Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: November 2, 2020

By November 2, 2020No Comments

Dear WESTAF board of trustees:

Thank you all so, so much for the generous allotment of your valuable time and for the thoughts and feedback at the various meetings and gatherings of the WESTAF annual board of trustees meeting last week. We will be following up with a few requested items this week from our discussions. Mostly though, I wanted to hold the space this week to send positive signals for the most important election of our lifetime. It was really wonderful to be with you as a community for the lead up to this week. For now, I’ll leave you with this wonderful quotation that WESTAF-er Eliza Weatherill shared with the equity cohort last week:

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”Sonya Renee Taylor


Here’s a New York Times article published last week featuring extensive information on Joe Biden’s support and involvement in the arts with featured quotes by Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L Lynch and Nina Ozlu Tunceli, Executive Director of the Arts Action Fund.


On Friday, October 30, David, representing WESTAF, attended the Cultural Advocacy Group meetings for the first time, after being invited to join by the convener, Heather Noonan, VP for advocacy with the League of American Orchestras. CAG, as it is widely called, is the forum through which the national cultural service organizations develop a united federal agenda for the United States. The group is currently finalizing a national policy agenda to share with the incoming administration, building on successful work done in engaging the transition team for the Obama administration. This group sets the budget requests for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities each year, develops legislative proposals, maintains relationships with congressional leadership, and represents the field in complex policy matters including artist mobility. The group includes the National Coalition for Art’s Preparedness & Emergency Response (NCAPER), Phi Beta Kappa, the Recording Academy, the National Art Education Association, Theatre Communications Group, the National Council for the Traditional Arts, Alliance of Artists Communities, American Alliance of Museums, Americans for the Arts, League of American Orchestras, National Humanities Alliance, the National Network for Folk Arts in Education, the International Association of Blacks in Dance, Federation of State Humanities Councils, LitNet: the Literary Arts Network, Dance/USA, OPERA America, Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP), CERF+ The Artists Safety, the Association of Art Museum Directors, NASAA, and others.


Christian and David recently met with Parker Yobei, Executive Director of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) Arts Council, and Jillette Leon-Gurerro, Executive Director of the Guam Arts & Humanities Council, to discuss the evolution of their agencies in the current climate and the potential to engage with WESTAF’s regional network. Even with budget pressures and reduced staffing, these agencies continue to serve their constituents and reshape their roles to be impactful. We hope to continue conversations with our colleagues in American Samoa soon. Madalena and David have developed a draft MOU with CNMI Arts Council. The MOU more clearly defines roles and responsibilities for the administration of CARES Act funding while presenting possible new directions in WESTAF’s collaboration with CNMI, including their participation in regional programming. In the coming months, the team will develop a provisional structure in the form of MOUs or a charter membership in dialogue with the Pacitfic territorial arts agencies and submit these to the board for consideration. 


On Thursday, October 29 and Friday October 30, Kaisha Johnson, founder and founding director of Women of Color in the Arts (WOCA), led a two-day equity focused convening with the SAA performing arts network, performing arts consortia partners, and TourWest panelists. The session aimed to build community and facilitate active listening and authentic conversation while entering into deep work on implicit bias, institutional and structural racism, privilege, the distinction between equality and equity, and a range of other topics. Following a survey of the 18 participants, Kaisha and the SRI team will meet to discuss future directions for this work with our regional performing arts network. 


On Tuesday, October 27, with the approval of the Executive Committee on behalf of the board of trustees, WESTAF announced the 39 organizations across the region that were selected to receive Regional Arts Resilience Fund grants. Awards were made in amounts ranging from $30,000 to $74,000, totalling over $1.7 million. This award was made available by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, and was designed to mitigate the financial threat to the sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty experts in the field of arts in culture met across two panels to help establish funding priorities. A full list of grantees and panelists can be found here. Disbursement of the funds begins November 2020.


On Wednesday, October 28, WESTAF released the posting and position description for the Director of Social Responsibility and Inclusion to staff and the following day posted it on the WESTAF website and on the job listings of the Colorado Nonprofit Association, APAP, AFTA, Change Philanthropy, Philanthropy News Digest, and Idealist. Please share this opportunity with your networks. Applications are being accepted until November 30, 2020. With support from a review committee composed of staff, trustees, and representatives from key regional networks, we hope to identify an individual to fulfill this crucial role by the end of January 2021.


After the half-day retreat last week, Amy & Becca now have confirmed the short and longer-term priorities for operations and human resources for the new fiscal year. Lauren and Jess begin the November check run next week and will have completed most of their audit tasks by the end of October. Amy and Becky then have two weeks to complete all audit adjustments, schedules, and upload documents to the audit site by November 16. So far, everything is on track for that deadline.


The September year-end cash financials show a stronger cash position than expected with a surplus of $717,000. Throughout the summer, the projections estimated a $550,000 surplus but with the plans for the Mellon and CARES funding solidified as well as conservative spending and income projections, we have exceeded those expectations. The September cash flow summary and memo were shared with the full board in the October board meeting book and are linked here for your reference. Full projections for the new fiscal year begin in mid-November. The audit will be completed in January and will translate the cash financials into the accrual method of accounting.


Here is Regional Arts Organization (RAO)s’ updated Fall activity report. This report is shared with the Arts Endowment, AFTA and NASAA. Cynthia Steele will officially begin her work as the new RAO Coordinator on November 1.


Mountain Time Arts, a Bozeman-based public arts organization, is seeking an executive director to lead their organization into its next phase of growth. This is an exceptional opportunity to find a leader for an organization that has worked hard to build its success through a deep commitment to collaboration. Perhaps you may have good insight on where we could share this announcement, or are interested in spreading the word within your networks. You can find out more about Mountain Time Arts, as well to access and share the link to the job posting here. If you have someone specific in mind, please let them know—they are eager to find a candidate with deep ties and/or demonstrated abilities in working with Indigenous and under-represented communities.


Looking ahead into FY21, the Communications Cohort is revamping their approach to their OKRs to include milestones and measurable objectives for their key results. The cohort will also be implementing actionable steps into their Asana tasks, as well as adding timelines and quarterly deadlines for their FY21 objectives. The Policy Cohort is continuing its work around its scoping documents, and teams will be meeting over the next week to finalize any remaining changes. Once the scoping documents are complete, the Cohort will reconvene to begin combining its three documents into one overall Policy Cohort scoping document. 


The business department recently recapped its quarter four financial and operational progress.


The CaFE team signed a Canadian arts services organization in October, Biafarin Inc. One of its reasons for signing with CaFE is because of our reputation for having the greatest artist reach. While not breaking news by any means, this is a sign that the arts are struggling with low applicant numbers. Ken Cho, our sales coordinator is doing an excellent job of keeping up with the influx of leads. We had 43 in October, with 7 that were converted to new clients. Additionally, Ken has upcoming demos with the Phillips Collection and LexArts. Finally, the new CaFE admin UI is on track and currently in testing mode with the team.


CVSuite has begun major work on the NASAA Creative Economy Recovery Project. David and Trevor have prepared the preliminary case study analysis and have begun tracking the data and their findings. Kelly and David have begun the process of interviewing candidates. We have a total of seven interviews that have already taken place and five still to be scheduled. Sam and Laurel are writing up the case studies for those that are complete. In other news, the CVS Team is diving into a sales process overhaul.  Natalie has developed a project plan for transitioning our user guide into our sales site which will be the first step in kicking off the sales process project. 


GO Smart has completed two hours of training for 16 administrators at the City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture. Though the agency has been a client since 2015, COVID has seen a lot of turnover and reassignment, and this training brought the whole team up to speed. Intensive work continues on the media tools overhaul and Jessica Gronich and Jon Cantwell have spent hours working through the initial draft of testing and have completed the first round of testing notes and next steps. The GO Smart team’s time has also been spent largely on internal operations, such as closing out FY20 and setting up the new Insights software.  


PAA launched a virtual exhibition, Lives That Bind: a restorative justice installation, in partnership with Santa Monica Cultural Affairs. The exhibition, physically located in a wing of Santa Monica’s City Hall, is not currently open to the public, and the virtual exhibition page on PAA will help bring additional attention to additional customized projects that PAA can continue to develop. In addition to Lives That Bind, PAA is finalizing content and layout on Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Power Map: Historical Mural Activations, a digital experience built to deepen engagement with and archive a project organized by Mural Arts and curated by Daniel Tucker. PAA has been awarded the Los Alamos public art contract, but the contract is contingent on WESTAF receiving a certificate to conduct business in the State of New Mexico, which required a registered agent. If this paperwork is completed successfully, Los Alamos will be PAA’s second sale of FY21.


The FY21 budget was unanimously approved by the ZAPP Oversight Committee, the group made up of the managing partner (WESTAF, represented by Christian), a partner member, and an artist (member from the community). There will not be a partner payout in FY21, so the group did not have to approve that portion as they normally would. We sent our quarterly newsletter, which featured a report of findings from a survey about artist perspectives on virtual events that we conducted with The Art of Events. You can read some of the key findings by clicking here. We’re also slated to release on Tuesday an enhancement to ZAPP that allows events to have a virtual gallery of artists who applied to their event. This enhancement is still in the first phase and won’t be announced publicly until we work out some operational items to ensure this rollout goes smoothly. 

Respectfully submitted,