Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Update: October 18, 2021

By October 19, 2021No Comments

October 18, 2021

Dear WESTAF Community:

The first fortnight of our new fiscal year concluded this Friday with a fabulous virtual “Meet the SRI Team” confab that was both hilarious and informative! Thank you, Anika, Ashanti and Jade Elyssa for the fun times, and we can’t wait to meet you in person in a few weeks! In other news, I’m so excited about the WESTAF Women’s Suffrage Mural. There’s more information about this project below, but check out this awesome PAA site that Lori Goldstein put together to map its progress. A reminder that this Wednesday, 10/20, is International Pronouns Day, which seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. Don’t forget to register. Also, be sure to read Teniqua’s memo in preparation for the board meeting, part of an ongoing Language Matters Learning Series coming to you this upcoming year. And, exciting things are afoot with the WESTAF website! We are so excited to be getting together in a few weeks, in-person and virtually, for WESTAF’s annual board of trustees meeting and related activities. It’s shaping up to be such a rich experience! Read on…

We have an action-packed week beginning on Monday, 10/25, with a virtual and in-person all-staff meeting convening at the Alliance Center, our new gathering space. This will be an opportunity for the team to check in, say hi, and reconnect. We’ll also have a chance to go over the board book and zero in on what the trustees will be reviewing later in the week at the board meeting. On Tuesday, 10/26, the executive committee will have the first of two planned meetings for the week. This will be followed by some time for our early-in-town guests exploring the new Meow Wolf Denver — Convergence Station (thank you, trustee Garbett!), followed by the Equity Dinner at the Nickel, a gathering of members of the EIC committee, the executive committee, the SRI Team, ELC Alumni, new WESTAF trustees, and other special guests. Wednesday 10/27 will see the executive committee meeting (part 2), the equity and inclusion committee and the development committee convene in-person and virtually. That Wednesday evening, the staff and the trustees will get together for cocktails, dinner and some convivial (and long overdue, but still masked-up) good cheer at a specially catered affair at the Alliance Center. The annual meeting of the board of trustees begins on Thursday morning with a packed agenda that will include an overview of FY22 Initiatives, a motion to approve the FY22 Operating Budget put forward by the executive committee, a review of our long-term investment strategy and policy, and a report from each committee. After lunch, Chris Smit and Jill Vyn from DisArt will be inviting trustees and staff to participate in a workshop focused on cultivating and communicating the experience of disability identity, community and culture. It’s going to be super! Trustees should be getting their board books towards the end of this week, so be on the lookout for that. More to come soon and huge thanks to executive coordinator Cameron Green for his great work on all of these moving pieces. Thanks, Cameron!

Anika Kwinana and Christian Gaines met with the Wallace Foundation to explore a potential grant and research program in support of small- to medium-sized arts organizations of color. In addition to the national work that Wallace is doing to understand community resilience and relevance among large arts organizations of color, Wallace has reached out to all of the regional arts organizations (RAOs) for individual conversations about a potential multi-year, multi-million dollar grant and research program. WESTAF would have autonomy in the design of the program, including the types of organizations that could be funded. Wallace anticipates that the smaller organizations would be a part of the larger study but that research questions would emerge from the work that organizations would propose to accomplish through the grant. Wallace meets with its board this month for final approvals for the program.

The US RAOs collaborative met again with the National Endowment for the Arts leadership on a pilot program to continue equitable field-building through financial assistance to qualified organizations, wraparound technical assistance, and building a community of practice with a shared focus on equity. This proposed pilot program will be designed to support organizations that have an existing commitment to equity that is clearly stated in their mission and evidenced in the diverse demographic make-up of their staff and board. The organizations will be community-centered, equity-focused entities doing impactful work in the area of achieving diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the arts. Ten organizations per region would be identified in each of the six regions, for a total of sixty organizations, each funded for a two- or three-year period. Each organization would also participate in a capacity-building program and a cohort of peer learning. The Arts Endowment has approximately $10 million to invest in this program.

On Thursday, 10/7, Moana, Christian, and David met with Tasi Sunia and Leata Te’o at the American Samoa Council on Arts, Culture and the Humanities to share information about our organizations and discuss opportunities to collaborate. On Saturday, 10/9, Moana and David met with Sandra Flores, director of Guam CAHA to discuss strategies for increasing private and federal investment for the agency and the potential of WESTAF programs to support their initiatives. The AAP team will now draft MOUs with the CNMI Arts Council, Guam CAHA, and American Samoa Council on Arts, Culture and the Humanities now that each of the three agencies has been engaged and show an interest in partnering with WESTAF. WESTAF has already begun sharing informational materials with these agencies and the SRI team has submitted a proposal to the CNMI Arts Council for the design of the CNMI ARP program.

Anika Kwinana, Ashanti McGee, Christian Gaines, and David Holland met to discuss the successes and challenges of TourWest as WESTAF’s legacy grant program. WESTAF will pause the program for the 2022 grant cycle to take a deep dive analysis into the program and to explore ways to increase WESTAF’s impact and reach in regional touring, with an emphasis on the rural west and ensuring equity. The deep dive will include surveys to past grantees, focus/advisory groups with selected past grantees, and the creation of an ad hoc committee on equitable grantmaking to ensure a strong feedback loop on the process. The announcement about the pause and the deep dive will be released in November with the official announcement of the 2021 TourWest grantees.

David and Christian attended an informational session to review the governance and operating structure of the new Creative States Coalition national advocacy group. The CSC’s mission is to serve as a coalition of state-level arts, culture, and creative industry advocacy leaders that initiates, supports, strengthens and elevates action for arts sector growth at the state and local level through collaboration, education, capacity building, and public policy development. A review of the governance structure and other information can be found in this presentation deck. The RAO collective has endorsed this effort and is considering a multi-year investment in this new advocacy framework.

WESTAF has been participating in BIPOC-Led Arts Advocacy Coalition meetings since July 2021, having been invited by the individuals and organizations leading this collective effort. The group was called by BIPOC-led national arts service organizations to address “the urgency of our times with climate, racial uprisings, economy, COVID and other pressing issues impacting BIPOC communities.” WESTAF partners NASAA, the League of American Orchestras, NALAC, and APAP have also been part of these dialogues. The group meets again on Tuesday, 10/19. As the group is at a nascent stage, please don’t share these details outside of our staff and board.

David and Randy Engstrom were invited by Ashraf Hasham and fellow co-hosts of the “Why Change?” Podcast for the Creative Generation to be interviewed about the Creative Vitality Summit. The podcast “seeks to inspire creative youth about their capabilities to affect massive change, interviewing their caring adult counterparts and creative youth development practitioners to hear about how they do what they do, and to learn about their come-ups”. A current focus of the podcast is about preparing youth for the next economy, utilizing their inherent creativity to build generational wealth for those who’ve never had access to it: youth of color furthest from educational and economic justice. The podcast will be released in the next month.

Anika Kwinana was the keynote speaker at the annual virtual conference of the Nevada Museum Association (NMA) on October 7. Building on NMA’s conference theme “We’re Back: Connecting to our Communities,” Anika’s topic was “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu: Creating Collective Spaces in the Spirit of Ubuntu.” The talk was an exploration of the concept of ubuntu (“I am because we are”) as articulated in South Africa and Anika’s experiences living there. The 60+ participants – who had gathered across Nevada individually and in small groups – were encouraged to consider the museum’s physical space as an opportunity to support the broader community in their own aspirations, de-centering the museum’s own agenda. The NMA provides support to the state’s 100+ museums by offering learning opportunities through a quarterly newsletter, annual conference and other informational workshops held throughout the year.

WESTAF continues to be engaged in federal arts advocacy and cultural policy through the efforts of coalitions that engage federal agencies and Congress on relevant issues. WESTAF has endorsed Performing Arts Visa Working Group Comments being submitted to the U.S. government on the topic of USCIS’s proposal to separate out the I-129 forms, and international artist mobility organization Tamizdat and other concerned arts organizations responses to the U.S. Department of State’s request for comments on the non-immigrant visa application form DS-160 (and its print-out corollary, the DS-156), which all O and P artist visa applicants must complete as part of their U.S. artist visa application. The recommendations seek to protect artists and make processes more administratively efficient.

On the legislative front, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) will be introducing a new legislation titled the, “Arts Education For All Act”. Let’s help her build a strong list of support for the bill in advance of her announcement. WESTAF has endorsed this new piece of legislation. We invite you to also express support for the Arts Education for All Act, which will be the broadest arts education bill ever introduced in Congress. Individuals can support the legislation by asking their members of Congress to cosponsor this bill via this Arts Action Fund alert. Representative Bonamici is one of the top champions in Congress on arts education and equitable access for these critical services, as well as a leader on the Education and Labor Committee (on which she is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services). The Arts Education for All Act includes key provisions that will support and encourage the offering of arts education and programming experiences to Americans, including our youngest learners, K-12 students, and youth impacted by the juvenile justice system. Crucially, the bill will also include provisions that would allow for rigorous arts and arts education research to be carried out, to further inform how elementary and secondary education in our country is improved. Americans for the Arts, the Arts Action Fund, Grantmakers in the Arts, NAMM and many other arts education organizations and other early endorses of the Arts Education for All Act.

Reference checks for three candidates have been conducted following final round interviews and review committee feedback. An offer will be extended to one of these finalists today.

Following joint participation in Grantmakers in the Arts’ & Hillombo’s Pro-BIPOC Arts Funding Community of Practice, Anika Kwinana met with race and equity-focused staff members from the California Arts Council to explore ways to provide mutual support in our work. Conversations will continue on a monthly basis and seek to become a pilot for ways WESTAF, through the SRI team, can actively engage and support the equity work of program staff in state arts agencies (SAA).

NASAA has begun a series of anti-bias training sessions for state arts agencies (SAA) and regional arts organizations (RAO). There are three trainings in the series, divided into three sets for executive/director, general staff and board members, respectively. WESTAF will be represented in each set. The first session focused on culture and patterns. The session was a mix of presentations and small group work. Many of the SAAs in our region were represented.

The MarComm team is working on wrapping up the end of FY21 with reporting and participating in FY22 OKR planning meetings for all SaaS products, which will inform our marketing strategies for the new fiscal year. We are revising our FY22 marketing plan drafts based on the product OKR meetings and queuing up some exciting announcements for social media. We are also entering the early research and development stage of a brand new website build (see Comm section below for details!).

The MarComm team recently sent out a post-event survey for the 2021 Creative Vitality™ Summit to collect participant feedback to help us continue improving future WESTAF convenings. We also gathered feedback in a team debrief to evaluate success of the event and will soon compile and share our insights on what went well and what we hope to improve on for next year. With this month’s WESTAF Now completed and shared on October 13, the team is focusing on completion of the FY22 communications plan drafts and FY21 wrap-ups and reporting. We are gearing up for a big announcement of the WESTAF ARP awardees and are collaborating with the SRI team on a blog about our ARP and TourWest grant programs. We are also closing out our FY21 departmental goals and responsibilities in Insights (WESTAF’s performance management software), while also developing and entering in new ones for FY22. As mentioned above, we have also begun planning for a new website—and guess what, it’s! Check out the draft plan.

Lauren continues to adapt the internal accounts payable system to incorporate the USBank payable service, eliminating the need for staff check signers, check stock and postage costs. This will be a major savings of finance staff time when fully implemented in the next few months! Michelle is learning her position quickly and we’re so glad she’s joined our team! Becca created a timeline to fully liquidate the Sherman office, including engaging a scanning and shredding company, finding a new storage location and coordinating the staff to help clean out the office. Amy is working with Paul to establish timing for the move of the finance server out of the Sherman location. Amy is surveying some supervisors regarding the most efficient way to capture the allocations of staff time for FY22 – whether via the timesheet process or via a quarterly worksheet update. Amy and Christian continue to work with broker Tim Schott regarding the changes to the investment portfolio to ensure mission-aligned investments: Tim will be presenting further information at the upcoming board meeting.

A few additional items to report in the foundation funding tracker, but headlines include a really positive meeting with the Wallace Foundation (detailed by Anika, above). Also, news that CC Gardner Gleser will step down as director of programs and strategic initiatives at Satterberg Foundation on January 1 after a 3-month sabbatical, but we continue to have a connection at the foundation through Rosa Peralta. The Ford Foundation (a current funder of our partner DisArt) has recently announced a massive multi-year commitment to disability culture.

After serving far longer than her intended 6 months, Mareike was replaced by Jessica G as leader of the Biz Cohort. Lori will continue to scribe until a replacement is solidified. The group is finalizing the first part of a three-part survey to gauge the value of orientations led by the business department and SaaS products. We hope to send the first part out in the coming days or weeks. We are also trying to move forward with a plan to create accessible and streamlined resources around the many software products used by WESTAF staff. After making a short list of products we use, Lori has offered to consolidate any existing documentation around best practices or WESTAF protocols and then the group will determine if there is a better way to make all these resources available or if it would be valuable to create Subject Matter Experts (where applicable). The equity cohort recently created a Quarterly Equity Snapshot survey. The purpose of the survey is to catalog the equity-related activities of each of WESTAF’s cohorts and teams. Each cohort/team is asked to complete this form on a quarterly basis to share any key areas where their work has been able to embed equity. They have received 8 responses and plan to present findings at this month’s ElC meeting. Going forward, we hope to make this a regular report to help both help keep WESTAF accountable and to highlight the work it is doing to move equity forward.

The business team wrapped up the Quarterly Business Recap (QBR) for the fourth quarter; the report provides a financial summary of Q4 and FY21 activity along with a recap of the progress our department has made in our Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). We also wrapped up our Q4 OKR reporting meetings and planned the Q1 OKR activities for FY22, which includes a new process for more strategically accomplishing the OKR work and better using Asana business features to track our goals. Blair and Natalie V. are continuing to test and report fails for multi-factor authentication enhancements in GO Smart, CaFE, and ZAPP. Natalie finalized the tech roadmaps for all SaaS platforms and migrated those plans into actionable tasks in Asana, and Blair has been focused on writing and testing tickets for all platforms.

CaFE has contracted with on a case studies project that will help us understand our clients better. The team also worked on OKR initiatives for FY22 with an emphasis on improving how we use and collect data, customer satisfaction, and reducing internal operations. The team has another round of testing multi-factor authentication for backend users. Work to update the remaining internal CaFE admin website pages is underway and will be split between Jon Cantwell and BRI. We expect to have all the pages completed by late spring.

CVSuite has been working on transitioning into FY22, updating our Asana OKRS, business objectives and goals, as well as writing the business recaps. Trevor, Kelly and David have returned from the CCI Summit with great success. The team received excellent feedback and participated in robust conversations with creative districts. At the conference, CVSuite joined a session by Jeff Taylor, who has released his analysis on the art market in the USA using CVSuite Data. The report is linked here. The research will be shared on our CVSuite media channels once Jeff prepares a press kit in late October. In technology, three small updates to the tool were released this past week, which included adding the top five nonprofit types by number of organizations to the snapshot report, a minor UI fix to retain data settings, and the addition of a bar graph to represent the job rate of change.

Jessica and Christina continue to work on the new pricing options for GO Smart. Jessica and the business management team are completing comprehensive testing for a multi-factor authentication update on the admin and panelist portals of GO Smart. Jessica gave a well-received demonstration to Visit Chattanooga and has had several follow-up conversations with the potential client to answer additional questions and brainstorm their use cases. Jessica, Christina, Natalie V. and Blair had the first of what will become a reinstated bi-weekly GO Smart team meeting. The MarComm team had a preliminary meeting with Jessica to plan for our TAG Product Showcase in December. As with all other SaaS products, we have been completing the many Q4 and FY21 close-out processes.

The WESTAF Women’s Suffrage Mural Project is now installed in the Montbello neighborhood of Denver, directly across from the Montbello student campus. Although close-out paperwork will need to be filed with the project grant funders, we are pleased to celebrate WESTAF’s first artwork commission in public space. Learn more about the project on the landing page (still in progress). PAA is completing the contract process on its newest CMS client, Culver City, CA and will move forward with the data migration in November. PAA is also finalizing data to launch the City of Alexandria, Virginia’s showcase page and collection app along with Metro Arts: Nashville’s Office of Arts and Culture’s showcase and collection app.

On October 4, approximately 4,000 emails that had previously been stuck in the ZAPP email system queue were released and delivered to their original recipients. This was a mistake on the part of our development house, BRI, who, when investigating a delivery issue, released all “stuck” emails. Many of these emails were very old and contained past payment or jury result information that caused confusion for the recipients. We have since developed (and will deploy in the next release) a new technical update that will regularly review the email queue and attempt to resend undelivered emails within 48 hours. On a positive note, we have seen a more typical rush of renewals in the past two weeks as many applications open in October and November for 2022 shows! We also launched an enhancement for artists to allow them to download a report of their transaction history within a given date range. This long-requested update is useful for artists as they prepare their taxes.

Respectfully Submitted,