Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: February 8, 2021

By February 9, 2021No Comments

Hello again WESTAF community:

Thank you everyone for such an action-packed week — really productive and inspiring all-team, committee and trustee meetings. Thanks for the blocks of intense time, focus and feedback. It was a lot! There was so much information to cover in the agenda that in fine-tuning how we spend our time together in the future, we want to make sure that individual topics have more room for thoughtful discourse and the sharing of ideas. Special thanks to our team and trustee committee presenters for the preparation and delivery. This coming week, we’ll be saying farewell to Seyan Lucero and Madalena Salazar. Both have done so much for WESTAF and we’re really going to miss them, but we’re also very excited for their next professional chapters! Happy trails, colleagues! In some “what’s up with our trustees?” news: be sure to check out the online exhibit Art of Indigenous Fibers up now through February 7 and curated by trustee Amber Dawn Bear Robe; check out trustee Teniqua Broughton’s latest project, the first in a four-part video series with Arizona Opera called LOUD! And trustees, don’t forget to look in your email inbox for a special VIP invitation to the opening of Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart in Las Vegas, thanks to trustee Susan Garbett! In the meantime, let’s get to it:


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Community Science has invited WESTAF to participate in the Grantee Organization Demographic Survey. Responses to this survey will help The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation better understand trends in its grantmaking, one part of its overall commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. This survey asks a series of demographic questions about Western States Arts Federation’s leadership including board members, head of the organization (e.g., CEO, President, Executive Director), and senior leadership (i.e., executive-level managers who report directly to the head of organization). If you received a survey from Natalie at WESTAF, please complete the survey with all urgency. The final aggregated survey is due back to the Mellon Foundation by February 19. Thank you!


The National Endowment for the Arts has announced four political appointees designated for senior positions at the agency by the Biden-Harris Administration, who will bring their expertise to the Arts Endowment to advance priorities for the new administration. They are Chief of Staff Ra Joy, White House Liaison and Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff Jennifer (Jenn) Chang, Director of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs Sonia Chala Tower, and Congressional Liaison Ben Kessler. The previous political appointees along with former chairman Mary Anne Carter left the Arts Endowment on January 20. Ann Eilers, Deputy Chairman for Management & Budget, serves as Acting Chairman until a new Chairman has been appointed.


After several weeks of editing and best efforts to incorporate as much feedback as possible by the Cultural Advocacy Group (CAG), an updated version of The Arts and Cultural Sector: Federal Policy Actions has been finalized and is ready for endorsement. WESTAF recently circulated policy recommendations to members of the Western Arts Advocacy Network (WAAN) and other significant regional stakeholders. An initial version of this statement (featured in your Board Book) was shared, in response to a request, with members of the Biden-Harris transition team, and the new version expands to adopt further recommendations and reflect actions the new Administration has already begun to take. If an organization you are affiliated with would like to add your endorsement, please complete this quick Google form. CAG welcomes anyone to share this invitation with other national, state, and regional-level arts organizations.


Preparations for ALAS continue with the convenings team implementing plans produced by MarComm and AAP. Session registration will open on the event site Aventri on 2/10. Meetings with all four panels are being conducted on 2/12 to review and refine the agenda and give the panelists an opportunity to engage in advance of the session. Individual meetings with panelists have also been scheduled in some cases to orient panelists to WESTAF and ALAS. Leah Horn, Samantha Ortega, and Natalie Scherlong are building out the event website. Janae and Justine are working with the Policy Cohort to recruit members to join the ALAS sessions to lead questions and answers with participants. 


WESTAF has continued to support a coalition of arts advocates in Colorado to define a new direction and an aligned vision for arts advocacy across the state. The Colorado Cultural Partners group conducted an Advocacy Alignment Survey across the state and was led in a planning session by Taloma Partners, a women-owned business/nonprofit consulting firm. WESTAF is working closely with Colorado Creative Industries; has developed a new relationship with Colorado Business Committee for the Arts through our advocacy funding program; and has taken on in-house management of the lobbyist contract in Colorado with Brandeberry McKenna Public Affairs (BBMK), a women-owned lobbying firm who has worked on behalf of the arts in the state for over a decade. The four areas of the developing legislative strategy are securing relief for the field, restoring Creative Districts funding through Colorado Creative Industries, and developing an equity-centered opportunity (potentially for artists). The core objective is protecting the funding for CCI and possibly bringing down additional relief dollars for the field. Legislative work will focus on Colorado Joint Budget Committee members and Colorado General Assembly leadership. The Colorado Arts Caucus will be managed by the Colorado Cultural Partners group with support from BBMK. 


The recording of the Californians for the Arts webinar “What to Expect in 2021 – Legislation and Funding for the Creative Industries” is now available as is the accompanying WESTAF presentation on the SBA Paycheck Protection Program Second Draw, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and the SBA Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program. The full session also includes discussion of new state funding opportunities.


WAAN met on 1/29 to share state legislative strategies. While a number of states are facing fiscal shortfalls, in others record surpluses are causing an equally contentious political environment. The group discussed doing a deep dive into Arts & Cultural Caucuses exploring the success of the Colorado Arts Caucus and developing caucuses in Hawai’i and Washington. A $50 million relief fund request has been made by advocates in California and a $100 million request is being considered in Washington. 


The SRI team gave a brief presentation to and discussed aspects of our work with the EIC on Wednesday, February 3rd. David Holland presented an update regarding the search for the new Director of Social Responsibility and Inclusion, including an overview of the competencies required for the role. Madalena Salazar presented an overview of the strategic goals and guiding principles that are central to the work of the SRI team. Lani Morris presented an update on the progress, dynamics, and strategic vision of the internal Equity Cohort’s journey to operationalize the strategic plan. The group discussed the profile of the SRI Director candidates, the relationship of the guiding principles to the department, and the evolution of WESTAF’s equity work including the recent creation of the SRI division.


On January 28th, we kicked off the year with our 2nd quarterly Leaders of Color Skillshare. The Skillshare is a recent development in our alumni engagement, built at the request of alumni who wanted to learn more from each other.  This skillshare call is the next iteration of our formerly regular check in Zoom calls with alumni. Our first skillshare happened in October 2020, and was led by Ashanti McGee (NV/14) about how to engage with our elected representatives. Victoria Paige Gonzalez (CO/18), Marketing and Events Coordinator for Denver’s Latino Cultural Arts Center, hosted our recent call and shared her knowledge of social media strategy. We were also able to welcome our recent South Arts alumni into the call. Both calls were recorded, and we intend to edit and share these skillshares at a later date.  


For the past several months, the SRI team has been working hand in hand with MarComm to create a Leaders of Color Alumni website. The website’s goal is to showcase our alumni, and build relationships among them and with partners in the field more broadly. The idea for this site was encouraged by the Leaders of Color Advisory Committee, in particular Tara Gumapac (HI/18), and has been designed by alumni, Alexandria Jimenez (CO/15). With the help of MarComm and the Tech team, we expect this project to be launched by the end of the month.


TourWest has announced that the application for the 2021-2022 cycle will be launched February 10, 2021. We are pleased to announce many new updates to the application that reflect the needs of presenters and artists during the ongoing pandemic. To review TourWest eligibility requirements and updates to the 2021-2022 cycle, please visit


The candidate review committee conducted interviews with the two finalists for the position in which they were asked to present on their vision for the Social Responsibility and Inclusion division in 5 years. Reference checks are currently being conducted before making an offer.


For the past four years, the Arts Endowment’s Performing Arts Discovery (PAD) program has supported the Regional Arts Organizations to undertake performing arts platforms in their region that have showcased the work of U.S. performing artists for presenters based outside of the United States. WESTAF has partnered with Western Arts Alliance (WAA) to deliver this program over these years. The Endowment is exploring a virtual showcasing initiative to increase exposure of U.S. artists in international markets through PAD. WAA, Arts Midwest, and South Arts are meeting this week to explore a potential coordinated national program that could become PAD 2.0.


Much to our surprise, WESTAF received a 2nd loan from the Paycheck Protection Program! The total is $436,000 and will fund staff payroll and benefits for two and a half months. This greatly eases the cash flow crunch for WESTAF and ZAPP! The team continues to move various projects forward such as transitioning groups of ZAPP clients to EFT payments, progress on distributed workplace plans, Becky more fully managing the monthly closeout process and HR support of staff transitions.


The communications cohort reported out at the WESTAF all meeting on progress they have made with the OKR planning. The communications cohort has recently had an OKR progress check-in to evaluate deliverables and progress on tasks and is currently researching applying a design thinking approach to the deliverables and research as suggested by one of our trustee advisors. The methodologies currently under research are Ideo’s Field Guide to Human Centered Design, and Columbia’s Designing for Growth. The equity cohort led a grounding exercise, created by Eliza Wetherill, at the WESTAF All-Team meeting to reflect on the past year and take a moment to set intentions in the new year. Trevor McElhaney created a survey to ask staff to send one word when they think of 2020 and one word when they think of 2021. After collecting words, Trevor then created a word cloud for each year. Lani Morris facilitated conversation during the meeting while everyone reviewed the word clouds together. The cohort also announced that we are rolling out a survey to staff to collect feedback to support the creation of a WESTAF equity centered values statement. The policy cohort is in the midst of planning a meeting in March with their trustee advisors to collaborate on finalizing the scoping doc. Prior to this meeting, TAs will have the opportunity to review the cohort’s scoping document so they can offer any feedback, new ideas, etc. to the cohort. Janae and Justine are attending Arts Leadership & Advocacy Seminar (ALAS) meetings and are tracking opportunities for the cohort to be involved. Transitions in staff have resulted in a loss of cohort members, but the cohort plans to put an ask out to staff once new hires are recruited. 


We’re busy in business working to transition Seyan’s tasks while also thinking about how to organize the department and keep making progress on our many goals. More to come on the changes, and a special thanks to Seyan for all of the incredible work she’s done in business and beyond. With her leadership and implementation of OKRs, we have a blueprint to help us fulfill the strategic plan and advance our WESTAF offerings. We are going to miss her vision, knowledge, and so much more that is hard to put into words!


The Q2 CaFE campaign to art galleries launched on Jan 26. The email campaign was sent to  287 prospects and had a 41% open rate. The MarComm team made sure to emphasize our “Create Better Calls” motto and Justine added the video for visual interest. In January, the team added 128 new calls, 10 of which were by new clients. Ken has seen a surge in sales interest from watercolor societies, after Justine presented about CaFE with the National Watercolor Society in December. 


CVSuite is continuing to follow up with two leads — Nevada Commission on the Arts and Arkansans for the Arts, with Nevada very close to signing off on the contract. The tech team is gearing up to release our new enhancement of code groupings. This enhancement will touch every part of the tool, so extensive testing will be required. Finally, we are preparing for Seyans departure and so are in the process of inventorying CVSuite processes and plans to prepare for the transition. 


We are analyzing the engagement of recipients for our latest marketing campaign. A total of 312 recipients received an initial email in early January, and 20 recipients opened both the initial email as well as a follow up campaign. Jessica will reach out individually to these potential clients and work with the MarComm team to craft an appropriate message. A new client who signed on last summer, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, alerted us they will not be renewing. The admin who secured GO Smart went on medical leave, and in her absence, her colleagues went a different direction with their grant administration. 


PAA finalized the sales contracting process with the City of Sunnyvale, CA that will subscribe to PAA’s CMS and Showcase features. An early March public launch date has been set for their collection. Development continues on the rebuild of PAA’s search and explore functionality to improve sorting, filtering, and user-friendliness. The developments are still on track to be complete by the end of February. PAA is currently collaborating with CVSuite on the development of the product’s third list campaign.


As you know, ZAPP’s ownership is made up of a partnership of WESTAF and seven other nonprofit arts organizations. Not only do the partners serve in an advisory capacity, but they also make up a committee that approves the annual operating budget. We send quarterly updates to the partners about the ZAPP business, which includes noteworthy financial adjustments (of which there are many for ZAPP since the onset of the pandemic!), technical changes, sales updates, operational highlights, and updates on the competitive landscape (as applicable). CLICK HERE to see our latest update sent to the partners last week.

Respectfully, Submitted,