Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: August 10, 2020

By August 10, 2020No Comments

Greetings WESTAF trustees,

Here’s the latest update, covering the last two weeks! Let’s get to it:


Perhaps this is not a huge surprise, but WESTAF will be staying in remote work mode through the end of 2020. We’ll pick up this knotty situation again in January 2021. We really wanted to stay optimistic and be ready at any time for a return to the office, but willingness to do so is relatively low, WFH productivity is relatively high and the pandemic continues to pose too much of a risk. You may remember that WESTAF has renewed its office lease for one year — through December 2021.


Longtime Regional Arts Organization (RAO) coordinator Mary Margaret Schoenfeld will be moving on from her position in October. Mary Margaret has been a super coordinator, and we’ll miss her. RAO Chair Susie Sukamer has asked us to share this job description for the RAO National Coordinator position. She asks that you please forward this to any qualified candidates and post/share anywhere that may yield good applicants. It is a “permanent part-time position” that requires about 8-15 hours a week — great for an arts/cultural consultant-type. The deadline to apply for the position is coming up pretty quickly — August 31.


WESTAF has established a policy for supervisors who are managing caregivers where we confirm our commitment to supporting caregivers during this difficult time, including those who are responsible for elder care or for parents who have children beginning virtual school. Supervisors have been asked to accommodate caregivers as much as possible and to work with Amy if they need help problem solving their resources. Amy and Becca attended our first virtual HR conference this week and will synthesize what we’ve learned into WESTAF’s internal practices over the next couple of months. Becca will extend her office management duties for the virtual WESTAF office out to the end of December. Lauren will proceed with a plan to transition WESTAF and ZAPP accounts payable to a paperless process using the online tool Concur. This will greatly aid in department efficiency. Amy continues to puzzle through a way to project cash flow in ZAPP – which is particularly complicated given ZAPP’s business rules.


The introductory meeting for the Business cohort and their Trustee Advisors went well. The cohort introduced themselves as well as the tech products they worked with. They also discussed how their cohort relates to the 10-year strategic plan before diving into their current initiatives. The Policy cohort is working on an orientation document for their advisors as well as brainstorming possible session ideas to involve the TAs in their work going forward. They will be discussing potential dates to schedule the first trustee advisor introductions in due course. With more updates coming to the WESTAF website, Natalie will be reaching out to the advisors of the communications cohort to get their thoughts and ideas regarding the list of potential names for the revamped WESTAF newsletter.


The MarCom division is excited to announce that WESTAF’s Update Notes newsletter is currently being upgraded to feature more news on our organization’s good work and the work of our amazing teams. The updated newsletter will offer our colleagues in the field a more complete picture of the ways that WESTAF provides connections and support for the arts and culture sector in the West and beyond. Our hope is that these updates help our constituents better understand the impact of the work we do. We plan to publish the first issue of the new newsletter on August 19.


The nominations process for the WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund, the $1.7 million regranting program established by the Mellon Foundation, concluded on July 31, 2020. WESTAF received 462 nominations on behalf of organizations across the western region. The next stage of the process is a staff review and selection of a slate of approximately 75 organizations that will be reviewed by the Resilience Fund advisors and then invited to submit a full application for the opportunity in mid-August. The nomination process, a new approach for WESTAF for this grant, has elicited some important feedback from organizations that were seeking to apply and arts leaders advocating for organizations in their communities, particularly on the $250K – $10M budget requirement. While working within the parameters of the program as envisioned by the Mellon Foundation, WESTAF acknowledges the realities that exist across our region where, in many communities, the vast majority of organizations with a stated focus on marginalized communities have budgets that fall below the $250k threshold. These discussions are welcomed, informative, ongoing and will continue to inform our administration of this and any future regranting programs. As was the case with WESTAF CARES, we devised the guidelines for this fund to be consistent with WESTAF’s responsibility to support organizations whose relationship to marginalized communities is evident in their mission, staff, leadership AND programming. We are committed to ensuring that this goal is met.


WESTAF recently responded to a request from a new cultural advocacy group in Minnesota who was fielding endorsements from Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office for two pieces of legislation that could be transformative for our creative community and nonprofit sector nationally. WESTAF has endorsed the Save our Stages Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide Small Business Administration grants for independent live music venue operators affected by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, and the WORK NOW Act, a piece of legislation that would create a major new grants program to help nonprofit organizations whose workers serve public needs that are growing due to the current crisis retain their employees, scale their service delivery, and provide unemployed Americans with new jobs serving their communities. The #saveourstages campaign led by the National Independent Venues Association (NIVA) has gained significant traction nationally garnering a wellspring of support for the Save our Stages Act introduced by Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). 


Responding to the needs of New Mexico Arts, their parent department the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, and WAAN member Creative New Mexico, WESTAF is supporting arts advocacy training in New Mexico this year. Being led by New Mexico Arts and Creative New Mexico and delivered by the bipartisan, statewide nonprofit advocacy group New Mexico First, this training will engage Creative New Mexico members, arts and culture districts, and local arts agencies. The advocacy training is the first phase of an effort that seeks to “support collective action on advocacy efforts and build capacity for the arts and culture sector.”


Since March, WESTAF has participated in the Colorado Cultural Partners group alongside Colorado Creative Industries, Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA), the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), Denver Arts & Venues, City of Boulder Office of Arts + Culture, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, Arts for Colorado, RedLine, Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR), Corona Insights, Creativity Lab of Colorado, City of Fort Collins Cultural Services, Think 360 Arts, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. This group was brought together to explore collective actions to address the impact of the pandemic on the arts and culture sector across the state. On Thursday, August 6, WESTAF sent an advocacy alert as part of a collective campaign with these partners encouraging our networks to contact their Congressional representatives in support of the Save our Stages Act and Restart Acts and in seeking support for the arts through the next federal relief package being negotiated in Congress. Special thanks to the MarComms team – Leah Horn, Laurel Sherman, and Sam Ortega – for your partnership in this effort.


The CVSuite, Alliances, Advocacy, and Public Policy, and Social Responsibility and Inclusion teams collaborated in writing a CVSuite blog post exploring the demographic data contained in CVSuite and how such data can support decision makers in the arts and culture field in identifying gaps in representation and inform their policy and programmatic initiatives. Thanks to Sam Ortega for leading this effort and to Trevor McElhaney for thoughtful and sophisticated data analysis. 


The CVSuite team held a data refresher and working session with Susan DuPlessis, director of community arts development at the South Carolina Arts Commission, Bob Reeder, program director at Rural LISC and co-chair of The Art of Community: Rural SC, Laura Marcus Green, program specialist for Community Arts & Folklife, and Abigail Rawl, Art of Community: Rural SC initiative assistant at the South Carolina Arts Commission. Art of Community: Rural SC is a field leading initiative that supports arts and culture led community and economic development initiatives in rural counties and Native American nations in South Carolina. The CVSuite team presented on the use and functionality of the system and ways that the full raw data set can be analyzed to support programmatic decision making for the Art of Community: Rural SC program


We met and reviewed our Q3 OKR progress and worked with each team to prioritize plans for the fourth quarter. You can find a summary of the third quarter sales activity and OKR progress in the attached document.  


CaFÉ experienced an error with checkout earlier this week due to issues with PayPal Payflow. The errors persisted for a couple hours but had minimal impact on artists. We were also able to launch the new improvements to the jury scorecard mentioned in the last update. We had five new sales in the month of July, which is 58% down compared to July in 2019, though we’re in contract negotiations with three more clients and have received 15 leads in the month of August. Raquel is continuing to work on a process for renewing customers now that we have changed our contracts to be annually based. 


CVSuite received payments from two clients, Wyoming Arts Alliance and Austin Department of Cultural Affairs. Austin has a multiyear contract and is entering into their first renewal with us. CVSuite sent out a client satisfaction survey which has not generated a high response, so we have sent out a second reminder to boost responses. The CVSuite quarterly newsletter was sent out last week which announced our next enhancement (adding more data visualization features to the tool), the next Creative Vitality List, and another reminder about our client feedback survey. The team had a successful meeting last week with a large client, South Carolina Arts Commission. Their renewal is up at the end of next year and we discussed ways they can use the tool with their highly successful rural art program, Art of Community- Rural SC.


GO Smart continues to bring in revenue from expected summer renewals as well as additional revenue for new services for existing clients. Ben is working on a bootstrap update to the site to bring the GO Smart branding and modernity to the admin and panelist portals. Jon and Adam are updating small issues such as improving the display of attached media and making it easier for panelists to log in as well as a larger scope of replacing the email system so admin can capture email logs, bounces, and other data. 


PAA is finalizing an investment proposal to present to Upstart CoLab, a creative impact investing firm that has reached out to PAA with some potential interest. The team is also finalizing its first digital exhibition project with Mural Arts Philadelphia, which is slated for launch later this month. PAA continues to see interest in the CMS and Showcase services, but continued delays in the budget process have stalled a number of organizations we had hoped to onboard in FY20.


ZAPP partner Celebrate Fairfax recently transferred their membership share of 2.04% to WESTAF, bringing WESTAF’s ownership of ZAPP up to 83%. This effectively ends Celebrate Fairfax’s partnership with ZAPP. A bittersweet moment, their organization has ceased operations for the remainder of 2020 because of COVID-19 and the inability to host large community festivals that were their primary fundraisers. Thanks to hard work from Julia, Ben, Natalie, Adam, and Laurel, we launched a revamped WordPress help center for administrators with new content and articles broken out in sections, as opposed to the long guides and PDF tutorials.  We’re also working on ZAPP Connections, a discussion-based series for administrators covering topics of importance in the art fair and festival industry. The first discussion is slated to explore the topic of virtual art fairs. 

So proud to be leading this great organization. Do let us know if you have any questions or concerns! I’m here for you.

Respectfully submitted,