Thank you so very much for your energy, wisdom and generosity at the board meeting in Bozeman this past week! It was great to see you all and re-connect since the Salt Lake City meeting. For those who weren’t able to make it — we missed you, but managed to muddle through nonetheless! A huge thanks to Trustee and Treasurer Cyndy Andrus for hosting the group, curating such wonderful guests and for her great presentation at the board meeting. It was a treat to be in Montana, and I want to go back soon! Per some of your requests, attached please find the BAR CAT/StratPlan update deck that was presented. Thank you also for the spirited and mighty helpful feedback session around WESTAF’s draft Guiding Principles. I’ve also attached that presentation so that you have it handy (it’s also in the board book). A new version with your incorporated suggestions to follow soon!
In the meantime, here’s an update on what’s been going on the last few weeks:
Had a really productive visit in Phoenix, thanks to trustee Teniqua Broughton. Got a great initial introduction to the arts and cultural scene in the city, and met with several notables including Jackie Alling, Chief Philanthopy Officer at the Arizona Community Foundation; Mitch Menchaca, ED of Arts Commission for the City of Phoenix; Daniel Packard and Chris Saars, ED and Chair of the planned-for-2020-or-2021 “ArtWins” event (an event modeled on ArtPrize); Cindy Ornstein at the Mesa Arts Center; Michelle Mac Lennan at the Chandler Center for the Arts; quality time getting to know ED Jaime Dempsey as well as meeting her whole team at the Arizona Commission on the Arts; Eileen May, Managing Director of the Tempe Center for the Arts, and then (a real highlight) coffee with Shelley Cohn, former WESTAF Trustee and chair, with whom I had a wonderful, informative and inspiring conversation. These meet n greet trips are great, but they also remind me how I am just getting a sense of the “tip of the iceberg” state-by-state, a reality that only time will address. The trip concluded with a visit to the Phoenix Botanical Gardens and their superb “Electric Desert” projection mapping night show. Wow! Thank you notes and emails have been sent to all.
After Phoenix, on to Reno where I met (new-ish) ED of the Nevada Arts Council Tony Manfredi. It was great to get to know Tony better, and we had some really productive (and quite frank, but always friendly) conversations about the tensions that exist between WESTAF as a nonprofit that provides services to the western field, vs. a company that sells software as a service. In particular we talked about the difficulties NAC experienced transitioning from GO to GO Smart. They are not currently a Go Smart customer. Tony also had concerns about WESTAF’s identity (and about my leadership priorities) as purely a tech company vs an organization that had his interests in hand. I believe that we were able to resolve and move on, and I was able to satisfactorily address his concerns. We also had some really productive meetings in Reno. These meetings included time spent with Tracey Oliver, ED of the Sierra Arts Foundation; Nettie Oliverio, Chair of Reno Little Theater; Beth MacMillan, Executive Director of the successful annual Reno art event Artown and a wonderful afternoon spent with David Walker and Ann Wolfe of the spectacular Nevada Museum of Art. Over the weekend, I attended a Burners Without Borders retreat at Fly Ranch, near the Black Rock Playa of NW Nevada. Fly Ranch is a remarkable rural location (rustic, but absolutely worth it) that may be a great location for the right WESTAF stakeholder retreat. Thank you notes and emails have been sent to all.
NEA Funding Update
On May 15, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations chaired by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) officially proposed FY’20 funding increases to every federal cultural agency within their portfolio, including the National Endowment for the Arts. Additionally last week the U.S. House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Education Chairman Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) also proposed FY’20 funding increases to the other federal cultural agencies and arts educations programs within their portfolio, including the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The majority of these funding increases were set at the exact level proposed by arts advocates and the Congressional Arts Caucus on Arts Advocacy Day, March 5, 2019. These appropriations bills next go to the full House Appropriations Committee and then the House floor for a vote in June. The bills will then be sent to the U.S. Senate to go through an identical process beginning in July or this fall.
Idaho Arts Commission Meeting Presentation
Following the Bozeman board meeting, at the invitation of trustee Michael Faison, I headed to Pocatello, Idaho, to offer up an informal presentation and lead a conversation on the work of WESTAF (as well as a bit about me and my background) at the Idaho Commission on the Arts Commission Meeting at the spectacular L.E. and Thelma Stephens Performing Arts Center at Idaho State University. It was a real treat to meet the Commissioners and an honor to be present at the last meeting presided over by outgoing Chair Kay Hardy. It was great (as always!) to see MIchael and also to meet a few of his staff members, including a few who will be making the trip to Denver for SAAPAD and the Professional Development session later this year. We also had some informal conversations about their experiences with WESTAF products. It was an enjoyable session and I was glad to connect, answer some questions and make some new friends. Thank you, trustee Michael Faison, for the invitation!
Last Tuesday, 5/14 I was able to meet and personally thank the TourWest panelists gathered in Denver to do their review sessions. This is an intense amount of work and it was really rewarding to meet them in person and personally express gratitude. Seyan has done a wonderful job stewarding this herculanean process and the panelists stayed on track and successfully completed their work. In all (and still confidential), A total of 257 out of 298 qualifying applications are being presented for awards totaling $503,300.
Val Atkin – Development Coach
A number of you asked about Val Atkin, the consultant, coach and peer group leader who will be helping to moderate our Strat Plan Faire on May 29 and 30. Here is Val’s website and in particular I urge you to read this page which offers some good info on Val’s unflappable and unique style and approach. I am thrilled to have her helping us as we strike out into relatively unknown territory with the launch of a ten year Strategic Plan process! Wow!
Creative Vitality Suite
Thank you to trustee Joaquin Herranz who has been tremendously helpful in guiding our strategy and approach in our Creative Economy work with Creative Vitality Suite. As I mentioned at the board meeting, we were sorry to see CVS Manager Paul Nguyen leaving WESTAF, but also excited about the future of this product and of this work. Here is the new job description for the CVS Project Manager position — please feel free to share widely with your networks and please make any candidate recommendations to me directly.
Upcoming Planned SAA Visits
In the coming months, I will be meeting California Arts Council ED Anne Bown-Crawford at the Creative Placemaking Pacific Summit in Los Angeles, and then presenting the following week, June 25 at the California Arts Council Commission Meeting near Sacramento, in July, I’ll be heading to Honolulu to spend time with trustee Jonathan Johnson and to present to Hawaii’s SFCA board and attend further meetings, including FESTPAC leadership; in August I will be joining trustee Karen Hanan in Yakima and Tieton, WA to offer a presentation at an ArtsWA Commissioners meeting. So, action packed!
That’s it for now — lots of activity on the business side of things as well, shared out during the Bozeman BOT meeting and included in your board books. Naturally, if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to be in touch. Looking forward to our time together again in Denver on October 23-24!
Huge gratitude for your good work,