Hello WESTAF Trustees:
Really hope that all of you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. Like me, you may have whiplash thinking how quickly priorities have shifted in just weeks. I hope you are finding ways to maintain your physical, mental and emotional resilience. That can be especially hard when life consists of juggling uncertainties and letting go of the things that can’t be controlled. It’s a lot!
At WESTAF, our work community has moved to Slack — conversation threads, topic channels, daily check-ins, video calls, music playlists, snack tips, recipes and pet photos. Everyone on the WESTAF team is doing excellent work and hanging tight and together apart we’ll get through this.
Here we go:
WESTAF COVID-19 RESPONSE (DH)
WESTAF continues to revise the COVID-19 Update and Resources web pages on our website, and a presentation/resource that provides deeper insights is also being revised on a weekly basis and continues to be shared with arts service organizations and arts funders in the West and nationally as we discuss ways to provide relief to the field. Nearly 700 responses have been received for the WESTAF COVID-19 Arts Impact Survey, and this report analyzes the initial survey findings. The survey closes on May 1 and full findings will be released later that month.
UPCOMING WESTERN ARTS ADVOCACY NETWORK TELECONFERENCE (DH)
WESTAF is convening arts advocacy organization leaders from across the region in the coming week for a Western Arts Advocacy Network teleconference. WESTAF has been considering bringing arts advocates across the region together for some time, and hopes that bringing together this network formally benefits state arts advocacy leaders as they respond to the pressing needs of the present and look to the future. In addition to getting a temperature on the climate within states and the special initiatives/responses of state arts advocacy organizations, a topic of discussion will be the letter the Cultural Advocacy Coalition recently submitted to Congress and the Administration on the Arts Sector and COVID-19 Relief, which includes a range of recommendations on how to modify the terms of relief funding moving forward to make access to resources more broadly available to the arts and culture sector across the nation.
POTENTIAL RESEARCH COLLABORATIONS (DH)
David is currently in early discussions with NASAA, western state arts agencies, and others about a potential creative economy initiative proposed by Margaret Hunt, executive director of Colorado Creative Industries. Chrissy and David are also discussing a potential partnership with Boise State University concerning a proposed Arts in the West Research Lab that will explore equity as one of its research themes.
WESTAF CARES ACT GRANT PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT (CD/DH)
Chrissy and David are rapidly developing a plan for the distribution of our $829,200 allocation of Arts Endowment CARES funding in the region, which will be managed by our Social Responsibility and Inclusion team. At present, our thinking is that we will offer approximately 40 relief grants of (up to) $20,000 to nonprofit arts organizations in the western region with budgets in the $50,000 to $2 million range. These grants would fund most kinds of urgent general operating support. Funding will only be made available to the western states and eligible organizations must be: a) a tax exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; b) a unit of state or local government; c) a nonprofit institution of higher education; or d) a federally recognized Indian tribal government. Applicants must also have a three-year history of arts programming prior to the application deadline.
Review criteria will focus on demonstrated need and artistic merit, and the program will have a special focus on supporting organizations led by and predominantly serving individuals from historically marginalized communities, as well as an applicant’s public and community benefit. After review by key stakeholders (western SAAs, sister RAOs, and WESTAF’s executive committee) in April, guidelines and the application portal will open for two weeks beginning early May; panelist reviews and grantee notification will take place in June; and agreements will be executed and funds disbursed by mid-July. We are currently consulting state arts agency leadership and will be working with state arts agencies to communicate the opportunity to their networks and to field recommendations on potential panelists for a regional review panel. A plan for a separate allocation to disburse CARES funding to the Northern Mariana Islands is also being developed; the Arts Endowment approached WESTAF to be a partner in this effort.
MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS (LH)
The MarComm team has been working on adjusting marketing campaigns and pivoting messaging in light of COVID-19. The CaFE Public Art Campaign launched and our paid social media campaign achieved a 183% increase in traffic to the campaign landing page. We also adjusted and launched a targeted GO Smart email campaign and have been focusing heavily on the CVSuite lists project. The team is completing keyword research for Google Adwords campaigns for both CVSuite and PAA and is tracking new resources for the COVID-19 Resources & Information page we built in March, with processes in place for collecting new information to post as well as tracking and reporting on metrics for the page. We are also developing a plan for the Leaders of Color website, planned for launch in September. Leah has also been putting the finishing touches on a Q2 MarComm Recap & Progress and Report and also created a communications plan for the new WESTAF CARES grant program.
FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION (AH)
Despite two weeks and significant technical difficulties on the USBank website, WESTAF has now officially applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as of Monday morning. We are waiting for updates from USBank on next steps: It is still unclear if we’ll receive this forgivable loan, although we are now in line. PPP funds have already been allocated and we now need to wait until Congress passes a 4th phase of COVID relief, which appears imminent. New coding has been established to accommodate the various restricted grants provided by the National Endowment for the Arts CARES funding. Becky and the budget managers are busy compiling the first round of post-COVID end-of-year projections, which will be presented to the executive committee on Wednesday. Becca continues to coordinate staff trips to the office to pick up mail and handle essential finance functions, and Lauren and Jess continue to support the increased work in ZAPP due to show cancelations.
STRATEGIC PLANNING (NS)
Natalie Scherlong reports that her first few weeks as strategic planning coordinator have gone by quickly as she has been settling into this new role. In consultation with Christian, a work plan has been created to clarify strategic goals over the coming months. Natalie will be collaborating with the cohorts in defining their initiatives and priorities, as well as working on developing further frameworks to deepen the relationships between cohorts and their Trustee Advisors (TA’s). We are also working on the logistics of the virtual May board of trustees meeting. Planning for the October meeting has also begun in earnest.
The CaFE team adjusted the tech plans for the remainder of the year to prioritize improvements based on current needs and push the wants out to next year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CaFE saw a decrease of 21% in artist submissions in March compared to same time last year, and so far in April, a 44% decrease in artist submissions compared to same time last year. On the other hand, between March 1 and April 14, the team setup 115 new call listings for returning customers. CaFE’s next marketing campaign, scheduled to launch in May, will focus on reaching out to former customers.
We released an enhancement for CVSuite so that the data settings, data year, and location are centralized. Now users can change the data year and settings on every page to easily compare years and data sets. There was only one issue with new user logins, which has been resolved. The team continues to strategize solutions in the form of reports and communication methods to help our clients impacted by COVID-19. Kelly has been communicating with clients individually and we will announce their availability in our quarterly newsletter this month. We have signed a new client, Civic Arts, a cultural planner that is working with clients in Garland, Texas and Denver, Colorado.
GO SMART (JG)
Several clients have begun special COVID relief funding programs in GO Smart. South Arts, a client and partner, opened their fund on Monday 4/13 and received more than 500 applications in the first six hours and more than 1,800 applications within 36 hours. This heavy traffic shut down the site temporarily twice that day. Adam was able to work with our external developers to get the site back up in minutes and to immediately direct additional resources to GO Smart to ensure it continues to run smoothly. Jessica has been working closely with the South Arts team to mitigate anxiety since Monday. Other clients offering COVID relief programs are the Center for Cultural Innovation (on behalf of San Francisco Arts Council); the Town of Gilbert, Arizona; LexArts; Mass Cultural Council; Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts; South Dakota Arts Council; and Vermont Arts Council. Howard County Arts Council and City of Atlanta are both opening their regular grant seasons this week.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE (LG)
Public Art Archive will begin working with Laura Holzman (Herron School of Art and Design | IU School of Liberal Arts) and Emily Cooper Moore (Mural Arts Philadelphia) to develop a focused educational and engagement platform for a citywide mural project in Philadelphia. The current launch date for this project is scheduled for June 2020. Although PAA continues to receive interest in the Collection Management System, communications and budgeting meetings for potential clients are extremely slow and are likely not moving forward until city governments are re-opened entirely.
The ZAPP team continues to work through festival cancellations and postponements. As of April 16, we now have recorded 170 show cancellations and 82 postponements, which represents 28% of all shows on ZAPP. We’re continuing to process refunds for show cancellations, while also seeing an overall dip in business activity — from artist submissions to non-cancelled events to e-blast requests and new client sign-ups. While dealing with the effects of COVID-19, we’re also working on enhancements slated for release this month. One enhancement will add the ability for artists to edit their saved payment types and the other will allow admins to create tiered application pricing for early bird discounts or late fees.