Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: October 5, 2020

By October 5, 2020No Comments

Hello WESTAF board of trustees:

Welcome to the first biweekly of FY21. As you can guess, the biggest news of the past two weeks was learning about Chrissy Deal’s departure from WESTAF and her new role at the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation. As I mentioned in my 9/23 email to you all with this news, Chrissy has not just transformed WESTAF through her leadership during her seven years serving the organization, most recently as Director of Social Responsibility and Inclusion, she has devoted much of her career advocating for greater representation of communities of color in the nonprofit arts, culture, and philanthropy worlds in Colorado and beyond. Chrissy’s last day at WESTAF is this coming Friday, 10/9, and there are some additional operational details about this transition in her last update below, with more to come from us in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, here’s the latest from WESTAF:


Christian is excited to report that he has been elected to serve on the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies’ (NASAA) board of directors with a term beginning in October, 2020. Christian will join WESTAF trustees Cyndy Andrus, Karen Hanan, and Michael Faison on the NASAA board. He’s proud and humbled to represent the WESTAF organization, and by extension our western region as well as our sister regional arts organizations (RAO), on the board. This is a pretty big step for WESTAF.


This past week, David and Christian met with a delegation assembled by NASAA that included the US territories of Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) and Puerto Rico, as well as the six RAOs, in a NASAA facilitated conversation around how the US territories can more fully benefit from the regional network of programs and activities, up to and including actually becoming members of an RAO. In the case of WESTAF, these territories would include Guam, American Samoa and CNMI. You may recall that this conversation has been briefly floated with WESTAF trustees previously. David and Christian are initiating a further conversation with the three Pacific Island territories to more fully explore the opportunities and challenges of what a kind of PI-charter membership in WESTAF may look like.


WESTAF has been invited to submit a proposal for funding to the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, based in Vancouver, WA. We provided their Executive Director Steve Moore with four different thumbnail WESTAF funding scenarios, and our best thinking is to submit this proposal: 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) and our Arts Leadership and Advocacy Seminar (February), 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. WESTAF recently published an Arts + the Rural West Session Report, an outcome of our 2020 convening. Our research work in rural arts, creative economy, and arts advocacy could all be enhanced and accelerated through some carefully directed funding from the Trust.


Planning for our second virtual trustees meeting continues. You can see our draft agenda coming together here. The October meeting is traditionally our annual meeting, where we will review and approve the annual operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In addition, we will have a day of committee meetings, a new board member orientation, and then be joined by staff and our EIC members-at-large for an equity-focused workshop on October 28. Then the trustees meeting on October 29 will be capped off by a Zoom happy hour when we will bid a fond farewell to departing trustees Joaquin Herranz, Jr. and Michael Faison. You won’t want to miss it!


The Development Committee hosted the very first ArtX presentation for trustees, featuring demographer and statistician Michael Seman presenting on his paper, co-authored with Richard Florida, Lost Art: Measuring COVID-19’s devastating impact on America’s Creative Economy. Everyone on the Zoom presentation agreed that it was a fascinating (if sobering) presentation and ensuing conversation. Thank you to Karen Hanan, Ann Hudner, and the whole Development Committee for hatching the ArtX concept — a great professional learning supplement in this in-person-less virtual age for the board of trustees. The session was recorded in its entirety, and we’ll make sure that we distribute it to our trustees and staff soon.


In case you missed it, Creative Vitality List #2 launched on Wednesday, just in time to close out the fiscal year with a bang. The team will soon begin work on a presentation that recaps reach and engagement for the campaign, including social media activity, partner shares, and media hits. The MarComm team continues to make changes to and will be releasing a brand new homepage, as well as a new RAO page this week. The team is also heavy into planning for FY21, working on finalizing draft marketing plans for CaFE, CVSuite, PAA, and GO Smart, based on the business team’s OKRs, and will also soon begin work on the Master Comm Plan, which covers communications and distribution plans for programs and services under the SRI and AAP divisions, as well as WESTAF’s regular communications, including the new WESTAF Now. The team is currently working with a print vendor to produce a small run of the Arts + the Rural West Seminar Session Report, so feel free to email Leah if you would like a hard copy. Finally, WESTAF staff were able to participate in another storytelling session with Common Notice exploring WESTAF’s Guiding Principles, the second in a series of five.


Welcome to the 2021 fiscal year! While we have already entered the new year, the FY21 budget was approved by the Executive Committee in September and will be reviewed by the full board at the October meeting. Throughout October and November, Becky, Lauren, and Amy switch gears to focus on closing out the prior year and prepare for the audit. Audit fieldwork generally happens the first two weeks of December. The good news is that since there are more accrual adjustments happening each month, the year-end preparation is less intense than in years past! Becca is updating the payroll system with the new pay and benefit rates for FY21 as well as compiling year-end staff allocations on each project. The Leadership team has been trained on the new management and feedback tool called Insights. This will help ensure all staff goals are directly connected to the strategic plan. It also creates a structure for managers to provide clear and consistent feedback to their teams—as well as collect feedback from other staff! Once the leadership team has worked with the tool for a few weeks, all full-time staff will be trained on it and it will be fully implemented in the next two months. An update about the Paycheck Protection Program: USBank has approved WESTAF’s application for loan forgiveness and now the Small Business Administration has 90 days to review and approve. We have every reason to think our loan will be forgiven—but it appears that it will happen officially in FY21.


David was invited to develop and moderate a panel on “Grassroots Advocacy that’s Timely and Powerful” as part of the Arts Midwest + WAA joint virtual performing arts conference “Meeting the Moment. Together.” The panel features Julie Baker, WAAN co-chair, and executive director, California Arts Advocates; Heather Noonan, vice president of advocacy, League of American Orchestras and convener of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition; and Hal Real, founder and president, World Cafe Live, board chair of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and board member of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). The panel explores lessons learned about grassroots arts advocacy during the pandemic, the effectiveness and impact of arts advocacy in these times, and the growing role of the commercial sector in arts advocacy. The pre-recorded panel, along with a virtual real time Q&A, will air on Wednesday, October 7 from 11:00 a.m. to 12 noon Mountain Time for conference attendees.


The planning and development phase of the creative economy and recovery research project with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) and Indiana University Public Policy Institute (IUPUI) is complete, and the CVSuite team is poised to enter the research phase during which we will be conducting data analysis and a series of interviews to develop content for creative economy and recovery case studies. Case studies from 15 states will be developed (12 by WESTAF and 3 by IUPUI), and the states currently selected are Hawai’i, Arizona, Washington, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maryland, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Minnesota.


California Arts Council has requested another technical assistance project focused on exploring models of supporting arts and mental health initiatives in rural communities, which is currently in development. AAP has also produced a briefing for WESTAF leadership and the other regional arts organizations (RAOs) that presents findings from a series of interviews conducted with arts leaders regionally and nationally to gather insights and test and garner feedback on a prospective national arts and community initiative being considered by RAOs. 


Laurel and David met virtually on September 28 for an APP division retreat to discuss FY21 strategy and planning and creatively brainstorm new ways of engaging key stakeholders, improving processes, and working with other WESTAF teams to advance the organization’s mission. 


The Policy cohort and their TAs had their first meeting. The cohort and TAs spent time introducing themselves and getting to know each other better, before moving on to topics like the scope of work that the cohort had taken on since its inception, along with the three key areas they were currently focusing on. The cohort also gave background on the Stories of Resilience project they had been working on, adding that materials for all 23 stories had been compiled and the cohort was working with the marketing and communications team to get the project ready to be shared on the WESTAF website. The Communications cohort met to brainstorm what topics they wanted to cover in their first meeting with their TAs that would be happening on October 5. From a scoping doc refresh, to a guide of the cohort’s OKRs and prioritized initiatives, the cohort hopes to brainstorm ways to integrate the TAs into this process and the best ways to utilize their expertise. 


WESTAF’s partnership with South Arts for their inaugural Emerging Leaders of Color (ELC) program experienced a major milestone in the past week. Madalena Salazar led the South Arts ELC participant selection process, which involved ELC faculty member Salvador Acevedo and two South Arts colleagues. Drawing from approximately 100 applicants, invitations will be sent to 12 individuals from Alabama (2), Georgia (1), Kentucky (2), Louisiana (1), Mississippi (1), North Carolina (2), South Carolina (2) and Tennessee (1) the first week of October. The virtual program will span 3 days—December 3, 4 & 9, 2020—and will feature lectures and interactive and social elements. We will be sure to share additional details about the participants, agenda, and guest faculty/presenters in the coming weeks.


Just a friendly reminder to get your daily dose of performing arts from the comfort of your office chair via the Kennedy Center’s Arts Across America series, which continues into December. WESTAF-region states are typically featured on Fridays, although we have been afforded a few extra days due to our size as well. A big thanks to Lani Morris, who is working to secure additional National Endowment for the Arts funds for featured organizations like the Western Folklife Center in Nevada, Out North in Alaska, Youth on Record in Colorado, Pasifika First Fridays and Nurture the Creative Mind in Utah, and the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon.


Chrissy Deal has been working in collaboration with David Holland, Madalena Salazar, and Lani Morris to ensure a smooth transition upon her departure on October 9. Chrissy has a number of meetings planned with the team in her final week to review outstanding projects and commitments and field any questions regarding SRI-related work. She has also committed to supporting Madalena and David on the WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund into mid-October on a limited contract basis.


We submitted an application for an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Imagine grant, which, if received, would provide $100,000 in unrestricted funding and $100,000 in AWS promotional credits. The award will offset our expenses for all five of our SaaS platforms hosted on AWS cloud. We also believe the additional funding would support our ongoing work to improve each product line in preparation for the post-pandemic market without having to raise prices for our customers. Notifications of the grant awards will be announced in November. Wish us luck! 


The CaFE team has come up with a third pricing tier for clients such as government entities needing a fixed rate. For a flat cost of $5,800, organizations can issue up to five calls during an annual term. The cost is all-inclusive (setup, call, and bulk per-app fee). The state of New Jersey is the first customer within this new pricing. The new admin Help Center launched Oct 1, and now admins can more easily search for help by topic within a dynamic interface.


CVSuite launched the latest Creative Vitality List campaign, The Top 10 Music Cities You Need to Know About. The campaign has gathered a lot of interest, including that of Music Cities Together, an initiative uniting music economies in cities across the US to understand policy initiatives and data strategy. The CVS team has been invited to present the campaign on their live webinar on Friday, 10/2. We also negotiated a lower total cost for the 2020-2023 contract with our data provider Emsi. Trevor has begun preparations for the 2020.3 data update with a target date of early-mid December. 


Jessica worked with several clients to expedite as many pending GO Smart payments as possible during the final week of September, but more than $30,000 in FY20 payments will arrive in FY21, as happens most years. Clients continue to add COVID programs, increasing our unexpected revenue. The tech team is still working on the HTML/PDF explanation modals work mentioned in the last update, and has also begun a very exciting enhancement to the Work Samples tools. This enhancement will make it easier for applicants to return to applications from their media bank and will update the outdated vocabulary that surrounds these tools. For example, the usage of “work samples” and “bank” will be replaced with “media” and “library” to align us more with industry norms. 


Lori held meetings with the Cultural Planning Group (public arts and culture consulting group) and the City of Glendale, AZ to discuss the potential sales of PAA products and services and finalized the sale and contractual process with the City of Alexandria, VA. PAA is waiting to hear whether Los Alamos County has decided to use PAA as their CMS and public access point as well. We will be working with a new developer on the public access portals—to be determined by the technology director in the coming weeks.


ZAPP processed 38 contract renewals in the month of September, the highest of any month since January. Many customers have expressed interest in renewing, which is a promising sign, though we expect timelines to be delayed as events determine the feasibility of holding an event in 2021. We ended the year with 2% fewer clients and 3% fewer shows, figures that may grow as we get closer to 2021. Most of the events that stopped using ZAPP did so because of the impact of COVID-19. We also closed out the fiscal year with about 21% fewer artist submissions and an increase of more than 2,000% in refunds we processed through ZAPP compared to FY19. 

Respectfully Submitted,