these organizations, David gave a presentation to the cohort with information about each of the Western state’s advocacy groups. Our next meeting will take place on May 18 to discuss how we will move forward with the project.
GENERAL BUSINESS (CV)
We’re excited to welcome two new customer experience coordinators to WESTAF, Paul Barrow and Lilly Gately. The part-time team provides artist support and backup team support for CaFE and ZAPP, and now that Tess was promoted to a full-time position, we needed to fill that role. We’ve recently wrapped our Quarterly Business Recap (QBR) for the second quarter and plan to share out that information in the board book for the May meeting. Christina will also meet with Network Solutions, our domain management company, next week to update protections for some of our domains and release others we no longer need.
The CaFE job posting for the position of operations coordinator is open. The team is gearing up to release the new admin interface in the next four to six weeks and the team is busy testing all phases of the project as well as preparing customers on what to expect. There are also new customer experience hires so the team is filling in where we can to help with onboarding and training the new staff.
CVSuite will launch the next Creative Vitality List — “Six Can’t Miss Public Art Stops of the Southwest” — in the coming days. Sam, Lori and Kelly have been working to write and finalize the copy, update the WordPress, and organize the campaign for the launch. In addition, we conducted a client onboarding with CACHE arts, our newest client and are working on scheduling an onboarding with Arkansans for the Arts as well as a Data Workshop for two organizations combined. We have a demo scheduled with Rachel Morgan and Nebraska Arts Council who have inquired about the tool for their art districts program. After the CVList launches, the team will begin to focus their attention on the Data Education project and the newly-scoped influencer distribution program.
GO SMART (JG)
Jessica has been busy updating several operational processes to fall in line with the business project manager’s standardization goals. Natalie S. is working with the GO team to create the newest blog by gathering responses from a handful of clients about their work in grant making and how they integrate GO Smart in that work. We discovered an instance of over 100 fake applicant accounts registered at Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Department’s GO Smart site. In response, we added a captcha to the registration process.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE (LG)
PAA has recently been in conversation with Laura Malcuso, an independent researcher interested in collaborating on a special project featuring the now defunct CETA Murals that were part of New Haven’s public art programming in the 70s and 80s. The first selection committee meeting for WESTAF’s Women’s Suffrage Mural Project convened on Wednesday. Committee members seemed excited about the project and submissions received. Finalists, to be chosen at the next meeting, will be paid honorariums prior to the final selection for the commission.
The ZAPP team has been working hard on a release for the end of the month! We have updated our artist help center to be searchable and explain all sections of our site more thoroughly. This is the first major overhaul of artist help material in years. In addition to the help center upgrade, we have also released two exciting new features! ZAPP events can now use one application to collect artist and non-artist vendors applications, with the option to collect images for only artists. This would allow an event to collect food vendor applications and artist applications in one streamlined place. We also released a new gallery feature where ZAPP will create an artwork gallery of participating artists that includes their images, names, medium and websites! This feature will be free for 2021 and is optional for artists to participate. See a demo version HERE!