Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: April 6, 2020

Hello WESTAF Trustees:

Really hope everyone is safe and healthy and hanging in there. Here at WESTAF, we’re doing ok — adopting more and more to the virtual world we all now inhabit. Let’s jump right in:


Over the last two weeks, the Alliances, Advocacy and Policy team has been involved in developing WESTAF’s response to COVID-19 while managing our existing programs and services. We worked with the Marketing and Communications team to release a survey to targeted groups of WESTAF contacts via email and on WESTAF social media. So far, over 560 survey responses have been received, and David is currently finalizing a report that analyzes the initial survey findings. The COVID-19 Update webpage on the WESTAF website is being revised every week as new developments and data are released. A presentation/resource that provides deeper insights is also being revised on a weekly basis and is being shared with arts service organizations and arts funders in the West and nationally. Based on a review of materials from WESTAF’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) stimulus funding program from 2009, a framework for developing a CARES stimulus funding program has also been developed and shared with members of the Leadership Resource Team and our sister RAOs. 


On Thursday, March 26, Christian and David participated in a call with senior leadership of the National Endowment for the Arts and national arts service organizations (such as League of American Orchestras, Creative Capital, Sundance Institute) and on Tuesday, March 31 participated in a videoconference with Arts Endowment leadership and other regional arts organizations to begin discussing the CARES stimulus roll out by the Endowment. Forty percent of the $75 million in stimulus the Arts Endowment will receive in the coming months through the CARES Act will be distributed to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations. 


On Wednesday, April 1, Christian and David convened the state arts agency executive directors on a teleconference in which they shared updates on their agency responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the arts and culture sector. Relief funds and proposed relief funds in Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon were shared on this call as well as proposals to access statewide relief funding in other states and plans to retool existing and launch new grant programs to support the field. 


On Friday, April 3, Chrissy, Christian, and David led the Arts + the Rural West virtual workshop over three hours with 25 participants representing the Alliance for California Traditional Arts; California Arts Council; Idaho Commission on the Arts; Epicenter; Mountain Time Arts; First Nations Development Institute; Plains Indian Museum of the Buffalo Bill Center for the West; LACMA; National Endowment for the Arts; Housing Assistance Council/Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design; Rural LISC; Wichita Falls Alliances for Arts and Culture; Center for Education, Business, and the Arts; Advocates for California for Indigeonous Language Survival; Western Folklife Center; Artes Americas; and the Town of Eagle, Colorado. In eight virtual breakout sessions, participants discussed the impact of COVID-19; rural arts as a rural development strategy; how rural communities shape their arts and cultural life; resourcing arts and culture in rural areas; and opportunities, needs, and challenges for arts in the rural West. WESTAF board member Nikiko Masumoto has been a critical partner in developing this initiative along with Amy Kitchener and Jen Joy Jameson of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. A report of the Zoom video conference session and other resources will be shared in the coming weeks. 


Lani, Chrissy and Madalena have been hard at work to accommodate TourWest grantees who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, WESTAF has adjusted our deadlines to better accommodate our community of presenters and artists in this moment of crisis. The TourWest 2020 application deadline has been extended to May 1, 2020 (previously April 1). We have also extended the period of performance for 2019 TourWest projects to December 31, 2020 (previously August 31, 2020). Earlier this week, we proactively reached out to presenting organizations who we haven’t heard from via a quick survey to better anticipate their short- and long-term needs. The team is currently considering a number of options to support organizations who have been forced to cancel a funded performance, keeping in mind the regional touring program guidelines established by the National Endowment for the Arts. We will certainly keep the board informed as these new strategies develop. In the meantime, if you hear from TourWest grantees or applicants in your communities, please feel free to link them up with Chrissy or Lani so they can be sure to address their questions and reassure them that we stand with them during this time of great need. 


The F&A team continues to work closely with the ZAPP team on processing refunds for the large number of cancelled art fairs on the ZAPP system. Both Lauren and Jessica are seeing a 300% increase in workload on daily deposits and refund work. The rest of the team has stepped in to support Lauren & Jessica’s work to ensure the whole department continues to run smoothly. The ZAPP and CaFE check runs are proceeding according to the expected schedule. Becca and Amy are attending various HR webinars regarding the new FFRCA and CARES acts, both signed in to law in late March. In addition, Amy is working with Christian and her team to apply for the Paycheck Protection Plan which is a payroll loan program through local banks and part of the CARES Act. The loan would provide for two months of payroll and benefits and be fully forgiven if WESTAF continues as planned and does not cut staff or staff salaries between now and June 30th. WESTAF is “in line” for this loan, with nothing yet confirmed as of 4/6.


The technology team has adapted to working from home, but this is not just working from home, but working from home while there is a crisis. The impacts of this month are long lasting and are daily/weekly/monthly reshaping our team’s perspectives. The team has completed a successful month-long sprint working across the organization where it coded a large ZAPP enhancement for clients, coded GO Smart tweaks that addressed internal and client issues with GO Smart, a total of 17 separate requests for April. The technology team continues to support WESTAF’s servers for Public Art Archive and its clients, working to standardize, stabilize and remove one-off changes and processes. Ben continues to provide design support throughout WESTAF’s technology projects, but also for marketing needs when requested. Overall, this was the team’s most productive month since June of 2019, and it is looking to keep building this kind of momentum as WESTAF heads into May. The team is always on deck to support and resolve technology issues in the organization of our web servers, and also within our office network infrastructure. We had a few issues in April, and are in the process of fulfilling a mitigation plan to limit acts of randomness in the future. Please stay safe everyone, both with your person and online. Be vigilant and be aware of what you are clicking, even if it is COVID-19 related.


CaFE business has been surprisingly resilient in light of everything happening in the arts community and beyond. For March, we had 15 new clients sign on, which is only a 16% decline in comparison to March in FY19. To date, we have had 17 arts events cancellations through CaFE and 5 postponements. We’re continuing to follow up with leads from our public art campaign; however, CaFE and ZAPP Sales Coordinator Julia Alvarez resigned from her position as of April 3, so the team will take on sales work until we hire someone to fill that role. 


CVSuite continues to be in communication with clients affected by COVID-19. Clients with contracts expiring on April 1 have been granted an extension. Arts Cleveland has confirmed its renewal, while McLean County is looking for additional ways to fund the tool. The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg has notified us that, due to COVID-19, it will not be renewing when its contract expires in July. The CVSuite team will launch the Top 30 Creative Small Cities List in the next few weeks. We received written contributions from three cities that appear on the list, and the project is in the final stages of copy editing. We’re also working to release a new UI enhancement to the data tool next week. The data settings, data year, and location will now be centralized and accessible on every page. This enables the user to better compare regions, years, and code settings


GO Smart is offering a 50% discount on COVID relief programs and four clients have alerted us that they are administering special funding programs. We created a campaign email with COVID resources for the arts and information about the discount for hosting COVID relief programs on the system. The email was sent to 660 arts grants administrators, of which 132 recipients opened the campaign and 27 recipients opened more than once and/or clicked on links. A follow-up email was sent to 105 of the email openers with 49 recipients opening the follow-up. Jessica personally emailed the 27 recipients who opened the email more than once, and 16 recipients have opened that response. We released a technical update that makes the higher resolution version of an image more accessible to all audiences. We also released two small enhancements that clean up the applicants’ experience with uploading their media and one fix to a bug that occurred when cloning a Work Sample Select page. 


PAA has been working with the technology team to resolve a few ongoing technical challenges to importing large data sets. The first test of data formatting and cleaning, with the support of Trevor, demonstrated an improvement in the state of data prior to import, and the team will continue working together to improve the process. Over the past week, the team has imported over 2,200 records representing the State of Oregon’s percent for art collection, in addition to the city of Coeur D’Alene’s collection. While incoming clients have been delayed in their budgeting processes to complete subscriptions to PAA, we are still confident that those contracts will go through. In addition, PAA is likely to provide collection engagement tools to the University of Alabama to promote the state’s mural collection.


We continue to be primarily focused on festival cancellations and postponements. As of April 2, 2020, we have recorded 121 show cancellations and 72 show postponements for events that were slated from March through September. These cancellations and postponements have impacted 39,343 artist applications to shows, which represents 37% of the total number of applications submitted through ZAPP in FY20. We have also worked with the finance team to process 3,093 (mostly booth fees due back to artists) refunds for 29 shows, totaling $857,975. These refunds are for the pass-through monies ZAPP collects and disperses to shows. As to be expected, new sales were down for the month of March as compared to March in FY19, though we did sign on two new clients. We’re also continuing to work on technical enhancements to ZAPP, while also considering which enhancements we’re unlikely to have the resources to complete and which may have decreased in priority in light of COVID-19. 

Respectfully yours,