Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: January 11, 2021

By January 12, 2021No Comments

Greetings WESTAF trustees and colleagues:

Welcome to the first biweekly recap of 2021. I know I don’t need to tell you this, but it has already been a year that will be seared forever into our memories, and we’re not even halfway through January. At WESTAF, we’ve been forging ahead with our work, even as our government was under attack by domestic terrorists and rioters. For me, frankly, it has been hard not to just consume cable news and doom scroll on my device, even though that makes me feel worse, and there are other important things to do. But, I just can’t help it. For the WESTAF team, we’ve been encouraging self-care as much as possible, even as life and work continue to move forward inexorably. Insurrection aside (!), we ARE looking forward to our virtual holiday party on January 21 — the “WESTAFaganza!” Thank you to the celebration committee for putting together what is looking to be a really fun and inspired get-together — and sorely needed. It’ll be one day after the inauguration, so maybe we’ll be feeling a little more optimistic about the year that lies ahead for us all. There continues to be great work happening across the whole organization, and I’m particularly excited about the various new sales and demo pages being launched across our business products. Read on for more details.


On January 21, I am thrilled to report that our own Teniqua Broughton will be honored in a special virtual ceremony with the ASU MLK Community Servant-Leadership Award by ASU’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee. Teniqua has been a champion of arts education for two decades, with roles at ASU Gammage, Free Arts of Arizona and more, before founding VerveSimone in 2013. In her consulting role, Broughton supports nonprofits in the areas of arts, culture, social services and education. Teniqua also serves as the executive director of the State of Black Arizona, a nonprofit organization that runs leadership programs and produces data on African Americans in the state. From your WESTAF family, huge and well-deserved love, respect and congratulations, Madame Vice Chair.


Much gratitude goes to the Board Development Committee for their hard work so far in securing our first speaker for ArtX 2021. Our original January speaker Dr. Lisa Cooper discovered an unavoidable scheduling conflict, so we will be welcoming her instead on April 28. We have an ask out to another organization for a late January or February slot and we will let you know as soon as it has been confirmed. In the meantime, many thanks to trustee Bassem Bejiani and his partner Lisa Burns for their generous donation to WESTAF to cover Dr. Cooper’s honorarium. A very thoughtful and generous gesture indeed — thank you.


January and February are busy months for the WESTAF board of trustees. The Executive Committee will be convening for a brief meeting this week on January 13 for a post-holiday catch up and to review the financials from the first two months of FY21 among a few other items of business. As you know, February 3 and 4 are the dates for our committee and board winter meetings — still virtual, not surprisingly. We have a really packed agenda coming together, including some updates from our WESTAF business and policy colleagues, as well as presentations from some special guests that you won’t want to miss: a report on the federal arts policy priorities of the incoming Biden/Harris administration from Heather Noonan with the League of American Orchestras and the Cultural Advocacy Group; a report on our South Arts ELC partnership and the intriguing continuing evolution of the WESTAF ELC curriculum from longtime ELC faculty, collaborator and friend Salvador Acevedo, and a roundup of recommendations on our foundation fundraising strategies from consultant Beka Whitson of Whitson Strategies. For now, we’re all following the same grim pandemic statistics while waiting for the national vaccine rollout to be assumed by a more competent administration, so I suspect that when we’re able to meet again in person it will probably be pretty clear to us all. There is a slim possibility for May I suppose, but really I doubt it. I am hopeful for October in Denver.


On December 23, WESTAF released a briefing to state arts agencies and state arts advocacy groups analyzing HR 133, the legislative vehicle for the latest pandemic relief package and a comprehensive appropriations bill. The analysis was conducted by the AAP team and referenced work jointly conducted by members of the Cultural Advocacy Group to analyze the bill. The bill includes a range of areas that affect the arts and cultural sector, commercial and nonprofit, and that support a wide range of constituencies nationwide. There are a number of measures that advance equity, which for the arts and cultural sector include the proposed creation of a Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum and a National Museum of the American Latino. The Small Business Administration will implement a new $15 billion grant program dedicated to providing support for “shuttered venue operators.” $2 billion is specifically designated for organizations with less than 50 FTE employees. The program will provide grants of up to $10 million for eligible organizations, which include live venue operators or promoters, theatrical producers, live performing arts organization operators, relevant museum operators, motion picture theatre operators, or talent representatives that meet other requirements. This multi-billion dollar investment in venues is the realization of Save our Stages, which WESTAF endorsed in its bill form on behalf of Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in July 2020. $167.5 million each is allocated for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which is $5.25 million more than the 2020 enacted levels and rejects the White House’s budget request proposal to eliminate the agencies. The bill includes language that permits grant funds appropriated this year and in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 to be used for operating expenses. The bill also ensures that priority is given to providing services or awarding financial assistance for projects, productions, workshops, or programs that serve underserved populations.


WESTAF announced our 2021 Arts Leadership and Advocacy Seminar (ALAS) to take place on Wednesday, February 24 and Thursday, February 25, 2021. This year’s ALAS will be hosted virtually with an expanded focus. The seminar will feature a series of panel discussions and speakers who will share their knowledge on topics related to federal advocacy, engaging members of Congress, and the transformation of the field. Confirmed panelists at this stage include Cézanne Charles, co-founder of design studio rootoftwo; Hal Real, founder of World Cafe Live, chair of the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and president of the National Independent Venue Foundation; Heather Noonan, vice president for advocacy at the League of American Orchestras and convener of the Cultural Advocacy Group; and Western Arts Advocacy Network (WAAN) co-chairs Manny Cawaling, executive director of Inspire Washington, and Julie Baker, executive director of California Arts Advocates. We will be sending out updates and further details about the meeting in the coming weeks as more information becomes available. An announcement to WESTAF’s board and state arts agency network has been sent out and we will be sending an announcement to prospective participants soon. Registration will open later this month on event platform Aventri. We hope you can join us.


The CVSuite team finalized the Creative Economy and Recovery report being produced in collaboration with NASAA (a paid contract), which will be provisionally released on Monday, January 18, 2020 following a US Chamber of Commerce, NASAA, Americans for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Arts event, Starring Role: Arts and Entertainment in the Pandemic Era. The report, 92 pages and 22,951 words in length with over 120 sources in its final draft form, features 11 case studies from states and communities across the country—Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. In each, resilient regions and creative industries, dynamic organizations, well-established and innovative initiatives and programs, and a number of creative economy-supportive public policies are examined. In Arizona, the Arizona Creative Communities Institute is explored alongside the development of the creative economy in selected communities. The place of arts and culture within the regional development aspirations of Northwest Arkansas and the art-led economic development of Western Massachusetts are also explored alongside a suburban creative district in Prince George’s County Maryland and cultural tourism in Appalachian Tennessee. Recent legislation that creates the pathway to a statewide creative districts program in Nebraska that builds upon its growing creative economy is also explored. The award-winning radio music program Mountain Stage and Charleston, West Virginia’s music industry are also explored as is the meteoric rise of Georgia’s film industry. The creative economy strategies that leverage the rich historical, scenic, and cultural assets of rural regions in Southern Minnesota and Northeast Kingdom Vermont are also presented. Bellevue, Washington’s thriving digital creative economy, particularly a growing gaming industry, is considered in the context of its emergence as a tech hub. These textured stories also present CVSuite data that point to growing industries and job markets in some creative economies and high concentrations of creative activity in states and regions that are not often identified as creative centers. 


The total in state-directed relief funds directly supporting arts and culture and administered by state arts agencies has risen to over $85 million across the region including a $50 million relief package for Oregon culture, a $19.5 million allocation of state relief funds to the Utah Division of Arts and Museums through the Create in Utah program, the $2 million state relief funds allocation to the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the $3.4 million relief grant program delivered by Washington State Arts Commission and the Washington State Department of Commerce, the $7.5 million in state relief funding recently awarded to Colorado Creative Industries, the $2.4 million the Wyoming Arts Council received from the Wyoming Governor’s Office through the CARES Act for arts and cultural relief. The Nevada Governor’s Office for Economic Development disbursed pandemic relief funding to arts and culture organizations (and other nonprofits and businesses) through the $40 million Pandemic Emergency Technical Support (PETS) grant program and partnered with the Nevada Arts Council to offer technical assistance. Montana Arts Council’s CARES program received supplemental support from the Montana Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning to meet demand for their grants to individuals and organizations. All of these state arts agencies have shown tremendous leadership in making the case for the value of arts and culture and their need for support during this period of extreme disruption, and there looks to be more good news on the horizon in other states. Notably, California Governor Gavin Newsom’s $575 million Early Action Budget proposal, part of a $4.5 billion recovery proposal, includes $25 million for small cultural institutions, such as museums and art galleries, that have been constrained by the pandemic in their ability to educate the community and remain financially viable to be disbursed by California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. Funding for a new California Creative Corps Program, a modern creative workforce program (what some might call a “WPA-style program”), is also included in the budget proposal to be launched by California Arts Council. WESTAF facilitated a special WAAN knowledge sharing session on strategies for securing state relief funds in August 2020, and participates in regular and ongoing dialogues with Californians Arts Advocacy and the WESTAF supported lobbyist in California on strategies for securing state relief funding for the arts and cultural sector including individual artists.


Due to the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, WESTAF’s TourWest team has been dedicated to offering as much flexibility as possible to accommodate our community of presenters and artists during this challenging time. In an effort to continue providing this flexibility, the SRI team has decided to make revisions to the application process and guidelines at the beginning of the new application cycle to better serve presenters in our region. To create the most thoughtful and relevant application, the launch date has been postponed until February 2021. The new launch date will not affect the timing of the grant cycle. Eligible projects must still take place between September 1, 2021 and August 31, 2022. The application deadline of April 1, 2021 will also remain the same. An announcement will be forthcoming with the application launch date as well as details of the changes and accommodations made to the 2021-2022 application that will reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and our changing field.


January 8 saw the launch of the WESTAF ELC 2021 program application. This program typically takes place in Denver, but given the ongoing pandemic, the program will take place online March 18-24, 2021. We welcome back our longtime faculty members, Salvador Acevedo and Margie Reese. Madalena Salazar and David Holland will continue to play a role on the faculty, in addition to managing the program. We encourage trustees to recommend qualified applicants and share the announcement with their networks. Applications will be due at 5:00 p.m. Mountain time, Monday, February 1st, 2021. For more information, please reach out to Madalena (


The Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP), the national service, advocacy and membership organization for the performing arts presenting industry, is hosting a virtual conference from January 8-12, 2021, and APAP’s new President and CEO Lisa Richards Toney offered WESTAF a complimentary seat as a partner. Lani Morris and David Holland will be attending the conference and focusing their participation on attending sessions related to equity practice in the field (including accessibility) and advocacy and policy topics. We also plan to attend some independent showcases to learn more about how performing artists are presenting their work in digital spaces during this time.  


First round interviews have been completed, with six shortlisted candidates for the director of social responsibility and inclusion position. The Candidate Review Committee will meet this week to make selections for finalist interviews.


Thanks to Lauren, Jess and Becca for holding down the finance & HR fort during the holidays so Becky and Amy could take a break after the audit fieldwork! Now we are all getting back on track for the new year. Becca is busy with the hiring process for the new SRI director, as well as other emergent needs. Janae has joined the team and will be given read-only access to the financial system and the online banking system so she can support the finance and ZAPP teams starting next week (in addition to other helpful HR & operations support). Thank you, Janae!! Amy and Becky are busy compiling the documents required for our yearly tax filing, which will be managed by Plante Moran. Becky is taking on more coding approvals starting this month: this is a first step in a transition where her position will more fully manage the monthly closeout process. Lauren and Jess are moving forward with the transition of ZAPP clients to EFT (electronic funds transfer) payments, which requires adjustments in their finance processes, beginning this month. 


The Policy cohort last met in mid-December with a meeting led by its sponsor, David Holland. The group reviewed our three scoping docs in depth with David’s guidance and identified the items the group would be prioritizing. Cohort leaders, Justine and Janae, will meet with David in early January to discuss the next steps for the cohort, as well as continue to flesh out plans to continue collaborating with the Trustee Advisors. A big win for the Business Cohort was finishing cleaning up extra fields in Zoho to make WESTAF’s CRM more uniform across the organization. The cohort has also focused on automating more tasks with a goal to increase sales and revenue. Its next goal is scoping out a potential new Artist Desktop platform where artists can manage their businesses all on one platform.


This week, the MarComm team announced the postponed grant cycle for the 2021 TourWest program as well as the launching of the Emerging Leaders of Color 2021 application. The team continues to make updates to the WESTAF website, including a brand new Technology page and a reformatted and more navigable News page, both scheduled to go live in January. It is also wrapping up work on the Leaders of Color website, now scheduled to launch in February. In tech product marketing, the team recently launched a brand new Schedule a Demo page on the GO Smart sales site and launched its first GO Smart marketing campaign for the fiscal year, an email campaign to a targeted list of grant makers based on our product personas. The team is also currently working on segmenting a list of over 2,800 potentials for CaFE that contains up to four CaFE personas, including its first target: gallery directors. The team plans to launch the CaFE Galleries campaign via email and social media (with video ads) in late January. CVSuite also recently launched another campaign around its Specialized Impact Reports to a new marketing list, which so far has generated eight leads. The team submitted content for the January National Endowment for the Arts Newsletter and is currently working on the February edition of WESTAF Now. In meeting and event planning, with Natalie Scherlong’s great work, the team has selected an online event management software (Aventri), which it will debut at the 2021 Arts Leadership and Advocacy Seminar scheduled for late February. The MarComm team (+Natalie) is working on a plan to onboard the convenings team onto Aventri and will begin building out a registration page (and then a more expanded site) for ALAS ’21. Kelly Ernst (honorary MarComm team member!) has stepped in to help design the ArtX logo, which she has been working on with feedback from the ArtX committee. She plans to design a set of basic assets by the end of the month. 


The CaFE team (along with sales and marketing) is ready for 2021 with a kickoff on OKR Q1 progress, a Zoom meetup to brainstorm new webinar, blog, and newsletter topics, a new marketing campaign targeting galleries and museums, a soon-to-be-released restyled admin UI, and catching up with over 40 new leads from the last month.


CVS completed the quarterly objectives and key results (OKR) meeting in which it discussed and adjusted goals. OKRs are generally on track with the sales site and user guide. Trevor is finishing up adjustments to the user guide to reflect new changes and the team has started the sales site and user guide migration project up again after putting it on hold due to resource restriction. CVSuite sold three specialized impact reports, including one customized COVID-19 report, putting it at 75% of its sales goals for the existing client report sales. The team has officially launched the Specialized Impact Report campaign page as well as an email marketing campaign around it. The campaign procured a 29% open rate and a 9% click rate, slightly above CVS’ average. Two hot sales leads, Asheville Area Arts Council and Nevada Arts Commission, are still in the pipeline.


The marketing team will be sending a campaign email this week to a list of roughly 200 arts, cultural, and city grant funders. The list was culled from GrantStation and is a new group of previously untapped potential clients. The GO Smart sales site now includes a new demo sign-up page that can better monitor visitor activity. The development team will begin research on four medium to large enhancements that aim to be rolled out over the next six months.


PAA team has just contracted a new development term to re-build the existing search and explore functionality in the next seven weeks. New development will include the ability to sort within particular search results categories which will greatly improve the user experience. PAA is looking to finalize the sale of the CMS to three potential clients in January. In addition, PAA recently built and launched a new Popular Searches page to help direct users to PAA content.


Thanks to the great work led by Julia and Natalie V., ZAPP launched a new sales site at the end of December. The sales site is the first for ZAPP and will help the team in its endeavors to increase ZAPP’s online presence and better position it in search results. The team also launched the enhancement to allow events to collect applications from non-artist vendors — something it believes can increase revenue and add value to the system. Finally, the team is happy to report that ZAPP’s December renewal figures were only four short of our December 2019 numbers, a sign that organizations are optimistic about returning to in-person events in 2021. 

Respectfully Submitted,