Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: August 9, 2021

By August 10, 2021No Comments

August 9, 2021

Greetings WESTAF community:

So much activity in all corners of the organization these past few weeks! A warm welcome to Ashanti McGee…the registration launch of WESTAF’s Creative Vitality Summit has already attracted over 120 registrants in just the early days of registration…the herculean launch of the new CaFE admin User Interface…panelists getting lined up for the ARP Fund for Organizations…a busy executive committee meeting…planning for several key in-person meetings happening in the coming months…settling in over at the Alliance Center…read on below for updates on those items and a whole lot of other important stuff, too!

On Monday, August 2, Ashanti McGee began her role as the SRI Grants and Access Manager.  Ashanti McGee is an artist and arts advocate who has called Las Vegas, Nevada home for over 25 years. She began her arts administrative work assisting local grassroots and nonprofits with grant writing and management and continued working in this area for over a decade. In 2014, she was selected as the Nevada representative for WESTAF’s Emerging Leaders of Color program and has served as a panelist for WESTAF’s Arts Leadership and Advocacy Seminar. She most recently served as a district representative for Nevada Congresswoman Susie Lee, focusing on outreach for Black, Native American, and LGBTQ+ communities around arts and culture, and environment and public lands. A proud mom of four, McGee has committed her work to arts and education, including updating arts education standards for the Nevada Department of Education; serving as a board member for Cultural Alliance of Nevada, a statewide arts advocacy organization; cofounding the Las Vegas Womxn of Color Arts Festival, and acting as a core member of NUWU Cultural Arts + Activism complex, a POC-owned and operated space in Las Vegas that works to uplift all communities by strengthening cultural knowledge and identity through the arts, activism, and education.  (Due to unforeseen circumstances, the new Grants and Equity Manager previously announced will be starting at a later date, with a joint announcement pending).

Please find linked the June Cash Summary and the corresponding memo that was shared with the executive committee at their meeting on July 28. Please also find the July cash projections. As the memo states, June is 75% through the year (!!), and not surprisingly, we are behind in both income and expense due in part to the pandemic (67% and 70% respectively on line 38) per the cash summary report. A reminder that WESTAF provided ZAPP with a loan to help with cash flow (which results in the 42% of income from ZAPP on line 9), and the WESTAF executive committee voted to forgive that loan last month. We currently have a positive cash net balance when Mellon is removed from the totals (purple totals on line 39). We are 17% ahead of last June’s earned income per the far right section of the cash summary (not including ZAPP management fees), which indicates growth as we climb out of the pandemic. The McKenzie-Scott donation is included in the accrual net on line 43 and the cash reserve account on line 50. Since those funds went to our investments, we are planning on keeping them out of this year’s cash flow totals. While we continue to project a deficit, we are expecting it will be smaller than our budgeted deficit of $398,000.

The executive committee of the WESTAF board of trustees held their monthly virtual meeting on July 28. The conversation centered largely around the organization’s re-energized approach to mission-driven, socially responsible investment. The committee reviewed WESTAF’s current (and dated) investment policy and made some improvement/updating the language therein. In addition, the committee reviewed several different mission-aligned investment resources, including Angeles Investments, Impact Shares, as well as a customized ESG (environmental, societal and governance) proposal from our current investment manager ATON Advisors. The committee also heard a brief update on WESTAF’s Pacific Island efforts (more on that below) and also received an update on the four key, upcoming in-person retreats and meetings (more on that below, as well). The committee also received an update on the compliance impact of Colorado COMPS Order #37. The meeting concluded with a finance update and an update from the EIC.

There are four key in-person retreats and meeting coming up in the next 1-3 months that will really help to inform the organization’s initiatives and priorities as we head into FY22:

  • Leadership Team Retreat (August 17—19) in Colorado Springs, CO. To help us, we have engaged Spitfire Strategies, and Midy Aponte, who will be facilitating and moderating the agenda. In preparation, the Spitfire team interviewed each member of the leadership team to surface priorities and hoped-for outcomes.
  • Executive Committee Meeting (September 2223) in Boise, ID. This is the annual in-person executive committee meeting (the last one was in Sacramento, CA in 2019).
  • RAO Retreat (September 2729) in Fort Collins, CO. The leadership of the Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs) will convene for the first time in person since Burlington, VT in 2019. This meeting also includes RAO board leadership, including chair-elects, so Tamara and Teniqua will both be attending.
  • WESTAF BOT Annual Meeting (October 2728) in Denver, CO. Information just went out about the WESTAF annual trustees meeting, which will include a day of committee meetings and drinks, dinner at the Alliance Center, before the full trustee meeting at the Brown Palace.

After a robust open call for nomination process that identified over 90 potential panelists, WESTAF confirmed the availability of more than 60 panel candidates. Staff reviewed each panelist application to ensure a mix of candidates from each of the 13 states whose experience aligns with the goals of the WESTAF ARP. To this end, 25 panelists have been confirmed and will engage in one of two panel orientation sessions on August 11. Learn more about the panelists breakdown by state at this link.

On August 6, the Leaders of Color Advisory Committee met with Anika and Ashanti. The purpose of the meeting was to review 1:1 conversations that Anika had with each committee member in the past few months and engage in a brainstorm on future planning for the network around the following activities for FY22: 1) creating compensated statewide representatives from the network to ensure that there is connection among members in each state and to act as WESTAF LOC ambassadors in each state; 2) providing thought leadership around mini “catalyst” convenings each state to ensure intimate gatherings of the network for community building and activation; and 3) developing an artist-centered re-granting program where the network work guides WESTAF on all aspects of the grant design. Review the brief slide deck from this meeting here. As part of the next steps, the SRI team will meet for further concept development and continue conversations with the committee and network as a whole.

Five new speakers and panelists have been confirmed for the Creative Vitality Summit:

  • Ted Russell, director, arts strategy and ventures, Kenneth Rainin Foundation
  • Abdiel López, independent curator and writer
  • Kim Tignor, founder, Take Creative Control; executive director, Institute for Intellectual Property & Social Justice
  • Patton Hindle, head of arts, Kickstarter
  • Rasmus Tscherning, founder and managing director, Creative Business Cup.

This brings the total number of speakers and panelists confirmed to 26. NALAC (the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures) has been confirmed as a partner and will be working with us to organize the “Creative Vitality and Social Cohesion” panel. As of last week, 126 people have registered for the Creative Vitality Summit after registration opened on 7/30. Panel planning meetings will begin this week. 

WESTAF recently endorsed a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel A. Cardona as part of an early effort to engage the Arts Education Partnership, a national network of over 100 organizations dedicated to advancing arts education. The letter asks the U.S. Department of Education to commit to data collection regarding access to arts education and student learning in the arts; issue a letter to state Title I Directors, Chief State School Officers, and Secretaries of Education specifying the eligibility of arts education for use of Title I funds; and create staff leadership positions to advise on the arts and arts learning.

On July 26, Be An Arts Hero/Arts Workers United organized a Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA) Advocacy meeting to discuss coordinated field wide advocacy effort in support of the legislation when it is introduced, prioritizing Congressional Arts Caucus members, Small Business Committee members, and Energy/Commerce Committee members. The WESTAF-organized WAAN group was instrumental in calling for this joint effort. The new group has developed a Slack channel and shared working documents and will be meeting biweekly in the interim. Be an #ArtsHero is a 100% volunteer-run, intersectional grassroots campaign comprised of Arts & Culture workers, Unions, and institutions in the United States pushing the Senate to allocate proportionate relief to the Arts & Culture sector of the American economy.  

On Monday, August 2, David joined the Performing Arts Visa Working Group, a national network of organizations including the Association for Performing Arts Professionals (APAP), American Federation of Musicians, the Recording Academy, Tamizdat, and others, that advocate for international artist mobility and engage USCIS and the State Department on issues affecting international artist mobility in the U.S. context. The group is in discussions on USCIS Processing, Consular Visa Processing, and COVID-19 NIE (National Interest Exemption) Restrictions. The group is actively advocating for the ARTS Act, which would reestablish the Arts Requiring Timely Service provision at the Immigration Service. WESTAF’s AAP division regularly issues advisory opinions, consultation letters, and no objection letters for foreign guest artists seeking entry to the U.S. for artistic and cultural projects. In recent months, Moana and David have processed 10 letters requested by host organizations, law firms, and artists. WESTAF has also taken a more active role in international artistic exchange through our management of the Performing Arts Discovery program on behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts in 2021. Joining the Performing Arts Visa Policy Working Group increases our access to intelligence on changes to visa policies and larger international artist mobility issues, particularly during the pandemic. 

WESTAF has pledged to develop its competency, build understanding and deepen relationships within the disability community. To help us along our journey, we have engaged DisArt, a nonprofit dedicated to cultivating and communicating disability cultural identity. DisArt recently released two newsletters that go a long way to helping us understand their work — one which centers DisCourse, their consulting and coaching group, and another newsletter that focuses on various partnerships, podcasts and disability-related topics. I highly recommend these newsletters if you want to learn more about DisArt and their work!

We received a pass from our AWS Imagine Grant application—their loss! It’s a superlative project, and we are left with some excellent description language about our fundraising plans around the Public Art Archive that will serve us well into the future. Another follow up to the Sloan Foundation, this time a new connection. Thank you Tamara, for helping us initiate a personal connection to the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation—we are optimistic that an introductory meeting is forthcoming there. After a promising introductory meeting, Christian has drafted a response to CC Gardner Gleser at the Satterberg Foundation, outlining four potential funding directions. Hope to get that out this coming week.

Another WESTAF crew got a tour of the Alliance Center this past weekend, and got to spend some time together in-person. Here are some photos of our space and the get-together afterwards!

WESTAF attended the Regional Arts Representation for Island Territories meeting organized by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) in September 2019. This meeting drummed up enthusiasm to explore and create a way to connect Pacific Island Territories and WESTAF. Historically, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and Guam (Pacific Territories) have lacked representation as a region within the US arts sector and have been excluded from national conversations surrounding art advocacy. Continuing from talks and conversations pre-pandemic, WESTAF has taken recent measures to holistically develop next steps and programs with Pacific Territories to create a partnership that includes Pacific values, culture, and priorities. Although the details of the collaboration are very loose, WESTAF seeks to expand networks to the artists and arts organizations of the Pacific territories and offer resources.

The MarComm team recently launched its Q4 CaFÉ marketing campaign, which includes an email drip campaign to a targeted list of local arts councils and agencies, as well as paid social media ads and Google Ads that will run through the end of September. On Friday, we opened registration for our 2021 Creative Vitality™ Summit and launched the initial version of our event site on the Aventri platform and have already received an overwhelming number of registrations. The team is also preparing for FY22, beginning to draft the marketing plans for WESTAF’s technology products. 

The team has also begun drafting the master communications plan for FY22, which includes WESTAF’s ongoing communications (such as WESTAF Now), conferences and trade shows (such as the annual Americans for the Arts Convention), WESTAF-hosted convenings, and preliminary communications plans for the programs and services under the Social Responsibility and Inclusion (SRI) and Alliances, Advocacy, and Policy (AAP) divisions. The team is currently compiling content for August’s WESTAF Now, with plans to share the newsletter on August 18, as well as working on details for the in-person October board meeting in Denver and some items for the Leadership Resource Team retreat in Colorado Springs. With registration for the Creative Vitality™ Summit in full swing, the team has also been responding to and gathering feedback from registrants. This week, the MarComm team will hold their first annual retreat, part of which will include a facilitated session with Valerie Atkin, who has been working with WESTAF’s staff and various teams since May 2019.

The communication cohort met for their monthly meeting on July 29, where they discussed their current project of compiling the discovery report. They have established a timeline for the project to work up to the board meeting and are planning on extending an invitation to their board advisors for review and critique the first draft of the report. The policy cohort has distributed the regional partner handbook survey to 24 contacts at state art agencies and state art advocacy organizations. The next step is to dissect the feedback and use the information to plan out the development of the project. Meanwhile, the cohort has been brainstorming workshop ideas and possible facilitators for the October meeting. Their next meeting is scheduled for later in August. Cohort leadership will meet on Monday, August 16, 2021, for a working lunch. The location has yet to be determined. The group hopes to determine workshops for the annual meeting this October.

Christina submitted the second draft of the business and technology budgets for FY22. She also has plans to begin work with Leah and the MarComm team to create a series of standardized templates for each product’s sales kit now that the unique selling propositions are almost finalized. Business is also working through the technology team transition, identifying gaps in our resources and items that need to be prioritized, which also led to the creation of a new tech priority process. We recently launched a search for a DevOps System Administrator, and we hope to begin interviews in the next couple of weeks. We also had PHP and MySQL updated, important security maintenance items for ZAPP, CaFE, and GO Smart. 

The CaFE team is proud to say we’ve launched our new CaFE admin UI! The CaFE team, business and tech teams all put in countless hours of work to make this happen, and while we still have a few tweaks and improvements to make in the coming weeks and months, we have received positive feedback and are happy with the updates. Read more about what’s new in the latest CaFE blog

CVSuite sold one new license to TRIPTK, the New-York based marketing firm we mentioned in our last update. The organization approached CVS as they are working on an analysis of the creative economy for an undisclosed private sector client. Wyoming Arts Alliance renewed their contract and is in discussion with the CVS team about facilitating data training workshops for their creative cities pilot project. Kelly has been in touch with Christy Costello from CCI about the Creative Districts Summit, where CVSuite has confirmed to sponsor and facilitate a lunch on the topic of data usage and creative economy, in addition to our presentation for the districts at the preconference. The team has been connected with two creative districts (Durango and Colorado Springs) whose data “use-cases” will be featured in our presentation.

GO Smart received a PHP 7.4 upgrade and the team’s testing showed a successful implementation. BRI completed initial work on a bug that is skewing NEA data on a custom report and we are awaiting the release of that fix. Jessica offered a demo to the Gottlieb Foundation after Ken recommended us as an alternative to CaFE. This is the third demo this month, a huge uptick in inbound sales activity. Jessica created a Unique Selling Proposition and is excited to begin using it in new GO Smart sales collateral. We have collected three client testimonials to add to our sales site. Intense building continued for Miami Beach’s final report overhaul. 

PAA completed the release of the final fixes and enhancements that include a search by date option, linked collection and owner websites, and a few minor bug fixes that were identified during the previous release. PAA completed the import of over 3,200 images from Mural Arts Philadelphia’s 35-year history, reconciled from a legacy FileMakerPro database. This completes the largest image migration the team has performed since the migration of the PAA database itself. PAA’s current Powtoon ad that features the new collection-specific apps is performing well and will continue to be distributed online throughout the month of August.

The ZAPP team has been in full “training mode” as we work to teach our internal processes and site to our newest team members Tim, Sara, and Raymond! Additionally, we recently entered a sponsorship with The Independent Artist Podcast for the next couple of months. This podcast is hosted by artists Douglas Sigwarth and Will Armstrong and explores the struggles and successes of being festival artists. We are excited to be a part of a group that is bridging the industry for admins and artists. Another highlight for us was that our quarterly newsletter written by Julia was shared, in part, by ArtfairInsiders, a reputable industry website! You can find that blog HERE.


Respectfully submitted,