Hey now, WESTAF colleagues:
A jam-packed last few weeks, as usual. First up in this recap, a lightning update on what’s been going on in the U.S. Senate. Then, we have super news about a new addition to the team as well as some smart moves in the business division, with more open positions and interviews keeping us busy (thank you, Becca Dominguez!) and progressing steadily. After that, there’s a detailed recap of last week’s online ALAS session. Massive thanks to team ALAS David Holland, Leah Horn, Samantha Ortega and Natalie Scherlong and special shoutouts also to the policy cohort Brandon Jay, Justine Chapel, Janae De La Virgen and Lauren Wilson for the moderation prep and mad skills. Speaking of shout-outs, the Celebration & Wellness Committees have announced a Shout-Out channel on WESTAF’s Slack community: “as we continue adapting to a distributed workplace environment, we’ve been focusing on identifying new ways to bolster connection, encouragement, and recognition. With that being said, we invite you to join the Shout-Out! channel on Slack! This space will be used to recognize any and all colleagues who you believe deserves some kudos!” Thanks for setting that up — we’re excited about it! So getting right to it, here’s what’s been keeping us busy:
AMENDED $1.9 TRILLION AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN HEADS BACK TO HOUSE (CG)
This March 7 Arts Action Alert from AFTA’s Arts Action Fund sums things up nicely, but briefly: with some amendments, the Senate passed the $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan over the weekend. It now goes back to the House for a final vote on the same bill before heading to President Biden for his signature, with a target date for enactment of March 14, 2021. While many parts of the bill should have numerous direct and indirect impacts on our sector, of special note is that it adds $1.25 billion additional funds to the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, and entities can now apply for both PPP and SVOG, for a net award. Also — intact after at least four GOP amendments sought to terminate them — $135M for NEA, $135M for NEH to provide grants “to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from the coronavirus” as well as funding for the IMLS and CPB. We’ll know more about how this will impact WESTAF in the weeks ahead and we’ll keep you posted.
WESTAF WELCOMES ANIKA KWINANA AS DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND INCLUSION (DH)
For now, please do not share this information as we’ll be making an official announcement soon. Anika Kwinana, currently manager of national education initiatives at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, will be joining WESTAF on April 5, 2021 as our incoming Director of Social Responsibility and Inclusion. Anika is Chair of the Arts Administrators of Color Network, and has organized their annual convening that brings together hundreds of leaders nationally. Anika’s credentials in arts and culture and equity are exemplary, and her work has intersected other sectors such as STEM and public health. Her work has touched the Western region, the nation as a whole, and our global community. Anika grew up in Northern California and has worked extensively in the majority of the states in the region. We are excited to welcome a new colleague to WESTAF and the Leadership Resource Team. Before April 5, Anika will be participating in some WESTAF ELC sessions in March to engage the 2021 Cohort. This draft of the welcome announcement is being shared, so you can get to know more about Anika – at least what appears in a bio. We are excited for Anika to be joining our team at a pivotal moment. Anika stood out to our review committee as the top candidate, being a leader who will bring much to the culture and impact of WESTAF
CHRISTINA VILLA IS NEW DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS (CG)
Thrilled to report that our colleague Christina Villa is assuming a new WESTAF leadership role, effective immediately: director of business. In this new capacity, Christina will be leading the strategic and operational direction of the business department which includes all five of WESTAF’s SaaS products. Along with GO Smart, Creative Vitality Suite and Public Art Archive, Christina will continue her strong connection to ZAPP and CaFE, and will be closely involved in the strategic, long-term direction of WESTAF’s whole SaaS division. Those of us who have been lucky enough to work with Christina know that she’ll bring to this expanded role a sharp business acumen and an unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction, retention and attraction. She has calmly stewarded the ZAPP team and ZAPP’s customers and partners through the very worst of this damnable pandemic. Christina always shows up smartly, thoughtfully and kindly, and I know I join my leadership colleagues in feeling very fortunate to work with her in this new capacity. Congratulations Christina!
FURTHER LEADERSHIP CHANGES IN THE BUSINESS DIVISION (CV)
In turn, Christina is happy to share that Mareike Bergen has been promoted to ZAPP manager, where she’ll be overseeing day-to-day ZAPP operations and guiding ZAPP into its next, post-COVID-19 recovery phase. Her analytical thinking, commitment to finding solutions, and aptitude for crunching numbers make her an excellent fit for the role, and we’re thrilled to have new leadership in ZAPP. Also, Natalie Villa will assume an expanded role under the new title of business project manager. She’ll be working on large business projects, improving business workflows, standardizing SaaS processes, and guiding efforts at the intersection of business and technology for all five SaaS products. Natalie’s strong organizational and time management skills and ability to understand and communicate complicated processes will be especially valuable in this role. To help support Natalie’s expanded responsibilities, we’ll be adding a brand-new position, listed as business project coordinator. This role will report directly to Natalie and will be instrumental in helping support project management efforts for all five SaaS products. Please share with your networks!
ARTS LEADERSHIP & ADVOCACY SEMINAR ONLINE WRAPS, EXCEEDING VIRTUAL EVENT INDUSTRY PARTICIPATION BENCHMARKS (DH)
All indications are that the online ALAS session was a success. In the end, we received 104 registrations for the event, over 80 of whom were non-staff or speakers. We achieved a 63% conversion rate, and 64 unique participants at an average of 35 participants per session. In comparing these results against industry benchmarks for webinars and virtual events, we exceeded the average conversion rate (43-55%) and the average number of participants in a session (20). An event survey has been released, and we will utilize feedback to inform future ALAS convenings and the creative economy seminar we plan to host on Aventri later in the year. Recordings are available on the event website for anyone that registered for the event, and we will be making the recordings available to a broader audience in the coming weeks. The Convenings Team and Policy Cohort had a debrief with Christian to discuss ways to improve participant experience for future events and begin to solidify goals for ALAS’ new incarnation. Ashanti McGee, district representative in the office of U.S. Representative Susie Lee of Nevada, was the first ELC alumni to be featured as a speaker in the ALAS program (a move welcomed by our alumni network), and ELC alumni as far afield as Paris, France (Cynthia Chen, ELC 17/UT, now at Centre Pompidou) participated in the program. With the engagement of three current or former Congressional staffers in the session (also a first for ALAS), Western advocacy and policy organizations, including the Western Governors’ Association, higher education institutions, private philanthropic organizations, creative industry businesses, and national advocacy groups, like the Cultural Advocacy Group and the National Independent Venue Association, we have begun to expand the reach of ALAS and engage key stakeholders segments in our national advocacy and thought leadership work as identified in the stakeholder maps established by the Alliances, Advocacy, and Policy Department in 2019.
WESTAF EMERGING LEADERS OF COLOR ONLINE TO LAUNCH IN 10 DAYS WITH AN EXPANDED COHORT OF 16 (DH)
David, Madalena Salazar, Margie Reese, and Salvador Acevedo are finalizing plans and arrangements for the upcoming Emerging Leaders of Color Program. 16 participants representing all 13 states in the region have been invited to join the 2021 Cohort. We expanded the program this year to take advantage of increased applications from states in which it has been more challenging to identify candidates in the past. More information about the participants will be released as program elements are finalized. ELC alumni continue to be actively involved in the development of the program. Alex Jimenez will be working with us to develop a microsite for the WESTAF program, as she did previously for the inaugural South Arts program. We are also in discussions with ELC alumna Christy NaMee Erickson and her company Kindred Post, based in Alaska, about creating gift packages for the participants, a new feature of the online program. Prospective guest speakers include Dr. Nancy Maryboy, president and founder of the Indigenous Education Institute, and Mexican performance artist and painter Ana Teresa Fernández.
CALL WITH ADRIAN SAN MIGUEL, POTENTIAL TRUSTEE (CG)
Last Monday, former Idaho trustee and EIC member Michael Faison, Tamara and Christian met over Zoom with Adrian San Miguel. Adrian is a Commissioner for the Idaho Arts Commission. He is the director of post-secondary education for Idaho Career and Technical Education at the Board of Education. He is originally from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. A trained opera singer, Adrian has spent a lifetime involved in all kinds of music. It was a wonderful conversation, and we learned more about Adrian and also left the call understanding more about Adrian’s interest in WESTAF. Since the call, we’ve sent Adrian some additional trustee orientation information and he’ll be submitting a brief statement of interest to the development committee in preparation for the May 20 trustees meeting.
MURDOCK TRUST ZOOM SITE VISIT (CG)
Huge thanks to chair Alvarado, vice chair Broughton and treasurer Lange as well as David Holland and Amy Hollrah for representing WESTAF famously during our virtual site visit with MJ Murdock Charitable Trust program officer Lorin Dunlop on February 23. We discussed in detail the WESTAF Programs Expansion proposal for capacity building funding recently submitted to the trust. This wide-ranging and illuminating 135-minute conversation yielded a set of follow-up questions and requests for additional information which we submitted this past week. Lorin will touch base with us with any clarifying questions as she develops the proposal narrative for the trust’s board of directors, who will meet on May 27 to make a final decision.
AMERICAN EXPRESS DEVELOPING LEADERS LETTER OF INTEREST (CG)
WESTAF has been in a conversation with Torrie Allen, CEO of Arts Midwest as well as our sister RAOs, in imagining how the ELC program and LC network could develop into a program with national reach by leveraging the RAO reach and infrastructure. A brief summary of this concept (still with plenty of details to be worked out) can be gleaned from this letter of inquiry we recently submitted to the American Express Foundation’s Developing Leadership Program, following up on a lead from Torrie. As you can gather, this is a preliminary inquiry that briefly lays out the history of the ELC and proposes an expanded national program. While this is a bit of a fishing expedition, it’s worth noting that American Express devoted 29% of its philanthropy to its Developing Leaders program in 2019, so if this lands right we might have a shot at continuing the conversation. At the very least, it’s useful language for future proposals.
WESTAF INCLUDED IN ARTS INTEGRATION AND NATIONAL RECOVERY MEETING HOSTED BY NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS LEADERSHIP (DH)
David was invited to join a small group of seven arts advocacy and policy leaders nationally (four based in the West) to discuss opportunities to engage artists in national recovery with senior Biden-Harris appointees at the National Endowment for the Arts, including Ra Joy, Chief of Staff, and Jenn Chang, Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff and White House Liaison.
WESTAF AND NASAA PRODUCE CREATIVE ECONOMIES AND ECONOMY RECOVERY KEY FINDINGS FOR POLICY AUDIENCES (DH)
Patricia Mullaney-Ross, research manager at NASAA, and David have produced a key findings brief that draws out key insights from the Creative Economies and Economic Recovery study conducted by the CVSuite team that is designed to be used in engagements with policymakers and advocates.
WESTAF GALVANIZES ARTS ADVOCATES TO ENGAGE THE COLORADO JOINT BUDGET COMMITTEE IN SUPPORT OF COLORADO CREATIVE INDUSTRIES BUDGET RESTORATION (DH)
In collaboration with Brandeberry McKenna Public Affairs, David and Leah recently released an action alert to WESTAF’s advocacy network in CO to encourage engagement with members of the Colorado General Assembly, particularly the Joint Budget Committee, to support the restoration of $900,000 to the Colorado Creative Industries budget. The Joint Budget Committee met on March 2, 2021 to begin discussions on budget setting for the Governor’s Office agencies, including Colorado Creative Industries and its home department the Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
NASAA BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING (CG)
Christian attended his first meeting as a NASAA board member. It was so good to see some familiar WESTAF faces on the Zoom!
RE-FRAMING ARTS AND DISABILITY IN OUR REGION AND BEYOND (CG)
Within the WESTAF community, with the designated SAA accessibility coordinators in our region, and also with our sister RAOs, WESTAF has been in conversations of late about disability culture, accessibility initiatives and possible ways to create and develop authentic, better-resourced programs that reflect the disability communities we should better see and serve. Recently we engaged DisArt to help us build awareness, agency and ownership within our immediate communities. Acknowledgement in particular to Lani Morris, grants and accessibility coordinator here at WESTAF for leading and helping us imagine how we could approach this work. More to come soon.
STRATEGIC PLAN (NS)
Policy cohort members successfully helped moderate the Q&A portion of the Arts Leadership & Advocacy Seminar (ALAS) on February 24 and 25. The seminar was a success and all members really enjoyed contributing to the event. The group plans to meet in the next 1-2 weeks to prepare for our meeting with our Trustee Advisors on March 19th. This meeting will provide an opportunity for an open discussion in regards to the scoping document with the TAs. Some trustees have already reviewed and posed questions to the group, so we are excited for a fruitful discussion!
FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION (AH)
Amy is in communication with the auditors regarding the audit draft: things are progressing well. Amy and Becca toured some flexible office space options in downtown Denver and have found some interesting options once the Sherman St. office lease expires at the end of December. The appeal is paying only for the time you’re using meeting rooms and only using meeting rooms when in-person work is advantageous. Becca is busy with a high volume of HR work to post and fill multiple positions on staff. WESTAF has a new policy to post all promotional opportunities internally which is a new change in our processes. Becky is busy with the yearly business insurance renewals and Jess and Lauren continue to increase the number of ZAPP clients who are paid via EFT each month, thereby reducing the number of paper checks sent each month. Janae has been trained in the financial system and can now pull reporting for the ZAPP team when needed with a quick turnaround. This is a big help for the whole team.
Ken closed out February with 15 new CaFE clients and Eliza set up 107 new calls in February consisting of new and renewing customers. Also in February, Justine interviewed Ed Dixon of Edward A. Dixon Gallery for a customer spotlight on the CaFE blog. Check it out here. Justine kicked off a month-long BOGO e-blast campaign and customers have already begun reserving their e-blast dates. This month, Raquel, Lori, and Christina have a meeting with the CEO at Lingar, a SaaS product that makes use of augmented reality to deliver interpretive exhibit content, to explore potential partnerships with CaFE and PAA. Finally, we expect a busy month as CaFE has 111 call deadlines out of a total 217 call listings.
An exciting opportunity has come up for the CVS. One of our clients, Cultural Planning Group has proposed that CVSuite and WESTAF partner for a project, which is an analysis of Midvale City’s downtown focused on arts- and culture-based businesses to help guide its activities. Since the city is interested in using this research to develop out culture centers modeled after CCI and ArtsWA this can be an exciting opportunity for WESTAF to support its region. CVSuite continues to make progress on the CVList. Lori has collected almost all of the information from our 6 partners and the team is now narrowing down between two photographers. We received our outstanding checks from our February renewals as well as sold a $500 data pull to a client in PA.
GO SMART (JG)
Jessica has contacted directly 22 warm leads that resulted from the initial email campaign in January. Work has begun on an Equitable Grantmaking webinar for current and potential clients with assistance from the SRI team. The tech team has made progress on the HTML/PDF cache experience and is nearly complete with a small ticket to ensure that all panelist users default to the appropriate settings. Two clients (Hawaii and San Diego) have added additional unexpected services that will be prorated through their subscription expiration dates later this summer. Seattle Office of Arts and Culture has renewed but decreased their service, and renewal revenue, slightly.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE (LG)
Lori completed the design, build, and launch of the Sunnyvale Public Art Showcase page and public art collection in conjunction with the City’s new public art page hosted on their website. PAA is finalizing details with the City of Phoenix Arts & Culture Department to establish a subscription to the PAA CMS and Showcase services – next steps include a discussion about the security of the system prior to the contractual process. Lori is working with the CVS team on the Creative Vitality List #3 to promote 6 cities in the WESTAF region as public art road trip destinations. Lori is also leading the NEA Women’s Suffrage Mural Project and is working with Lani to polish and distribute the Call to Artists slated for publishing on March 5.
We are busy working on a plan to transition Mareike into her role and hire her replacement, and, like CaFE, we expect a busy month as well with 102 deadlines out of 369 open shows. In addition to Mareike taking over as ZAPP manager, we also held our ZAPP Connections session last week. This session focused on the challenges and opportunities with virtual events and included a mix of artists and administrators in a roundtable-style discussion. We also released an enhancement to an internal report that provides much greater insight into customer accounts and will help with monthly cash flow projections. Also, with removed COVID restrictions in Texas and Mississippi, we expect we may see more events forge ahead in the coming months.