Greetings WESTAF trustees:
Happy to be checking in with you once again! This will be my last biweekly of 2020 (I’m going to skip over the one that would have come up right before the new year and give you a break!). The next biweekly should land in your inboxes around January 11. This week, we were also able to confirm our February meeting dates (February 3-4), which had been left as TBD before the pandemic while we determined whether we should do another DC advocacy trip or meet someplace in the west. Well, the pandemic proceeds apace (albeit with sure signs of optimism on the horizon), so this February meeting will be another virtual affair. Our May meeting is still a big virtual/in-person question as well, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted! Before we dive back in, I also have news of a biweekly innovation: starting this week, we’ll also be including the whole WESTAF team on these biweeklies moving forward. It’s a great way to for everyone in all parts of the organization to stay up-to-date on what’s going on, and to feel even more interconnected to the work of their colleagues. So, welcome WESTAF-ers to this and future Bi-weekly Updates! Let’s jump in:
WESTAF ENDORSES CULTURAL ADVOCACY GROUP POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS SUBMITTED TO THE BIDEN-HARRIS TRANSITION TEAM THAT ARE NOW BEING SENT TO THE WIDER FIELD FOR REVIEW (DH)
Following a Monday, November 30 meeting with the Biden-Harris Transition Team, the Cultural Advocacy Group (CAG), the working group of national arts, humanities, and cultural stakeholders that collaborate year-round to advance federal policy priorities, submitted a set of policy proposals to the Arts & Humanities Agency Review Team per their request in early December. WESTAF endorsed this document as one of the organizations that contributed to its development. The document has now been shared with a group of regional and national organizations for review and a new version based on this feedback will be disseminated for endorsement thereafter. David joined CAG representing WESTAF in November.
WESTAF INVITED TO JOIN AFTA INCLUSIVE CREATIVE ECONOMY WORKING GROUP (DH)
After serving on the Creative Economy Working Group organized by AFTA since late 2019, David was recently invited to join the Inclusive Creative Economy Working Group, a new group formed to respond to the strategy that arose from the former process. The group, which met for the first time on Thursday, December 10, includes representatives from a range of organizations within and outside of the arts including companies like Kickstarter and Etsy, sister regional arts organization NEFA, economic development funder Rural LISC, and others. In the WESTAF region, the Center for Cultural Innovation, the Economic Security Project, and LA County Arts and Culture also serve on the new group.
NASAA CREATIVE ECONOMY AND RECOVERY PROJECT NEARLY FINALIZED AND IS TO BE FEATURED AT US DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE EVENT IN JANUARY 2021 (DH)
The CVSuite team is working toward finalizing the creative economy and recovery case studies being produced in collaboration with NASAA by this Friday, December 18. The case studies, along with a study produced by Indiana University, will be shared in partial form as part of a U.S. Department of Commerce event in mid-January 2021.
CENTER FOR CULTURAL INNOVATION INVITED TO BE FEATURED SPEAKERS IN JANUARY 2021 EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FORUM (DH)
The Center for Cultural Innovation, a California based arts service organization that promotes knowledge sharing and skill building, has agreed to join the WESTAF ED Forum on January 15, 2021 as featured speakers. CCI has become increasingly recognized for their program AmbitioUS, which innovative new models of supporting arts and culture with a focus on supporting new economic models and an emphasis on black and indigenous communities. CCI also delivers a range of other programs that advance the careers of artists through direct grantmaking and more holistic professional development. These efforts are being supported by a group of major foundation partners nationwide. CCI was chosen to speak about innovative developments in the field and private grantmaking strategies, areas of interests selected by WESTAF’s state arts agency executive directors in surveys.
ARTS LEADERSHIP AND ADVOCACY SEMINAR BEING REIMAGINED AS A VIRTUAL PANEL SERIES IN 2021 (DH)
WESTAF’s Convenings Team, Leah, Laurel, Natalie Scherlong and David, has begun work on planning a reimagined virtual Arts Leadership and Advocacy Seminar currently scheduled for February 24-25, 2021. Natalie and Leah have conducted research and participated in demos to identify a virtual platform; Laurel has organized a work plan for the event; and David is formulating the agenda and currently inviting speakers. The format of the event is envisioned as 3-4 virtual sessions including a panel discussion and a participant question and answer session that are inspired by the seminar format used in past ALAS gatherings. Current topics identified include developments in federal arts policy, Western state engagement in federal arts policy, effective engagement of members of Congress, and a national reimagining of the field. Prospective speakers include WESTAF board members, lobbyists supported through WESTAF Advocacy Funds, members of WESTAF’s Leaders of Color network, Western Arts Advocacy Network (WAAN) members, other CAG members, other national arts and culture leaders, and Congressional office staffers.
INTERNAL AUDIT, NEA18 CLOSE, AND TOURWEST 2021-2022 APPLICATION PREPARATION (LM)
The SRI team has been busy in collaboration with the finance team and Seyan Lucero, to organize files, reconcile data, and prepare documentation for this year’s internal audit and the close of NEA fiscal year 2018. We have also started preparations for the new TourWest cycle that will open in early 2021. Our team is working to advance equitable grantmaking practices in the creation of this year’s TourWest application, with the challenges of the pandemic at the forefront of any updates and changes.
LAUNCH OF CNMI CARES ARTIST APPLICATION (MS)
Today WESTAF launches the CNMI CARES Relief Fund for Artists in partnership with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Arts Council. This is a relief grant program, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, that provides support to eligible artists whose projects have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Northern Mariana Islands. Grants will be awarded in the range of $2000-$5000. The CNMI CARES Relief Fund for Organizations remains open to eligible 501c3 nonprofit cultural organizations in the Mariana Islands. Both applications can be found at cnmicares.gosmart.org and will be due quarterly and awarded on a first come, first serve basis throughout 2021. The first deadline will be January 30, 2021.
COMPLETION OF THE FIRST SOUTH ARTS ELC (MS)
Wednesday, December 9th, saw the successful close of the first cohort of the South Arts Emerging Leaders of Color Program. This program was reimagined for online delivery by the faculty, Salvador Acevedo, Margie Reese, Madalena, and David, in partnership with the program manager, Ethan Messere of South Arts. In this revised program, we were able to add new elements to the program, like the online resource guide (designed by 2015 CO alumna, Alex Jimenez), and invite additional facilitators, Shana Tucker and Ashley Renee Watkins. We are pleased to welcome the 12 participants from across the South Arts region into the alumni fold.
INTERVIEWS BEGIN THIS WEEK WITH DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND INCLUSION CANDIDATES (DH)
A candidate review committee, composed of WESTAF staff, a board member, and members of the Leaders of Color Network, will begin first round interviews with candidates for the Director of Social Responsibility and Inclusion this week.
FUNDRAISING UPDATE (CG)
After a further round of research on the comprehensive list of potential funders provided by Beka Whitson, we’ve started to whittle down our approaches to the following foundations, in approximate order of priority: MJ Murdock Charitable Trust (currently in-flight), Mellon Foundation, Windgate Foundation, UMB Charitable Trust, and then the Surdna, Wallace, Sloan and Knight Foundations. Led by Christian and David, with assistance from Natalie Scherlong, the finance team and a team and/or trustee partner (depending on the specific program) we’ll be developing different strategies in our approach with each potential funder throughout FY21. At our February 4 trustee meeting, Beka will also be providing a brief presentation on her methodology, take questions and make recommendations to trustees on how WESTAF should most effectively approach this work, moving forward.
RAO UPDATE (CG)
Our sister Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs) have been meeting frequently with our wonderful new RAO Coordinator Cynthia Steele. Later in this update, you can learn more about the ELC South Arts program, which concluded successfully this past week. Christian also had an encouraging conversation with Torrie Allen, CEO of Arts Midwest, who was curious about what an ELC Arts Midwest program might look like. Torrie also wanted to know more about how WESTAF works with arts advocacy organizations in the western region, and was eager to replicate a similar program in the Midwest. We’re also following up on some initial interest here as well from the Mid-America Arts Alliance. The RAOs have a regular check-in meeting coming up with the Arts Endowment on December 18, and then in mid-January with AFTA. Our working relationship — together as a group and as partners — remain collegial, curious and warm.
FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION (AH)
The auditors from Plante Moran are finishing their two weeks of fieldwork this Friday. This is the first time the process has been virtual and it has gone very smoothly due to the team’s advanced preparation and to Becky’s management of the process. The finance & administration team is excited to welcome Janae De La Virgen to the team as of January 1st with a new title of Office & Culture Operations Coordinator. She will be working closely with Becca on office management and HR support as well as continuing her work as receptionist and supporting the technology products. In lieu of renewing the yearly bus passes for staff through the Denver regional transportation district, WESTAF is instead paying that $500 per person to each staff member to help defray the cost of outfitting their home offices. The staff have been appreciative of this reallocation of benefit dollars.
STRATEGIC PLAN (NS)
The Communications Cohort walked through their Asana project a final time and created due dates and timelines for their brand analysis project. They are now ready to get to work on their brand analysis and recommendation book! The Policy Cohort’s Stories of Resilience project was announced in the WESTAF Arts News and Notes on December 7th. Scoping docs will be finalized this week, which will then be presented to their TAs for review. The Policy Cohort will identify their next project once the scoping docs have been concluded. The Equity Cohort is focusing their work internally, centering people, and practice. They are currently working to develop initiatives to create an equity-based values statement for WESTAF and an equity-focused dimension to new staff orientation and current staff reorientation. The values statement will help to ground their work and orientation reimagined will help to cultivate a more authentic and open workspace culture.
We moved CaFE’s payment processing from PayPal to Braintree, a service owned by PayPal. The update improves security, allows artists to store payment types for easier checkout, and aligns the checkout process with ZAPP. We also launched an e-blast sales campaign for 20% off e-blasts through the end of the month. Raquel has drafted initial mission statements and customer service philosophy drafts as part of our ongoing OKR work; though in the early stages, this is important work that will eventually help to align all the business products and is specific to initiatives in WESTAF’s strategic plan. CaFE had a brief service interruption on 12/10 which prevented all users from either accessing the site or logging in. It was resolved within about one hour.
CVSuite has updated the data to a new data year, an update which was particularly laborious because of certain taxonomy and API changes on the backend. The last two weeks Trevor, Natalie and the tech team have been wrapped up in heavy testing. CVSuite spent a lot of time in the last month working to migrate our user guide to the wordpress site. Upgrades in WordPress are requiring us to fix this issue in order to make major changes to specific features on the site. Because of limited tech resources, we had to put the project on hold until March. Seyan and Kelly will continue to reorganize the sales site, which includes a focus on reorganizing the Specialized Impact Reports page to accompany the first marketing campaign of the year. We will market the Specialized Impact Reports to our general leads group with a campaign send date of Dec. 16th.
GO SMART (JG)
Jessica continues to revamp all tutorials and training materials for the work sample to media library overhaul.She has also begun a scope for a large preview enhancement and is speaking with a small group of clients to gain insight on their needs. Two clients have added additional cycles to their current slate, further increasing expected revenue. The GO Smart site was affected briefly on Friday morning 12/4/20 but Adam was able to work with BRI to reboot the server and the issue was quickly resolved.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE (LG)
The Public Art Archive’s Power Map virtual experience was featured in an E-Flux announcement (distributed to over 90,000 recipients) driven by Mural Arts Philadelphia as part of the communications for the Power Map panel discussion.
We held the third discussion in our ZAPP Connections series with administrators from around the country who are in the process of planning their 2021 events. Our team just finished testing an enhancement to allow events to collect applications from non-artist vendors, with the intention being that administrators can more easily manage all event aspects using ZAPP rather than a competitive platform. This enhancement is slated for release at the end of the month. Finally, we also launched a holiday e-blast campaign where administrators can buy one and get one 50% off through the end of the year. Along with CaFE, ZAPP had a brief service interruption on 12/10 which prevented all users from either accessing the site or logging in. It was resolved within about one hour.