Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: November 16, 2020

By November 16, 2020No Comments

Hello WESTAF trustees:

Still happily recalling our October trustees virtual meetings and gatherings. They were productive and a lot of fun. We continue to navigate a bizarre world, even as we experience moments of beauty and hope. Virtual works great, but I am rooting for a time, hopefully soon, when we can be together again, in person, in a special western place. For now though, here’s what’s up at WESTAF:


Her nomination being ratified at the October board meeting, we’re thrilled to welcome new trustee Tatiana Gant, executive director of the Montana Arts Council. Tatiana began her career as a visual artist and has worked in schools and communities as a teaching artist. Her roles in nonprofit organizations span program design, resource development, and management. Tatiana entered state government as a grant officer, leading work across state agencies to advance arts learning. Her most recent position was executive director of the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Tatiana has served on a variety of national committees and review panels. She joined the Montana Arts Council in 2017. Welcome, Tatiana!


The Center for Cultural Innovation and Hewlett Foundation invited WESTAF to review and provide comments on a forthcoming research report to be released by the Urban Institute that identifies policy options to strengthen protections for artist workers and workers across industries. 


WESTAF recently submitted a draft report that draws together the findings from the second phase of strategic plan implementation workshops with SFCA, and held a follow-up meeting with SFCA’s leadership team and the new leaders of its strategic plan cohorts to discuss next steps. WESTAF will continue to be involved in conversations with the SFCA about process and progress, including upcoming cohort and full team meetings, impact measurement, and strengthening equitable practices. 


WESTAF recently concluded a series of sessions with arts advocacy groups in Colorado aimed at aligning strategies, considering opportunities for partnership between key organizations, and determining a unified strategy for the upcoming legislative session and beyond. WESTAF’s approach to supporting the arts and broader creative economy in Colorado through advocacy funding will evolve based on the outcomes of this process. 


The CVSuite team recently submitted six of the twelve case studies we are developing for review by NASAA’s research and leadership teams. These case studies explore creative economy development in Bellevue Washington with a focus on the gaming industry and a growing immigrant population; the Creative Communities program in Arizona; the growing live music and food industries and “creative ecosystem building” in Oklahoma; Nebraska’s “creative surge;” culture as an economic driver in western Massachusetts; and private sector led creative economy development in Northwest Arkansas. Across the six case studies, the emerging themes as articulated by interviewees are “creative communities,” business attraction, small business development, talent attraction and retention, economic diversification, cultural tourism, and workforce development. To date, we have conducted nine interviews with colleagues across the nation, most recently with the Northwest Arkansas Regional Arts Service Organization, a program of the Walton Family Foundation, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Appalachian Tennessee, and Mountain Stage in West Virginia. We are currently identifying contacts to interview in Minnesota and Georgia and will be interviewing contacts in Maryland this week. Drafting of the final six case studies will begin this week along with any additional data analysis. Indiana University has produced a report of their preliminary findings, which explore the relationship between the creative economy and larger economy in states, and the results have the potential to be groundbreaking.


The National Endowment for the Arts Accessibility team, with support from NASAA, is hosting a series of accessibility peer sessions in November for state arts agency and regional arts organization staff that explore ways of strengthening this vital work within organizations and in their work with the broader field. WESTAF facilitated a session with accessibility coordinators from state arts agencies in the region to explore ways of advancing this work, including the possibility of organizing a convening for this network led by arts leaders with accessibility needs. Accessibility coordinators also shared their needs and concerns in terms of operationalizing Arts Endowment requirements; reshaping the accessibility coordinator role; and generating buy-in from senior leadership. The group also discussed the possibility of WESTAF providing additional resources, including ongoing network meetings and knowledge about engaging the disability community more meaningfully. 


The partnership to manage the CARES Act relief funds with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Arts Council continues to proceed. In order to support and outline the partnership, WESTAF leadership has recently shared a memorandum of understanding with Parker Yobei, the CNMI Arts Council executive director. WESTAF’s SRI team launched the CNMI CARES Relief Fund for Organizations on its GO Smart platform in August 2020 and is set to open the CNMI CARES Relief Fund for Artists, pending approval of the plan by the Arts Endowment, in the coming week. To this point, the CNMI Fund for Organizations has offered three organizations a total of $35,000 in relief. Artist relief funds will be made to individuals whose projects have been impacted by the pandemic. Funds will be awarded in the range of $2,500 to $5,000, on a first come, first served basis. While the WESTAF grants management team has been accepting and reviewing applications from organizations on a rolling basis, we will now begin to adjudicate all CNMI CARES applications on a quarterly basis moving forward. Applications are reviewed based on eligibility, demonstrated need, commitment to arts and culture, and public benefit. 


Over the course of the past fiscal year, WESTAF’s Social Responsibility and Inclusion division has been working with the Leaders of Color Advisory Committee to learn about the needs and interests of the committee’s alumni. Many expressed interest in sharing knowledge, skills, and experiences with each other in more formalized ways. For many years, alumni have gathered to catch up every few months over Zoom. Recently, irregular “check in” calls have transitioned into quarterly “skillshare” workshops. Ashanti McGee (ELC14/NV) kicked off this new format in late October, offering a workshop about how artists and nonprofits can gain support from their congressional representatives’ offices. The next skillshare workshop is slated for January 2021 with a proposed topic of arts marketing best practices with Victoria Gonzalez (ELC18/CO). 


Pleased to report that our letter of interest to this foundation was accepted last week and we’ve been invited to submit an application. Our proposal will focus on gathering, researching, and publishing activities focusing on rural arts, creative economy, cultural policy, and arts advocacy. WESTAF conducts a variety of special projects and professional development opportunities for agencies, organizations, and arts professionals in the 13 western states. In addition to professional development gatherings in 2021, like our state arts agency Executive Director Forum (January), our Arts Leadership and Advocacy Seminar (February), and our Leaders of Color Institute and rural arts meeting (both early spring), we’re also excited about an upcoming creative economy symposium planned for September, 2021.


Amy is working to hand off more financial closeout work to Becky starting in December, which requires a shift in her role and how she works with Lauren and Jess. Therefore, the F&A team is working with Val Atkin this month to refresh the Enneagram personality typing and how to use that as a tool to strengthen departmental communication. In Finance, the year-end schedules for FY20 are being completed and will be uploaded to the auditor site on Monday, 11/16. The auditing team then reviews the documents prior to their fieldwork starting on 11/30. The team is excited to have this (most time-intensive!) part of the audit process completed! Amy is working with Christina on pressure points between the ZAPP and Finance teams and looking for ways to ease some time-sensitive stress on both teams. In HR/Ops, Becca is working with Amy & Christina on addressing some office management issues due to the staff working virtually and solutions have been discussed and will be implemented soon. The entire staff was trained on the new Insights feedback tool and they are populating the system with their responsibilities, goals and progress made, which will be discussed with their supervisors in November and December. 


The Policy cohort is working with David Holland to fine-tune the final changes to their scoping docs. The cohort will be meeting within the next two weeks to finalize and discuss all three documents. The Communications cohort has met with two of their TAs so far and will be scheduling an introductory session with their third and final TA in the coming weeks. In the meantime, they are dedicating their next meeting to kicking off their OKR project plan. Members of the Business cohort are starting the process of mapping all of the projects that their programs are working on and identifying how these may connect to the larger work of the cohort. 


We’ve begun the process of porting over our phone lines from Comcast to Zoom, and we’ll be adding in all staff so everyone can use Zoom Phone to make and receive work calls. We hope to have this process completed by the end of the month. 


The CaFE team completed tests on the first round of admin UI improvements. Adam and the BRI team are preparing for transitioning CaFE’s payment processor from PayPal to Braintree, which is slated to occur this month. So far this month, CaFE’s signed up five new clients and renewed ten clients.


CVSuite has signed a contract for the Boise City Department of Arts and History. They have pivoted from purchasing three Specialized Impact Reports to one COVID-19 report and one Specialized Impact Report. We’re also in conversation with Nevada Arts Council as a potential new client. Both Nevada and Boise are interested in working with the CVS team on a more in-depth and tailored data strategy and creative economy workshop for their users. Trevor continues to work on the 2020.3 data update tentatively scheduled for early December, and we’re waiting on a quote from Zing for this work. 


We are releasing a major enhancement to our media tools next week with dozens of changes to the site. These include language regarding the Media tools (Work Sample and Bank to become Media, Files, and Library wherever the terminology exists), changes to the UX/UI of buttons, explanations, and other aesthetics, and most importantly, the advent of a Return to Application button that will allow the applicant to navigate directly back to the grant application in which they are working after they upload desired media to their library. We are spending most of the week crafting pre- and post-communications, including two newsletters, two videos, several GIFs and a webinar, as well as updating tutorials and videos. 


PAA presented three virtual exhibitions Lori has been working on to internal staff. While these exhibitions are currently in the final stages of drafting and have not been published widely, they include: Lives that Bind for Santa Monica Cultural Affairs (SMCA), Power Map and This We Believe for Mural Arts Philadelphia and provide new customized virtual experiences that fall outside PAA’s existing technical infrastructure. The next step in the development of these programs is to create an artist roster for SMCA after a new call to artists runs through the CaFE system and begin to develop a portfolio for this service on the PAA site. 


We are working on our first round of projections in FY21 for ZAPP cash flow. While we are seeing more clients renew than in prior months, we anticipate many events are delaying their normal application launches until at least January because of lingering uncertainty around hosting in-person events. Mareike has also drafted a solutions document of possible ways the ZAPP and finance teams can onboard more ZAPP clients onto EFT to receive their monthly remittances electronically instead of by check. Our goal is to have 99% of customers adopt EFT by the end of the fiscal year. 

Respectfully submitted,