Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: July 27, 2020

Dear WESTAF Board of Trustees:

As July draws to a close, we will have only two months left in our fiscal year — FY21 begins October 1, 2020. This is a particularly busy time for WESTAF — in our web businesses, in public policy and advocacy, in social responsibility and regranting, in technology and innovation, in communications and marketing and in finance and administration — so let’s dive right in:


Thanks to you all for completing our brief survey regarding the October board meeting. Perhaps not unexpected, the survey indicated that around 80% of trustees would prefer not to travel to Denver in October due to the pandemic. With the comfort levels and safety of both trustees and staff in mind, we have decided to host the October board and executive committee meetings virtually, as well as an orientation for new trustees. We’re looking at various ways to make these as dynamic, productive and fun as possible! More information to follow in the coming weeks.


Action Requested: The Bonfils-Stanton Foundation is seeking the position of Manager, Livingston Fellowship Program, Arts & Social Change Grantmaking. The successful candidate will be a knowledgeable, thoughtful, and collaborative leader with the capacity to manage community focused programs and complex multi-year projects. The Foundation is looking for an individual with a commitment to advancing our work fostering professional development for senior nonprofit executives, integrating the Foundation’s commitment to equity, and supporting the arts and culture in Denver. The full job description is right here. Thanks for circulating to your networks and whomever you think might be a suitable candidate.


Action Requested: The leadership team recently participated in a demo for a web-based performance management/review/goal setting/feedback tool called Insights. The demo was helpful, but it inspired the team to look at some other similar tools for comparative purposes. In your work, do you utilize this kind of online performance development/management tool? If so, do you have any recommendations that you can make, or do you know anyone who might be able to help us comparison shop some tools that would help us understand what is out there? Any feedback you might have in this regard would be super helpful. Thanks!


Here are the most recent financial documents for WESTAF that were shared and reviewed at July’s Executive Committee meeting. These documents are confidential and for internal use only. In summary, the June Cash Summary Report and accompanying Financial Memo show that WESTAF’s FY20 financial picture is strong because of reduced expenses and new funding from Mellon, the Paycheck Protection Program and NEA CARES grants. Finally, July End Of Year Projections are the budget managers’ best estimation of where we will be at year-end.


Lauren and Jess are working on some process changes in response to ZAPP team requests to help ensure consistent communication and expectations. The Executive Committee met this past week to work on the compensation policy and related HR topics. They will be meeting twice in August to continue these conversations; Amy and Becca will support this work with research as needed. A second WESTAF budget draft has been completed and will be reviewed by the leadership team up through the end of July. As per historical practice, all WESTAF budgets are in the cash accounting method. A budget in the accrual accounting method is also being drafted. Now is the time for the finance team to begin preparations for the audit, including reconciliations of balance sheet codes and clean-up of various accounts. Amy has been in touch with the auditors regarding the accounting treatment for the purchase of one of the ZAPP partner shares. Amy is also beginning work with Christina and Christian on the first-ever ZAPP cash flow management plan for FY21.


The cohorts have been busy since the last report! Here is a quick update on what each of the cohorts has been up to. The Communications cohort sent out their recap for quarters 2 and 3, which include the wins, solves, and challenges that the cohort has identified over the last two quarters, as well as the work they want to focus on next. The cohort is now in the process of planning a “kick-off” workshop with their TAs. The Business cohort will be conducting a welcome meeting with their TAs next week to introduce them to the team and their work. Alongside the SRI team, the Equity cohort led a successful equity, diversity, and inclusion workshop with consultant Carla Mestas and staff. The Policy cohort has established small working groups and those groups are creating scoping documents for each of the strategic plan areas. David Holland is working closely with the team on engaging the TAs. The cohort is currently in the process of scheduling a meeting with them. 


The Emergency Board of the Oregon Legislature recently approved a $50 million relief package for Oregon culture that includes $25,984,872 to Business Oregon for statewide distribution to cultural organizations by the Oregon Cultural Trust. Over $14 million in additional appropriations were made to specific arts and cultural organizations and nearly $10 million in support allocation to the Independent Venue Coalition for 78 independent venues across the state. The funding was made available through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund to address the devastating impact the COVID-19 health crisis is having on Oregon’s arts and cultural community. Congratulations to Brian Rogers, executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust and WAAN member, Sue Hildick, executive director of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition, and arts advocates across the state of Oregon. With the recent $9 million allocation of state relief funds to the Utah Division of Arts and Museum and the $2 million state relief funds allocation to the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the total in state directed relief funds directly supporting arts and culture has risen to over $60 million across the region.


WESTAF hosted a quarterly Executive Director Teleconference on July 23 with state arts agency executive directors across the region. The group shared challenges and successes and discussed astate relief and recovery funding for the arts across the region, major developments in agency programs and services, major developments/bright spots from the field such as the reopening of arts and cultural facilities, and developments in state and agency budgets. 


WAAN elected Julie Baker, executive director of Californians for the Arts and California Arts Advocates, and Manny Cawaling, executive director of Inspire Washington, as Co-Chairs and they will be working closely with WESTAF to formulate the future direction of the group in the coming weeks and months. The WAAN group has expanded to include the Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Cultural Alliance Nevada, and Creative New Mexico. The group discussed state relief programs for arts and culture, special and upcoming legislative sessions, and future federal relief and recovery packages during their July 24 call. 


WESTAF has engaged Nevada Arts Council and Cultural Alliance Nevada in a series of meetings exploring ways to strengthen arts advocacy in the state. WESTAF is making a modest award to support capacity building by redirecting Federal Advocacy Funds and has conducted research and provided other advice aimed at enhancing the strategy for the next legislative session. 


Although the subject of these conversations is confidential, WESTAF continues to provide high-level advice to the Hewlett Foundation on arts advocacy matters in California as we consider a partnership between the two organizations. David recently met with Hewlett Foundation staff for a second time. WESTAF’s executive and board leadership are being kept abreast of these conversations and developments. 


WESTAF recently completed an additional rapid response technical assistance request for the California Arts Council related to a review of its grant program. David researched the grant programs of the 13 state arts agencies in the West in terms of their eligibility criteria and matching requirements as well as state arts agency awards by institution type and summarized key details of federal matching guidance and state legislation to inform CAC’s decision making.


The WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund 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 the fall of 2020 through approximately 30-40 awards ranging from $30,000 to $75,000, with a few exceptional $100,000 grants. Additional details can be found here. If you would like to nominate an organization, please do so by Friday, July 31, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. Mountain time.


In alignment with the Kennedy Center’s mission and vision, as well as the ideals of President John F. Kennedy, the Kennedy Center has launched Arts Across America, a recognition campaign that uplifts and celebrates communities that are committed to using the arts to promote connection, a strong creative economy, and increased cultural citizenship. Arts Across America aims to celebrate, connect, and energize communities and, over time, weave a national story about the power of the arts in communities across our country. WESTAF has been working closely with the Kennedy Center team to identify artists and arts organizations from the WESTAF region to feature as performers on the free, online programming available on Facebook Live, Instagram, YouTube, and the Kennedy Center website over the next 20 weeks. We will keep you posted on the schedule and hope you’ll tune in.


Earlier this spring, the SRI team determined they would forgo in-person convenings through FY20 and into FY21 due to the pandemic. This will prevent resources from being directed to logistical planning that may require significant modification or cancellation. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, attendees won’t be faced with the dilemma of having to choose between a professional development opportunity and their personal well-being and that of loved ones who may be at risk. Two programs directly impacted by this change are the Emerging Leaders of Color program in both the WESTAF and South Arts regions, both which will be reconfigured and take place virtually. To address the need to redesign a fully online engagement, the SRI team has enlisted the expertise of long-time ELC faculty member, Salvador Acevedo of Scansion, to lead this effort. Over the summer, Salvador and his team will: design a full ELC online professional development experience (leadership training) for both WESTAF and SouthArts; identify the key experiences that participants achieve and design ways to evoke those online; and explore ways and create a foundation through which WESTAF could scale up these leadership trainings in the future. Developing a virtual dimension of the Leaders of Color experience has been a long-term goal for the SRI team. While we didn’t expect the opportunity to invest in this to come about as a result of a global pandemic, we are seizing the moment and are excited about our move in this new direction. 


Technological progress: those are two words that would sum up the past two weeks for the technology team. The team is in the process of concluding three projects that were on the roadmap for this year. First, working with UC Berkeley, the team updated its reporting system for the Collection Management System to add the additional filtering options that became available in the most recent version of this open source system. What this means is that one of the barriers to being able to market and onboard this system to new clients has been removed. Advanced reporting is a feature valued by many archivists. Within GO Smart, the team is in the process of testing an enhancement that adds additional mail delivery options to the GO Smart system. Switching to a third party company for email delivery out of San Antonio named mailgun, is in progress. When working in grants management, being able to have advanced tracking solutions of email from within GO Smart will provide grant administrators with the tracking information they need. Starting with the initial implementation, this allows GO Smart to be more innovative going forward and should eventually increase mail delivery transparency to clients. The team has also completed additional changes and enhancements across other WESTAF systems. Coming up next week, a joint project to revamp and update the Call for Entry Administrative Portal begins. A client’s first impression of Call for Entry will be these screens, and our goal is to address the look and feel of the site once more (last done in early 2014) and conceive a technology foundation that will be able to support internationalization, update screens with regards to potential data privacy concerns, and take a hard look at the critical functions of the system. This is an ongoing project for the next months and will updates will continue to be included in these publications.


CaFE will be releasing long-awaited improvements to the scorecard in July. The team updated the styling and organized existing elements to make navigation and workflows easier for the user. We’ll also be revising the entry fee refund policy from requiring the organization to process a refund to CaFE processing a refund for the organization when requested. This revised service offering will be coordinated with a refund transaction feature in CaFE (expected in Aug. release). The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is expected to sign up again this year to issue their Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. This triennial national competition receives between 2,400 and 3,000 artist submissions.


CVSuite received payments from Mclean County and Wyoming Arts Alliance for their renewals. David has scheduled a data training session with client Susan Duplessis of South Carolina Arts Commission to help them understand how they can best use the data to further their rural arts project. With the upcoming training in mind as well as a second on Friday, Trevor and Kelly created a new questionnaire for users (new and those in need of a refresh) to better customize our data training sessions and collect additional data on our users. CVS is in the final editing stage of an automated COVID-19 report targeting executive directors of economic development organizations. The campaign is set to be sent out next week.


Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina previously stated they would not be able to renew citing lack of funds. Their admin emailed us just before their deadline to say that they had secured money and will be renewing GO Smart at full price. Marketing initiatives for Q4 have been solidified and include an ambitious blog calendar, the creation of a new mailing list from several resources, and continued AdWords experimentation. 


PAA has begun work on a new restorative justice virtual public art exhibition project for Santa Monica Cultural Affairs. This project is the third in a pilot series of highly customized virtual experiences PAA is currently offering to CMS and Showcase clients. PAA continues to move forward slowly with three potential clients that the team is hopeful to convert by the end of Q4. Thanks to the hard work of Adam, PAA is very close to deploying significant enhancements to CMS reports that will allow users to run data exports on a variety of parameters. 


We closed on a contract with the Heard Museum for the 2021 Indian Fair and Market. The client regularly collects around 900 applications, all of whom must be a member of a federally or officially state recognized Indian Tribe. This sale puts us 300% over our budget goal for new standard contracts (those collecting 500+ applications). As part of an initiative of our OKRs, we have almost completed a fully revamped version of our help center for administrators. The goal is to make the information accessible, searchable, and outlined in a much more digestible format. Cancellations and postponements continue to occur, with 62% of all shows now affected by a postponement or cancellation. 

Respectfully submitted,