Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: July 13, 2020

Greeting WESTAF trustees:

The July 4 holiday fell within this biweekly period, so fewer days upon which to report, but still scads going on at WESTAF, as you can see below. In the coming week or so, we’ll be reaching out to take your temperature (bad joke) on how you’d feel about a trip to Denver in October for the annual board meeting. There are no wrong answers, just honest ones. Like a lot of places in the US, the city and county of Denver’s rate of new cases and hospitalizations is currently heading in the wrong direction. We’ll need to make a decision soon so that we can plan accordingly, but we’d like your input so we’ll be reaching out to you this week with an anonymous poll and room for comments to get your feedback. In the meantime, here’s what’s been going on at WESTAF since June 29. Thank you to the WESTAF team for the thorough contributions.


As reported in the previous update, the SRI team is preparing to launch the WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The first-of-its-kind $10 million fund, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is designed to help mitigate the financial threat to the sector by supporting small- and mid-sized arts organizations of all artistic disciplines in rural and urban areas that are regarded by their peers as having statewide, regional, or national impact. WESTAF will administer the re-granting of over $1.7 million in fall of 2020 through approximately 30-40 awards, ranging from $30,000 to $75,000, with a few exceptional $100,000 grants.

The fund will prioritize those organizations that are most at risk during this crisis, including historically under-resourced organizations, as well as those serving under-resourced populations, communities, and/or art forms. In alignment with WESTAF’s strategic vision for increasing opportunities, benefits, and resources for underrepresented communities in a manner that results in quantifiable and systemic change, WESTAF seeks to support organizations led by and/or predominantly serving individuals from historically marginalized communities that identify as:

  • Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC);
  • Low-income
  • People with disabilities
  • Rural/remote areas (communities with fewer than 50,000 in population and isolated from metropolitan areas.)

The WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund will employ a two-step process: 

  1. WESTAF will be accepting online nominations for arts organizations that meet the stated eligibility criteria and operate in the 13-state western region between Wednesday, July 15, 2020 and Friday, July 31, 2020

    Anyone can submit a nomination on behalf of an organization, including staff, board, volunteers, peers, colleagues and you!

  2. WESTAF will invite a select number of organizations to apply in August 2020. 

WESTAF will convene a panel of regional advisors—arts leaders with a depth of knowledge about the field, including how best to represent and support the aforementioned communities—that will advise WESTAF on which organizations to invite to submit a full application and assist in the application review process. A complete overview of the process is available to trustees HERE. We ask that you do not share this information before we make our announcement on July 15. We will share the link to the nomination form early the week of July 13. 


On July 13, WESTAF will kick off the first of three (virtual!) equity and inclusion workshops with equity consultant Carla Mestas, principal at Mestas Consulting. Titled Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Framework: A New Lens on Learning, the all-staff workshop will begin to lay the groundwork for achieving the following outcomes:

  • Bring a sense of togetherness among WESTAF as a staff, team and organization through shared dialogue and learning.
  • Increase our understanding of definitions and terms related to diversity, equity & Inclusiveness work and how we use those terms as a collective.
  • Demonstrate our capacity and commitment to the overall responsibility of this work in each of our roles; individually and organizationally.

Conversations about working with Carla in this capacity date back to 2018 so we are eager to roll up our sleeves and get started! Lani Morris, Equity cohort lead, Teniqua Broughton, WESTAF vice chair and Equity & Inclusion Committee chair, and I have also discussed ways to incorporate Carla into some additional work with both the EIC and the board in the months to come. 


Arizona Governor Doug Ducey recently announced that $2 million in relief funding from the state’s Crisis Contingency and Safety Net Fund will be delivered to Arizona’s arts and culture sector through the Arizona Commission on the Arts. This followed sustained engagement from arts advocates in recents months including an open letter to the Governor from Arizona Citizens for the Arts Executive Director Joseph Benesh requesting support for the field with a focus on protecting jobs and recognizing the creative sector as a critical industry. Earlier in the year, a “skinny budget” had passed the Arizona Legislature with no General Fund provision for the Commission. The recent announcement is a victory for arts advocates and the Commission under the adroit leadership of Executive Director Jaime Dempsey. WESTAF made an additional modest investment in Arizona Citizens for the Arts activities and has been in regular communication with Benesh about advocacy messaging, strategies and tactics to address the earlier significant reduction in the Commission’s budget that would have adversely affected the field. 


David was asked by Californians for the Arts to participate in a webinar alongside Nina Ozlu Tuncelli, executive director of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund; Dennis Mangers, strategic advisor for arts and culture to Mayor Darrell Steinberg, City of Sacramento; and Rick Stein, president of Arts Orange County on “Effective strategies and opportunities to access federal relief funding for the arts at the local level.” As state and local governments begin to deploy CARES funds, there is increased focus among advocates in securing relief for arts and culture through the use of these funds. More information on the session including a recording can be found here. In June, David participated in a funders panel organized by the Arts in Society program in Colorado as mentioned in a prior update, and a recording of that session can now be found here.


WESTAF has shared program details with and invited the 13 state arts agencies in the region to submit nominations for the WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund, promote the opportunity to their constituents, and recommend regional panelists. In an early effort to more closely engage local arts agencies in the region, WESTAF has also shared program information with and invited a number of local arts agencies in the region to nominate organizations, publicize the opportunity, and recommend advisory panelists as well, including Denver Arts & Venues, City of Fort Collins Cultural Services, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, City of Sacramento Office of Arts and Culture, San Diego Commission for Arts & Culture, San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs, Santa Fe Arts and Culture Department, and City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. Early responses about the program’s design from these and other grantmakers across the region have been positive. 


This month, Lisa Richards Toney assumed the leadership of APAP. You should watch her brief introductory message. I was inspired by it. In particular, I was struck by this idea of the “liminal space” that we’re all currently living in — the threshold between what was before and what is yet to come. Lisa makes the point that, through the hardship and uncertainty, there still exists the opportunity to build back a sector that is more just and equitable than ever before. A world that we have long aspired to become is now a world that is more within our reach than ever before, if we can organize ourselves successfully around it. This duality of dread in what’s being lost and optimism in what has yet to be achieved has been on my mind a lot lately, and Lisa captured it really well.


We are excited to announce that every cohort has now reached out to their respective Trustee Advisors (TAs) to establish initial contact! Further plans are currently underway to begin introducing TAs to the work that the cohorts are currently focused on. Natalie continues to assist cohort leaders in coordinating this process as teams decide what route of communication they wish to take. Meanwhile, Natalie has started brainstorming ideas around creating an interactive experience for staff and trustees in the event that the October board meeting is held virtually or as a hybrid gathering.


This week the MarComm team has been focused on announcing WESTAF’s 2020-2021 TourWest grantees as well as coordinating the release of WESTAF’s updated guidelines and nomination process for its Regional Arts Resilience Fund, building out three new pages in the SRI-grants section of the site to house comprehensive info including guidelines, eligibility, nomination process and how to apply. We also drafted an email announcement, social post and graphic (which we will send to our partners for sharing) and a press release that will live on our brand new News page (that’s right—I said NEWS page!). We are still tweaking the page but check out this preview. The team is also working on a brand new newsletter that we will debut in August (and then retire the good ol’ Update Notes). The team (with support from Kelly and Lori) also participated in the annual AFTA Convention (virtual this year), built and staffed a virtual exhibitor table with a variety of marketing deliverables, and developed three ads for the Convention site, app, and email to attendees. Following the release of the updated Mellon Fund guidelines on 7/15, the team will shift its focus to a joint CaFE + Public Art Archive marketing campaign, a targeted marketing effort to our second audience for CVSuite’s new COVID-19 Impact reports, and continue work on Creative Vitality List #2, now in early development. PAA also recently launched a social media campaign for PAA (put a pin in it) and we launched two GO Smart AdWords campaigns (one targeting arts orgs specifically and one for general grant makers). Also in the works is a GO Smart Blog highlighting how some RAOs are using the system for relief funds and grants in response to COVID-19, and we plan to begin working with a designer for the Arts + the Rural West session report in the coming weeks.


The first version of the WESTAF budget has been compiled and is now being revised by the leadership team. A final version will be compiled by the end of July and will be reviewed with Treasurer Mike Lange in August. Amy will also work with Becky to create the first-ever accrual budget for FY21 in addition to the normal cash budget. This will enable the staff and the board to more clearly understand the variances between the accounting methods and the value of accrual accounting—especially regarding the Arts Endowment and Mellon grants. The ZAPP budget has also been compiled by Christina and is being reviewed internally. Lauren built a new integration that automatically uploads data for CaFE fees into our financial system, saving our team three hours per month in data entry and eliminating the chance for errors. She is leading the charge over the next few months to streamline multiple processes that will continue to make the team more efficient and reduce errors. Work continues on the compensation policy as well as benchmarking staff salaries against the other Regional Arts Organizations’ (RAOs’) salaries and Denver nonprofit salaries. In tandem with this work is a review process that is currently being formulated to clarify staff classifications of exempt and non-exempt. This week, WESTAF signed a lease extension for our current office space which was due to expire this December. The extension is for one year and will now expire December 31, 2021. While how the staff works has dramatically changed due to the pandemic, more time is needed with our current office space to determine what’s best for the team in terms of virtual and shared office space.


The SaaS business products are working on draft two of the FY21 budget and revising our OKRs.  All of the technology products have an equity and inclusion goal within their OKRs, or Key Results, for FY21. We are also working on the FY20 QTR3 OKR progress reports. 


Happy to report that we’ve seen an increase in leads, with about 8-10 per week over the past couple weeks. Ken’s onboarding has happened quickly, and he’s already begun leading his own demos while continuing to set up qualifying calls and discuss CaFE with potential customers. We also recently updated the CaFE website with images from artists in the West who submitted entries to our Way out West call. 


CVSuite worked on adjusting the FY20 OKR goals for Q4 to address a more aggressive sales strategy, a strategy that will roll into the next fiscal year and that includes goals around solidifying the sales process. In other news, Trevor and Ben are finalizing mockups for a new code groupings enhancement set to launch in August. Kelly has been following up with CVS clients with outstanding payments to get some movement on the cash flow. The team has narrowed down the next Creative Vitality list to focus on diversity in the music industry.  


Center for Cultural Innovation, which had previously stated it would not be renewing at the end of June, indicated on its expiration date that it would like to renew for another year to run two more COVID programs. Anne Arundel County Arts Council also renewed unexpectedly but had to decrease their annual service fee by $1,500. As of the end of Q3, we had brought in unexpected revenue totaling $40,400 between new clients and new services for existing clients, surpassing our goal of $37,640 in new revenue for FY20.


PAA continues to work through renewals of current CMS clients and is in the various onboarding processes for Mural Arts Philadelphia and the City of Sacramento. Adam has nearly completed updates and major enhancements to reports, scheduled for deployment to CMS clients by the end of July, and Janae will assist Lori in pulling together documentation and resources for clients.  PAA is working with Mural Arts Philadelphia to develop a new digital archive platform for another project, “Power Map: Historic Mural Activations” in addition to the “This We Believe” citywide mural project that is in the final draft stages.


We recently made an offer for WESTAF to absorb the partnership share (2.04%) for ZAPP partner Celebrate Fairfax. Though ZAPP is still dealing with reduced income because of COVID, this is a good opportunity to increase WESTAF’s overall ownership share to 83%. Also, Celebrate Fairfax will close down operations for the remainder of this year, and there is uncertainty about when they will resume in 2021. We’re also in talks with the Heard Museum in Phoenix to see if they will transition to ZAPP for their 2021 Indian Fair and Market.

As always, thank you to all of the trustees for your ongoing interest and involvement in the work of WESTAF and the health and vitality of arts, culture and the whole creative sector. We are so grateful for your leadership.