Hello again, WESTAF Trustees:
The world continues to change very quickly for all of us. I’m sure that you’ve been inundated with all kinds of COVID-19 messages from your immediate and extended communities. Along with the whole world, WESTAF has pivoted to confront this crisis. Our first move was to protect the health and safety of our team. We moved into our home workspaces last Friday, March 13. This Friday, March 20, we extended our working from home (WFH) order to April 30. The leadership resource team (LRT) will continue to meet by video conference each weekday morning to assess the situation. Second, we began immediately to postpone, cancel or convert to video conference all of our upcoming convenings, engagements, grants and other programmatic work. Our technology businesses are also coping with the severe disruption we are all experiencing. In this next phase, we’re joining with arts and cultural partners nationwide to convert to a wartime-like footing in addressing how to generate and distribute information and emergency resources out across the field. WESTAF’s efforts in all of these areas are described in greater detail below.
In sifting through various invitations to emergency response webinars and links to resources, I was especially struck by this passage from a Utah Cultural Community Update:
“We are all witness to a time in history that will be told for generations. Such a time calls for the creativity and resilience common to the arts and humanities. No one will be exempted from the impacts of COVID-19. While we recognize that attention must be paid first and foremost to the life-saving work happening now, we also need to do better than simply live.”
This time does, indeed, call for us to do better than simply live. We’re pretty shaken up by what’s going on, but we’re also drawing tremendous strength from our co-workers and our communities. One of WESTAF’s greatest strengths is how we bring people together, and even though we can’t be together in person right now, together is how we’re going to get through this.
Here’s what’s been going on:
ALLIANCES, ADVOCACY AND POLICY DEVELOPMENTS (DH)
The Alliances, Advocacy and Policy team has had to significantly reorganize its activities in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Plans to attend the Baylor Global Forum on the Creative Economy and the Americans for the Arts Arts Action Summit and Arts Advocacy Day were cancelled after these events were cancelled by the organizers. Due to the unfolding novel coronavirus pandemic, WESTAF has also changed the requirements for the Federal Advocacy Funds pilot program to introduce greater flexibility to recipients and communicated these changes to our network. Chrissy and David have also reorganized the Arts + the Rural West Seminar to a three-hour virtual workshop on April 3 with plans to host an in-person meeting in the fall, subject to current events. Engagement and support to continue this work remains high amongst the regional and national organizations that were invited to participate and a WESTAF provocation paper prepared for the convening was well received.
The Alliances, Advocacy, and Policy team’s focus has now shifted to tracking advocacy and policy developments (including relief packages) related to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the arts and culture field in the West and nationally. David is working with teams across the organization (particularly Communications and CVSuite) to develop WESTAF’s messaging around the early and potential impact of the pandemic. This WESTAF COVID-19 update briefing summarizes key early observations and provides resources. The briefing will be adapted into a webpage, and it and a WESTAF impact survey will be shared in a targeted campaign to WESTAF networks later this week. Insights will also be presented to a Colorado arts and culture COVID response committee later this week.
Arts advocates around the country are currently galvanized behind a proposal for a $4 billion relief package for the arts that would be administered by the National Endowment for the Arts, and WESTAF is communicating a call to action to its networks to support this campaign. Should these efforts prove successful, state arts agencies and regional arts organizations are likely candidates for the disbursement of relief funds throughout the country—a topic that will be discussed at an upcoming virtual retreat of regional arts organization executive directors and chairs. In a larger context, the White House and Congress are deliberating the specifics of a federal relief package targeting both key affected industries and household taxpayers that some estimate will cost roughly $1 trillion. Particularly in the most affected states in the region (in terms of the number of confirmed cases), Washington, California, and Colorado, comprehensive state relief packages are also being deliberated and enacted. Local governments and private philanthropy are also making arts-specific relief funding available in the West and nationally. Christian and David will convene state arts agency executive directors via teleconference next week to discuss developments across the region and nationally and courses of action for WESTAF.
FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION (AH)
The F&A team is adapting to working from home and supporting the ZAPP team as they handle a wave of art fair cancelations. Team members are helping out in various ways and putting longer-term projects on hold to help triage the refunds and cancelations. In addition, the team is building a schedule tracking when finance staff need to be in the office to cut checks, make deposits and collect mail. The goal will be to ensure that only a couple of staff are in the office at any one time but the operations that require staff to be on site happen consistently. In terms of HR, supervisors are being updated on changes to HR laws and WESTAF’s generous position on staff accommodation due to child care or health needs.
GENERAL BUSINESS (SL, CV)
The business teams have transitioned to remote work amid the COVID-19 outbreak. We have been fortunate enough to have a workload that is very easy to transition to a virtual climate. The main impact we are dealing with is due to the COVID-19 restrictions that affect clients who manage festivals and events. Many of these events are being postponed and canceled. Our clients look to us to be a reliable, trustworthy resource to help them navigate these times. We are very thankful to the internal staff, especially the ZAPP and CaFÉ teams, who have truly stepped up to help mitigate these trying times. We are working closely with the Marketing and Communications team to effectively message our support to our customers and highlight the fact that WESTAF is a service organization and our goal is to be supportive of all our client’s needs.
CAFÉ (RV, CV)
The CaFÉ team is active and engaged with customers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. As of March 17, 2020, of the 225 open calls, only 9 customers notified the team of cancellation, postponement, or date change for their event. Requests to set up new calls are still coming in as well. The first of a two-part email campaign featuring both CaFÉ and Public Art Archive was launched on March 13. The campaign targeted public art programs in an effort to generate leads for that segment of the field.
CVSUITE (SL, CV)
CVSuite is working with the Wyoming Arts Alliance’s (WyAA) Rural Arts Project, a pilot project that supports professional development and leadership in the arts within rural towns in the state. The discussions with WyAA included ways it can utilize the CVSuite data tool, snapshot reports, and data training for the project. WyAA determined that the project would be best served by using the snapshot reports included with the CVSuite license for each community. The communities will use the reports to establish a baseline metric to assess their economic strengths, assets, and gaps. As the project continues, the CVSuite team will determine the best future direction for the partnership, such as providing specialized impact reports or a CVSuite license, depending on the results of the pilot project. Two emails have been sent to a list of the CVSuite users to advertise the release of our new specialized impact reports. We have had four leads generated from this email campaign. The CVSuite team is discussing a potential partnership with Emsi regarding consultation opportunities. The team is excited about this evolution in CVSuite’s working relationship with Emsi. We hope to see more opportunities for data-driven policy decisions in the arts.
GO SMART (JG)
GO Smart closed a contract with a new client, the World Heritage Office of San Antonio. The Office was referred to GO Smart by one of our biggest clients, the Department of Arts & Culture, City of San Antonio. The GO Smart team released some developments last week that streamlined the tabs and subtabs of the site’s administrative portal. The reordering of tabs and sub-tabs resulted in the features and tools being grouped together under headings that more clearly indicate their functionality, providing a more intuitive experience for users. A marketing campaign that was slated to go out this week is being revamped to include resources to support granting organizations during the COVID-19 isolation period. The campaign may be pushed to early next week.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE (LG)
PAA will likely complete an RFP for Los Alamos County, New Mexico to secure the organization’s subscription to the PAA CMS (upon approval from the Public Art Board to issue an RFP). However, because of COVID-19 restrictions, a number of budget meetings have been postponed, which will affect the timing of the expected incoming revenue for PAA sales. PAA is completing the final steps to import and publish the State of Oregon’s Percent for Art Collection, which represents a batch of over 2,000 artwork records and 3,000 images located throughout the state. This import will be followed by the City of Coeur D’Alene’s public art collection, representing almost 200 artworks that have been prepared for import with scripting work developed by Trevor.
Due to the increasing concern over Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the recently announced state of emergency for the United States, many of our customers had to cancel events that were slated for March through the end of May. This impacts many business operations at WESTAF, as we are working with the shows on messaging their artists and on managing refunds as needed. As of March 17, 2020, ZAPP has 32 canceled festivals and 22 postponements. We are tracking these cancellations or postponements HERE. The state of ZAPP festivals will have impacts resulting from these cancelations in the upcoming months as many festivals and artists are unable to generate revenues they heavily rely upon. This may affect renewals for future events as well if shows are unable to move forward following this unforeseen, major event. The ZAPP team is monitoring these effects on a daily basis. The impact of this loss will be greater on the artists who make a living through the festival circuit. If you would like to support artists during this time please check out CERF+ Artist Safety Net.
NATALIE SCHERLONG ASSUMING NEW STRATEGIC PLANNING COORDINATION RESPONSIBILITIES (CG)
Pleased to report that Board and Executive Coordinator Natalie Scherlong has assumed some additional responsibilities and an accompanying role change to Strategic Plan, Board and Executive Coordinator. These new responsibilities will include consulting with and supporting me in identifying gaps in operations and procedures related to the strategic plan; supporting the whole team in problem solving and development to encourage achievement of strategic goals; deepening authentic and useful trustee and staff engagement through the strategic planning process, and collaborating with the marketing and communications department to increase brand awareness through storytelling and compelling content. We’re really excited that these interdependent responsibilities are under Natalie’s purview!
STATUS OF SCHEDULED MAY BOARD OF TRUSTEES MEETING IN BOISE (CG)
Some of you have inquired about the status of the WESTAF board of trustees meeting scheduled for May 21 in Boise, ID. WESTAF has been focusing mostly on convenings in the March and April time period, and we’ll be reviewing how to proceed with this meeting over the next week or two. If we make the decision to convert to a more condensed video conference format, we want to let you know as soon as possible. Frankly, it’s looking pretty likely, but we’ll call it officially as soon as we can and be sure to give you the details.
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (CG)
We’re finalizing dates for the monthly Executive Committee meetings through the end of 2020. For March, we’ll be distributing a cash summary report, cash summary notes, as well as revised projections to the Executive Committee this week. We’ll also share much more news on this at the full trustee meeting in May.
FISCAL HEALTH (CG)
It’s important for you to know that WESTAF was in a healthy financial position all the way through the end of February (42% of the way through FY20) — ahead of revenue goals and behind on budgeted expenses. Then, the wheels came off the whole world. We’ll continue to keep the Executive Committee apprised of our precise financial position as we address and cope with the trauma of the coronavirus on the organization’s revenue sources. However, for the short to medium term, we remain in a relatively secure cash position.
Hang in there, everyone.
With gratitude and optimism,