October 4, 2021
Dear WESTAF community:
This is always a very busy time of the year. The last few weeks seem to have especially borne that out, so I am ecstatic to be coming to you from the early October of our newly minted fiscal year — FY22! Wow. Huge thanks to all of the WESTAFers who have been building budgets, plans, goals and OKRs on top of all of the regular work. First off, I wanted to extend hearty congratulations to our colleagues Kelly Ernst, promoted to CVSuite manager, and to Trevor McElhaney, who has the new title of senior data analyst. Way to go, team! As you read on, you’ll learn about trustees and staff who have masked up and hit the road to represent WESTAF across the West these past few weeks. As we turn our attention to the October annual board meeting, we’re working hard to develop staff and trustee experiences in both the in-person and virtual worlds, so that you can attend productively and with peace of mind, wherever you are. We’re looking forward to sharing more agenda details with you soon! Until then, here’s the latest from WESTAF World:
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING (CG)
From September 22-23, the executive committee of the WESTAF board of trustees met for their first in-person meeting since September of 2019 in Sacramento, CA. The committee attended to several matters relating to the conclusion of the fiscal year, including a motion to bring the FY22 operating budget forward to the full board for a vote at the October annual meeting. In addition, the full agenda included a report from the development committee and the equity and inclusion committee. During day two of the meeting, the committee grouped their conversation into three primary areas: culture, goals and aspirations; investments, fundraising and grant making, and hazards, unknowns and existential threats. The conversation was rich and vibrant, and while we weren’t able to get to everything in the agenda, the executive committee was able to carry out its oversight duties with diligence and gave Christian and Amy much to consider as the organization moves into FY22. Our evening dinner featured some fabulous Boise-based guests, including EIC committee member and former trustee Michael Faison, as well as ELC alumni Monique Michel, Leta Neustaeder and Dayo Ayodele. In addition to meetings, the committee was also treated with a visit to the remarkable James Castle House, home of the enigmatic 20th-century artist, as well as a visit to the Global Lounge, a multi-cultural arts, music and dance hub founded by Dayo, where we met with some amazing Boise-based arts leaders and performers. We were also lucky to be visiting Boise during Treefort Music Festival, a three-day showcase of emerging contemporary musical artists. Special thanks to treasurer Lange, who was able to provide wristbands for the event as a sponsor of the Wyoming Music Showcase (which was awesome). Here are some pictures from our time in Boise.
RAO LEADERSHIP RETREAT (CG)
From September 27 – 29, the executive directors, chairs, vice chairs and chair-elects of each of the six regional arts organizations (RAOs) met for their first in-person retreat since 2019 in Burlington, VT. In addition to Christian, WESTAF chair Alvarado and vice chair/chair-elect Broughton were in attendance. Most attendees were there in-person, with four board members from other RAOs zooming into the meeting. The location was Fort Collins, CO — where we had been planning to hold our retreat, pre-pandemic. The facilitator was Marc Vogl, who guided the agenda very effectively and successfully. On Monday, the executive directors met in person to cover a variety of potential and in-flight projects. This was followed by an ice-breaking dinner for all the participants. All day Tuesday, we had a super-productive (but exhausting!) session, where together we landed on four core concepts that we agreed were a matter of priority and focus for the RAO collective — both in our individual and collaborative work — moving forward: serving BIPOC-focused/serving organizations; serving individual artists; investing in regional and national advocacy efforts, and “modeling togetherness” through our efforts to work co-creatively, to encourage collaboration and knowledge-sharing at all levels of our organizations and to focus on fair and positive work cultures. A variety of programs currently under consideration/evaluation — involving partners like the NEA, the Wallace Foundation, or others — fit into some of these foci, with other initiatives still under review. The RAOs (including board members, and even those on zoom all day!) left the session feeling energized, holding even more mutual trust and collegiality, and gained a deeper understanding of their daily work together and apart.
NASAA BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING RAO REPORT (CG)
Christian was asked to provide a timely report to the NASAA board of directors at their September 30 meeting highlighting the work of the RAOs, and offering an update on our work together. It was gratifying to report to NASAA that RAOs are in general more trusting, transparent, collegial and collaborative, and more willing to work together and develop strategic partnerships (not always the case, apparently!) Indeed, we see it as a critical imperative. It’s worth noting here that RAO and NASAA priorities are relatively closely aligned and in-synch as we move into the new year. Christian was able to report on the various RAO collaborations of the past year (CARES, ARP, Mellon’s Regional Arts Resilience Fund); touched on various NEA-partnership national initiatives (Arts Midwest’s The Big Read, Mid-America’s Arts Creative Forces, WESTAF’s Performing Arts Discovery and others), touched on some convenings (including our own Creative Vitality Summit). The board was curious to learn the latest about the historic and unprecedented gift from Mackenzie Scott and Dan Jewett. We let them know that the RAOs are centering our values and commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and access as each of us decides how to best use this unprecedented gift to positively impact the communities we serve. The NASAA board seemed to appreciate the update.
WESTAF REPRESENTED ON COLORADO CREATIVE INDUSTRIES CREATIVE DISTRICTS CERTIFICATION REVIEW PANEL (DH)
David has been invited to serve as a panelist for the Colorado Creative Districts program. Six communities from across the state are reapplying for certification: Breckenridge Arts District, Carbondale Creative District, Crested Butte Creative District, Fort Collins Creative District, Golden Triangle Creative District and Mancos Creative District. The new communities applying for this period are: Aurora Cultural Arts District, Gunnison Creative District, La Veta Creative District and La Junta Creative District. As a panelist, David will participate in virtual panel meetings and at least one site visit this fall to review and select compelling communities for Creative District Certification.
WESTAF LEADS SESSIONS ON RURAL, REMOTE AND FRONTIER COMMUNITIES AND CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AS ARTS ADVOCATES, AT THE COLORADO CREATIVE INDUSTRIES SUMMIT (DH)
Kelly, Trevor, and David attended the Colorado Creative Industries Summit: Frontier of Imagination September 29 – October 1, moderating and participating in five separate panels during the conference. David moderated a session on chambers of commerce as arts advocates in collaboration with Western Arts Advocacy Network (WAAN) member Christin Crampton Day, executive director, Colorado Business Committee for the Arts. He also moderated a session on arts and culture in rural, remote, and frontier communities in Colorado.
WESTAF AND CREATIVE ECONOMY COALITION ORGANIZE CREATIVE ECONOMY SESSION AT INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL ANNUAL CONFERENCE (DH)
David and fellow Creative Economy Coalition Executive Committee member Susan Soroko have arranged a session for the International Economic Development Council Annual Conference: Creative Economy: Economic Development for a Sustainable Future. Margaret Hunt, director, Colorado Creative Industries, and Jessica Stern, senior manager, Americans for the Arts, will join David on this panel on Monday, October 4 in Nashville, Tennessee to discuss the creative economy and economic recovery/community revitalization and the creative economy and inclusive economic development.
WESTAF IN DIALOGUE WITH THE WILLIAM AND FLORA HEWLETT FOUNDATION ABOUT BAY AREA ADVOCACY AND POLICY INITIATIVE (DH)
David remains in dialogue with the Performing Arts team at the Hewlett Foundation about a potential collaborative project, and WESTAF has been invited to submit a proposal for a cultural policy and arts advocacy program in the Bay Area.
GENERAL SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND INCLUSION (AK)
Anika has, in true WESTAF fashion, had a whirlwind of an onboarding experience over the last two weeks that has included a week-long series of briefings on the SRI department and its programs and meetings with WESTAF’s Technology, Finance and Administration, Marketing and Communications, and many of our Business teams. She has also attended meetings with South Arts about our ELC partnership, with Kaisha Johnson of Women of Color in the Arts about further equity advancement work with our regional performing arts network, and a federal audit training with the National Endowment for the Arts, among other meetings.
UPDATE ON WESTAF AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN FUND FOR ORGANIZATIONS (AK/JC)
The WESTAF executive committee has approved the 44 organizations recommended by the SRI team to receive WESTAF ARP awards. Originally planned to disburse grants at an average level of $50,000 each to 30+ awardees, these levels and awardees have been adjusted due to the demand from many impacted organizations. WESTAF will disburse grants at an average level of $35,000 each to the 44 awardees. The SRI team has sent out award letters and is receiving signed agreements and financial statements from these new grantees before funds can be transmitted. We expect to receive all documentation by October 15. For detailed information about the representation and spread of the organizations, please review the graphs here.
WESTAF MEETINGS WITH EMERGING LEADERS OF COLOR ALUMNI (JC)
Over the past two weeks, Jade Elyssa met with 10 alumni of the Emerging Leaders of Color (ELC) Program, spanning across six states and program completion years as early as 2013 and as recently as 2021. Their stories of wondrous success and reports on racialized challenges bring faces to the national conversations around equity in the arts. All ELC alumni spoke highly of the work of WESTAF and how deeply impactful the ELC program was in shaping their careers. The SRI team is grateful to have gleaned pieces of their experiences and feedback and will ground programmatic discussions in what we’ve learned from these conversations.
ARTISTS SELECTED FOR FIRST ROUND OF PERFORMING ARTS DISCOVERY TO BE PROFILED AT NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS/INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF ARTS COUNCIL AND CULTURAL AGENCIES AMERICAS SUMMIT (DH/AK)
10 artists, companies, and ensembles were selected in the first phase of the Performing Arts Discovery program being managed by WESTAF and delivered by the Western Arts Alliance in collaboration with sister regional arts organizations. Versa-Style Dance Company, Ensemble Mik Nawooj, and acoustic picker Cary Morin were selected from the West in the first round. The ten artists and groups were showcased at the Western Arts Alliance Conference and at the Arts Midwest Conference. Northern Colorado-based Cary Morin and New York City-based Michaela’s Love Movement were selected by the National Endowment for the Arts to be showcased virtually at the Americas Cultural Summit 2021 this fall.
FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION (AH)
Welcome to the new 2022 fiscal year! For the next two months, the finance team is busy closing out the old year, building the new year and preparing for the audit. All schedules and entries are due to the auditors by November 15. WESTAF’s second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan has been forgiven: these funds were received in February, so having it forgiven this fiscal year is helpful. Becky continues to work closely with the new grants team on the NEA payment request process – especially with the American Rescue Plan, which will likely be processed and paid out in late October. The FY22 budget was approved by the executive committee during last week’s Boise meeting and will now go to the full board at the October meeting in Denver.
We are excited to have wrapped up the 2021 Creative Vitality™ Summit and have already received some great feedback. Thanks again to all the speakers, participants, and staff who made the event a success. The MarComm team is compiling all social media metrics and will soon have a meeting to discuss how we can improve future WESTAF events. We are also working on our Q4 OKR marketing updates for the business department and collaborating with the sales department to create new sales slide decks for all technology products. We are continuing to track all paid ad campaigns on Facebook, Google Ads, and LinkedIn and are working through the final edits of our FY22 tech product marketing plans.
With the Creative Vitality™ Summit now completed, the MarComm team is working on compiling metrics from the event, including attendance rates (the Summit had a total of 470 registered participants!). We will also be sending out an event survey soon to collect participant feedback to continue to build on and improve future convenings. The team is almost finished collecting staff updates to their bios and will have the westaf.org website up-to-date this week. Refinement of the FY22 communications plan drafts continues alongside the drafting of the first WESTAF Now of the new fiscal year and items for inclusion in the October National Endowment for the Arts newsletter.
STRATEGIC PLANNING COHORTS (CGREEN)
The equity cohort started a new initiative to document all of the great work the WESTAF teams have contributed to equity and inclusion. To this end, they implemented a quarterly survey to gather and highlight what has been done throughout all WESTAF’s programs moving towards more inclusivity. Several policy cohort members provided tremendous support in the Q&A portion of three sessions of the Creative Vitality Summit held on Sept. 20 and 21. They were honored to be part of another successful WESTAF convening! The cohort also met to talk about their findings after reviewing existing advocacy guides and discussed general ideas for what a regional partner handbook would look like. The next step is to dive into specifics and decide on the tangible elements of what they want to include.
GENERAL BUSINESS (CV)
The business team has worked to wrap up FY21 and simultaneously prep for FY22 by updating business templates, third-party connections, Asana projects, backlogs, etc. We’re also working on updating our Insights responsibilities and goals, and we’ve met with the department to conduct a refresher on the new projection and monthly budgeting process for FY22. We’re also working on sales decks for each SaaS product as part of our ongoing sales revamp work.
The CaFE team is finishing up testing the first round of multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA adds another important layer of security and compliance to the service, which more clients are starting to consider when evaluating application management platforms. CaFE closed out the year better than expected, as you saw from the recent financial reporting from finance. The team is looking forward to exceeding those results in FY22 with lots more work ahead.
CVSuite successfully completed the first annual CVSummit, and it exceeded expectations both in execution and in participation. The final summit registration count was at 470 people, and, as a result, CVSuite has scheduled demos with the state arts agencies of New Hampshire, Montana and Idaho. Utah Arts Alliance is reviewing their three-year renewal and their alliance membership program has a new manager who plans on booking five new members. Arts Cleveland, a dropped client, has inquired about renewing their contract. Next on deck for CVSuite is to focus on collecting year reporting and prepare and plan for the OKR agendas for the upcoming year.
GO SMART (JG)
Jessica continues to work with the SRI team to streamline TourWest and ARP funding cycles. GO Smart will conduct a demo with Chattanooga Tourism in early October after a discussion about their preliminary expectations and guiding factors. Jessica and David met for their monthly one-on-one meeting to discuss general activity that concerns both the Alliances, Advocacy, and Policy division and grantmaking.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE (LG)
PAA completed the launch of Los Alamos County Public Art’s collection, which was featured in the Los Alamos Daily Post and the Los Alamos Reporter. PAA is working to complete the design and launch of Metro Arts Nashville’s public art showcase page and map, which includes the program’s public art Lending Library. PAA recently completed the import of Rowan University’s public art collection.
ZAPP recently launched our referral program where current clients can refer new events to ZAPP, and when the new event signs up, both organizations will receive a $100 gift card! We hope this program will increase our word-of-mouth sales and build a stronger ZAPP community. In related sales news, ZAPP closed out the year with 19 new customers. A sharp decline from the last two years (between 51% and 56%, respectively), but considering the pandemic’s impact on the business, can still signify ongoing recovery in the fair and festival industry.