Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: June 15, 2020

Greetings WESTAF Trustees:

Across the United States and around the world, the last two weeks have seen continuing calls for justice in the murder of George Floyd and many others, and for an end to systemic racism and police brutality. In just a few weeks, a string of hopeful developments signaling real change has offered up some hope that there may be momentum. But the fight is by no means over, and global protests show no signs of slowing down. Thank you, WESTAF leaders on the board and staff, who brought our Statement on the Murder of George Floyd and our Commitment to Racial Justice into existence. Of note — this was the first time that WESTAF has ever released a public statement about a world event. It also reflects WESTAF’s commitment to being a more equitable and inclusive organization. The work of our SRI team, our strategic planning equity cohort, our trustee leadership and our equity and inclusion committee will be paramount in leading the whole organization on this journey. You’ll be hearing more about those efforts in the months ahead and in the lead up to our trustee meeting in October. Let’s get underway and check in on the last two weeks:


WESTAF has formally kicked off the implementation of this program, working with its five sister RAOs and the Mellon Foundation on an announcement press release, which should go out this week. WESTAF will administer the re-granting of over $1.7 million through summer of 2020, with awards ranging from $30,000 to $75,000, with a few exceptional $100,000 grants. The $10 million Regional Arts Resilience Fund is a first-of-its-kind emergency grant to each of the six US Regional Arts Organizations and 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. The fund will also prioritize those organizations that are most at risk during this crisis, including historically under-resourced organizations, as well as those who serve under-resourced populations, communities, and/or art forms.


Chrissy, Madalena and Lani will be facilitating five panel meetings beginning June 15 and wrapping up on June 18 for the WESTAF CARES Relief Fund for Organizations and TourWest. In response to the ongoing protests and demonstrations in support of Black lives across the country, we made a few program adjustments and extended the scoring deadlines for all panelists, many of who were actively organizing for justice and/or being mindful to care for themselves and loved ones.The SRI team is grateful to the 21 panelists from across the region who dedicated significant hours to review hundreds of applications for both programs. Once WESTAF CARES and TourWest funding recommendations are determined, they will be presented to the Executive Committee for approval in late June. Look for an official announcement shortly thereafter.


Results of the COVID-19 Arts Impact Survey have been announced via email, social media, and on the WESTAF website. Since then, WESTAF has been responding to inquiries from across the region to share, present, and discuss findings. On June 10, David delivered a presentation of the survey findings and other WESTAF COVID-related research as part of the Wyoming Arts Alliance’s first statewide network video conference on “How the Arts Will Survive and Thrive,” which was attended by over 40 artists and other arts and cultural leaders across the state. WESTAF Treasurer Mike Lange was also on the video conference in his role as executive director of the Wyoming Arts Council. This is the first of a series of more than 10 weekly network calls that are being organized and led by WAAN member Bill Lindstrom and former WESTAF trustee Wendy Bredehoft. On June 11, David was interviewed by Wyoming Public Radio on the results of the survey and implications for the arts in Wyoming. Additional inquiries have been received from Montana and Nevada and we are considering a state-by-state analysis of the data.


WESTAF recently completed a session report of the Arts in the Rural West virtual workshop in early April that has been reviewed by participants. We are in the process of commissioning a designer to professionally prepare the session report for publication and wider distribution. We are sharing a preview of the report before it goes to a designer to give you a fuller sense of the content of the session. We’d like to thank WESTAF trustee Nikiko Masumoto again for being a critical partner in the planning and delivery of the virtual workshop and recognize WESTAF Chair Tamara Alvarado and trustees Brandy Reitter and Kelly Stowell for participating in the session as well. 


WESTAF has completed another series of rapid-response research/technical assistance requests from state arts agencies and state arts advocacy organizations in the last two weeks. One request dealt with helping define potential aspects of an arts platform as part of a strategy for political candidate engagement and the other relates to local and state government requirements for CARES funds. WESTAF developed a simple framework that can be used to identify potential policy areas that can define an arts platform in one case. We also researched guidance on use of CARES-related funds by local and state government from a range of federal agencies, including the Treasury and HUD as well as government associations like the Government Finance Officers Association.  


The Western Arts Advocacy Network met for the second time on June 5, 2020 hosted by WESTAF via Zoom. Representatives of Alaska State Council on the Arts, Arizona Citizens for the Arts, Arts for Colorado, Californians for the Arts, Cultural Advocacy (Montana), Idaho Commission on the Arts, Nevada Arts Council, Utah Cultural Alliance, and Wyoming Arts Alliance participated on the call. The group discussed national protests, circumstances within states, and calls for the arts and culture sector to better address systemic racism and inequity in our work. The group also discussed recent Paycheck Protection Program legislation, updates on state budgets and potential cuts to state arts agencies, state and federal advocacy activities, and the possible election of a chair (or co-chairs) for the network. The group is quickly mobilizing, sharing information, and interested in working closely with WESTAF on developing advocacy strategies in the West.


Christian and David now serve on the Getting Creative Workers Working Coalition, a national network that emerged from numerous proposals and calls to create a modern WPA arts program, that is being convened by Americans for the Arts. Christian will serve on the newly formed communications working group and David on the policy working group of this expanding coalition. This network, which currently includes more than 50 individuals representing local and state arts agencies, foundations, arts service organizations, and others, is working rapidly to move from discussion to developing concrete proposals and action plans for supporting creative workers in the context of relief, recovery, and reimagining while being cognizant of the backdrop of the current crises.


The Policy Cohort of the Strategic Plan recently met for the third time, and the group has elected Justine Chapel and Janae De La Virgen to serve as co-leaders. The cohort also includes Rebecca Brown, Ken Cho, Brandon Jay, Natalie Scherlong, Laurel Sherman, and Lauren Wilson. The cohort has formed three working groups who will be scoping the Cohort’s work on the three strategic plan areas of State Services and Advocacy, National Services and Advocacy, and Thought Leadership and Reach. The group has also begun work on a project that will identify “stories of resilience” that highlight artists, activists, arts organizations, elected officials and others that are active in advocacy, volunteerism, and community leadership across the region. These stories will be refined and shared with the Marketing and Communications team as concepts for a potential campaign.


Natalie has sent out communications to each of the cohort leaders confirming their assigned Trustee Advisors, along with biographies for each TA. Cohorts will be crafting their own introductory emails over the coming week, which will then be sent out to their TAs. This will give advisors an overview of the members of each cohort and the focus of their work. These introductions will be the first step in the development of consistent and authentic engagement between trustees and staff as we move closer to the October board meeting. 


The finance team continues to work closely with the ZAPP team on managing show refunds: we are considering ways to make the workload more sustainable by investigating technology tools to automate accounts payable and integrate data automatically into our financial system. We are glad to see the Paycheck Protection Program has extended the weeks allowed for forgiveness, so WESTAF will be able to get the full $377,550 forgiven in late summer. The audit and tax documents are now fully approved by the board and have been uploaded to the WESTAF Board site for future reference. Budget season is upon us and Amy is working with Christina on her ZAPP budget as well as with WESTAF budget managers to develop a first draft for WESTAF by the end of June. To support the staff payroll and benefit budget, Amy and Christian have drafted a compensation policy that will be reviewed by our HR legal experts, the Equity Cohort, the Leadership Team and the Executive Committee prior to implementation.


CaFE reached 1,000 Instagram followers due to Justine’s daily pick of art by artists in the West! New leads are starting to pick up with at least three new leads per day. CaFE has signed three new clients so far in June. The majority of new clients are galleries and independent art spaces. The spring CaFE marketing campaigns didn’t perform too well because of unforeseen timing; however, analysis shows that our “Trusted for 15 Years” message resonated well with the most audiences, and we’ll be pursuing this in future campaigns. The team is continuing to refine the licensing and onboarding process with great ideas by Eliza, paired with Natalie V.’’s knowledge of Zapier and other software integrations. 


CVSuite will perform a data update to sync with data provider Emsi’s 2020.1 data on June 15. We sent a communication to all clients June 9 with a reminder to pull data prior to the date of the update, and Trevor continues to clean, pull and update data. The team launched a marketing campaign for our COVID-19 reports through an email sent to all 50 SAA executive directors. We are working to expand the reach of the COVID-19 impact reports by marketing to a secondary audience of economic development executive directors. We also spent the last week working on organizing an impromptu advertising campaign for the AFTA Convention, including partnering with PAA on joint digital ads and a sales landing page. 


GO Smart signed new client Matanuska-Susitna Borough and conducted the first 90-minute training. We offered a demonstration to Pendleton Foundation, a small community foundation in eastern Oregon that has run a paper grant application and scholarship for 70+ years and wants to switch to an online platform. Renewals continue to come in, but more than any other year, grant administrators are requesting lengthier conversations to discuss their grant plans, rather than simply returning a signed renewal and requesting the invoice. There will likely be a balance of revenue between clients who are needing to cut back services this year and those who are adding services, COVID-related or otherwise. 


PAA is onboarding the newest CMS and Showcase client, Lancaster Public Art. Lori is working directly with the LPA team to create a public artist registry page as a new opportunity to provide support to emerging public artists. This work coincides with some special virtual exhibition projects in progress in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia. An issue discovered with Collection-Specific maps is being resolved ahead of the virtual AFTA convening, during which a number of marketing materials will be geared toward promoting PAA.


We held our annual ZAPP partner meeting on June 8, where we discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the business, as well as its impact on the art fair and festival industry as a whole. Of the eight ZAPP partners, four had to cancel their events, one postponed to the fall, and the other three are tentatively slated to take place as scheduled. Our team is also working on the ZAPP budget for FY21, with a first draft due at the end of the month, in addition to training our new sales coordinator to take over the inbound and outbound sales efforts for ZAPP and CaFE. We continue to receive cancellation or postponement notices from events, and we’re offering discounts to events for their use of ZAPP on a case-by-case basis.

Thanks very much,