Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: October 19, 2020

By October 19, 2020No Comments

Greetings Trustees:

We’re gearing up for the trustee meetings next Wednesday, October 28 and Thursday October 29 and we can’t wait to see you there…on Zoom! We’ve got a packed agenda and we’re very excited about what we have in store. Before we dig in, Deborah Jordy, the executive director of Denver’s SCFD,  wanted arts leaders in Colorado to share this Opinion Piece in The Washington Post with their boards and networks about the role conservatives could play in helping the performing arts to survive this pandemic. It’s not a perfect op-ed — a bit too urban-centric/coastal elite for everyone — but I think that the conservative angle is an important one here because it represents a kind of baseline level of reasoning for why economic relief for the performing arts is so essential to the creative economy.

Now, let’s kick this biweekly off with some really, really big news in case you haven’t heard…


From the Packard Foundation’s website: “The David and Lucile Packard Foundation is pleased to announce that Tamara Mozahuani Alvarado will join the Local Grantmaking Program as a Program Officer on November 30.Tamara will serve in a new role leading the cultural and civic investments in the Vibrant Communities portfolio that spans the five Bay Area counties that the program serves: San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito. The portfolio invests $4 million annually to advance creative, environmental, and civic organizations that connect people with art, nature, and their communities, creating a unique sense of place for all.“Tamara’s experience as an artist, nonprofit arts executive, grantmaker, and community advocate makes her ideal for this role,” said Irene Wong, director of the Local Grantmaking Program. “Tamara brings a lifelong commitment to the arts, equity, and building communities.” Well, she sure does, as everyone at WESTAF already knows! Congratulations from your WESTAF family, Tamara! This is huge and wonderful news!


On Tuesday, October 13 and Wednesday, October 14, Madalena and David, with support from Chrissy as a contractor, facilitated panel meetings with the 20 panelists selected to adjudicate the 83 applications received for the WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund. Panel A, who reviewed 43 applications, and Panel B, who reviewed 40 applications, selected a total of 26 applications for discussion during these meetings. Panelists were also invited to express their perspectives on the process. They engaged in heartfelt and sophisticated dialogues on the evolution of equitable grantmaking, paying particularly close attention to countering bias; developing capacity in rural communities and making grantmaking a more accessible process for underrepresented and under-resourced communities. Panelists were given until Thursday, October 15 to adjust any of their scores based on the context of discussion, and final scores were tabulated by Chrissy to inform an awards selection meeting in which Madalena and David determined awards recommendations to be reviewed by Christian and approved by the WESTAF Executive Committee. In addition to panelist scores, staff considered geographic representation, organizational budget, operating reserve or endowment funds, state population size, and diversity of underrepresented communities and art forms when making these recommendations. Thirty-nine organizations across all thirteen WESTAF region states are being recommended for grant awards ranging from $30,000 to $74,000. Roughly 44% of prospective grantees have budgets below $500,000 and about a third are based in and/or primarily serve rural communities. We currently estimate that 82% of prospective grantees are first time grantees. As a reminder, 464 nominations were received in the first phase of the process and WESTAF invited 85 organizations to submit full applications. In total, $1,773,000 will be disbursed through this new program established with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and in partnership with the other U.S. regional arts organizations.


Salvador Acevedo, Margie Johnson Reese, Madalena, and David are finalizing the agenda and materials for the South Arts ELC to take place on December 3, 4, and 9. Participants are currently being confirmed by South Arts. The curriculum, redesigned by Salvador for a virtual format, will feature guest provocateurs, facilitators, and workshop leaders as well as entirely new content and sessions, including new sessions being led by Madalena and David. Margie is producing a resource guide for participants, and the team will also be shipping out welcome packages to them that include supplies to be used in many creative and celebratory exercises during the session. The South Arts ELC program also received this great write up in the recent NASAA Notes newsletter.


Madalena continues to work with the Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture (CCAC) to increase organizational participation in CNMI CARES, while processing applications from arts and educational organizations on a rolling basis with support from David. Madalena is also developing an artist project grant program under the banner of CNMI CARES that will be launched later in the fall after being approved by the CCAC and Arts Endowment.


Lani and Madalena are preparing for the virtual State Arts Agency and Performing Arts Consortia Professional Development (SAAPAD) meeting that will be held on October 29 and 30 and features Kaisha Johnson of Women of Color in the Arts (WOCA), a national service organization dedicated to creating racial and cultural equity in the performing arts field. These meetings bring together state arts agency staff with responsibility for performing arts with leaders from the region’s performing arts consortia.


The SRI team is meeting for a “quarterly refresh” (mini-retreat) on Monday October 19 to look at priorities for the remainder of Q1 and for Q2 based on the SRI Transition Plan and individual work plans. David has established a regular cadence of 1:1 meetings with Madalena and Lani during the transition period and began joining SRI team meetings several weeks ago. 


After having conducted 11 hours of facilitated sessions with Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA) staff over the week of September 28 with Chrissy, David is now drafting a report and other resources for the SFCA team based on their collective work further defining metrics and measures; refocusing departmental and cross-agency priorities due to the pandemic; and developing a cross-organizational work plan for the remainder of FY20 and the beginning of FY21. Having begun by reviewing over 100 possible success indicators last December, one of the goals for this phase is to identify as few as 5 indicators to frame the work of the organization across strategic planning areas. The SFCA team has been incredibly generative in defining new directions in measuring the value of their work and in exploring the potential to collaborate across departments. SFCA has elected to continue the cohorts they established to facilitate this process after WESTAF work concludes to build on this momentum. Follow-up meetings with SFCA teams will be organized later in the month to discuss and refine WESTAF findings.


The CVSuite team is currently conducting the research phase of the Creative Economy and Recovery project with NASAA and Indiana University. Trevor and David have completed initial data analysis for the 12 case studies focused on Creative Vitality Index values and creative industry and occupational growth trends from 2011-2018. Kelly and David are currently arranging interviews with regional experts and influencers, including state arts agency leaders, elected officials, curators and programmers, state film office staff, researchers, and others. Interviews organized thus far include Rachel Chanoff of THE OFFICE performing arts + film, who is a lead architect of the WPA-inspired Artists at Work program being piloted in Western Massachusetts; and Nebraska State Senator Megan Hunt, who recently introduced legislation to establish a statewide Creative Districts program. Samantha is reviewing the case study template, and Samantha and Laurel will be drafting case studies with David.


Leah, Samantha, Laurel, Natalie Scherlong, and David met as a Convenings Team to discuss the events-based programs planned for FY21 with a focus on a virtual Executive Director Forum provisionally scheduled for mid-January 2020 and a reimagined virtual Arts Leadership and Advocacy Seminar provisionally planned for February 2020. Laurel is developing initial work plans for these programs, and Natalie S. is conducting research on virtual platforms. 


The Business Cohort continues to have discussions around potential improvements to overall workflow, as well as plans for more automation within the business team’s work (lead funneling, automatic contract entry, etc.), which relates back to the strategic plan by helping to continue the reduction of time-sensitive, manual processes. The cohort hopes to compile a report of recommendations for improved and consistent workflows across WESTAF. Lani Morris has generously created this bi-weekly update on behalf of the Equity cohort: The Equity cohort just completed a series of three internal equity workshops in collaboration with the Social Responsibility and Inclusion team. The workshops were facilitated by the talented Founder and President of C.I.R.C.L.E. & STAMP, Carla Mestas. As we look to develop future internal learning opportunities, we have shifted our focus back to our scoping documents. Our team wants to continue to prioritize our internal work to center our goals and initiatives around Practice/People – Who WESTAF is, and how we do what we do. Our cohort has split into teams to tackle and brainstorm the next steps! In celebration of successes as a cohort, we must also congratulate our cohort sponsor, Chrissy Deal, on her new adventure with Bonfils Stanton. We are all forever impacted by her leadership and deep commitment to this work. We hope to continue along the path she has paved and sustain the many lasting relationships, strategy, and programming she has implemented in our continued efforts to operationalize the strategic plan. And so we continue our work, which must always start from a deep and thoughtful examination of our internal culture. “As WESTAF seeks to model operational excellence for public sector arts agencies and communities, we must first define what that looks like for our own organization. Establishing an internal environment that aligns with WESTAF’s external goals will allow us to more easily identify and address all sides of the equity prism.” – Chrissy Deal


This coming week, Amy and Becca will be attending a three-day virtual conference focused on equity practices within the human resources field. We are excited to gather practical ideas on how to further evolve WESTAF’s policies and practices. Following the conference, Amy and Becca will hold a half-day retreat to establish priorities and timelines for HR and office management for FY21. Lauren is working to update the CaFE client identification process within the financial system: a project that will dramatically improve the financial side of the CaFE process going forward. This is a change that has been on our minds for many years and we’re so excited to finally implement it! We have confirmed the audit fieldwork will happen the first two weeks in December and will be executed virtually. Now that the leadership team has largely populated their profiles within the new Insights feedback tool, the full staff will be introduced to the system in the next two weeks. The cash situation at year-end appears to be healthier for both WESTAF and ZAPP than originally projected back in August, which is wonderful news. Amy and Becky are now compiling the year-end cash financials that will be shared prior to the board meeting.


We are working to transition our antiquated phone system to a cloud-based solution that can accommodate customer support needs in a remote environment. We set up a proof of concept with Zoom Phone and kicked off a three-week free trial on Oct. 15, with Janae and members of the CaFE, ZAPP, and customer experience teams . We’re also in discussion with at least one other provider to set up a second proof of concept to compare the two systems. 


On October 13, Justine sent out our annual comprehensive survey to all users. Responses are well underway and we hope to have a completed analysis by the end of the first quarter. In October, the team is also kicking off with our FY21 OKR goals with a focus on examining our customer base and service philosophy, refining our digital sales strategy, and honing our operational efficiency especially by identifying automation needs.


CVSuite has been focused on conversations regarding new clients, client renewals, and client partnership. We are working to renew CVSuite access for the Asheville Area Arts council, as well as new access for the Western Arts Agencies of North Carolina (WAANC.) Our contact there found a partnership in the Dogwood Health Trust that is interested in conducting an equity audit of the creative economy for the WAANC regions, which would result in our getting CVSuite’s annual Snapshot Reports and new DataCharts out to these agencies. In addition, we had conversations with Alaska State Council on the Arts as well as TDC Inc. about how to further their partnership with CVSuite and embed a data strategy into their organizations beyond just the data tool. The team recovered both contracts, which were considered at-risk. 


GO Smart released a ticket last week that added pop-up modals to several sections of the admin and applicant portals. The modals help to shape expectations surrounding the HTML/PDF previews and offer a link to a more detailed explanation for each user type. The tech team continues to work on UX/UI updates. The marketing team, along with Jessica, will begin to research and create a new, targeted list of leads using the Grant Station roster with the hope of reaching 500 grant administrators. 


PAA is currently in discussion with Santa Monica Cultural Affairs (SMCA) to develop a Public Art Roster landing page to display selected artist portfolios and information. PAA will establish an Artist Roster Program workflow in SMCA’s CMS and assist with migration data collected via a Call to Artists hosted on CaFE. The technology team has completed four of the client version upgrades to the PAA CMS and will continue this work throughout October and November.


October is a busy month! We kicked off the fiscal year with an OKR meeting to recap our FY20 progress and plan for FY21. We’re also finalizing details for our ZAPP Oversight Committee meeting, taking place Oct. 21, during which the group will approve ZAPP’s FY21 budget. Julia is working on preparations for our next ZAPP Connections session, where we’ll feature a discussion with event administrators who have put on COVID-19-compliant events in the past few months. Finally, ZAPP also launched our annual user survey, and this year we hope to increase engagement by pairing the survey with the opportunity to win one of 10 Visa gift cards.  

Respectfully Submitted,