Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: September 21, 2020

By September 21, 2020No Comments

Hello again WESTAF trustees:

Well, we’ve come to the very last biweekly of FY20. The first half of the fiscal year began promisingly enough. The second half? Well, you know. A global pandemic, an overdue reckoning with racial injustice, a gasping economy, catastrophic western climate fires and now the passing of RBG, a giant of jurisprudence, and all of the troubling implications that this represents to a democracy already dangling by a thread. Pablo Neruda said “You can cut all the flowers, but you can’t keep Spring from coming,” so let’s always let hope be our anchor while we focus on the hard work ahead. Here’s what’s been going on, but first, here are some interesting articles and updates of special interest to our work:

Where do Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Stand on the Arts? (Hyperallergic)

The Hard Hit Arts Sector is Facing a Brain Drain (ArtNet News)

How the US Can Rebuild Its Art Industry Post-Covid (The Art Newspaper)

Mellon Foundation Launches New Art Museum Futures Fund (Press Release)


The Executive Committee met this past fortnight and reviewed August financials — one month before the end of the fiscal year. Although we don’t expect too much to change in September, here’s the August Cash Summary. This is a snapshot of cash income and expense as of the date of the report. Here is the August Financial Memo. Like always, these are the notes which accompany the Cash Summary. We’ll be sharing projections for FY21 in the new year. August is the eleventh month of our fiscal year 2020, which is 92% through the year. Overall, income is ahead of this benchmark (line 38) at 147% of budget and expense is a bit ahead at 95%. This slight increase in expenses is due entirely to the nearly $800,000 in CARES subawards paid out as of 6/30/20. These expenses (line 27) were not budgeted but are offset by income (also line 27). Otherwise, there have been extensive savings in expenses due to the elimination of travel and pulling back on software investment due to the pandemic.


The Finance & Administration team is busy preparing for the new year. We have reviewed our department goals for the new year and are considering timeframes for the work ahead of us. Many of us will need to shift from having ridgid schedules and deadlines to working in a more flexible environment due to unforeseen or urgent opportunities. Becca in HR is creating staff compensation and benefit statements for the new year showing every full-time staff member their compensation as well as benefit costs and the value of vacation and sick time. Amy and Becky met with the full grant team to outline the upcoming audit process and the expectations of all parties. The FY21 budget was approved by the ExComm this past week and will go to the full board in October. Amy and Natalie are supporting the grant team as they compile the grant application for the FY22 NEA award which, will be submitted on Sept 25th. Cash flow for both WESTAF and ZAPP have been compiled for the first two quarters of the year. ZAPP will need an influx of cash until the business rebounds. Christina and her team will know more about the timing of any rebound in January. In the meantime, ZAPP will not be paying it’s management fee to WESTAF for the months of Oct and Nov. This is a short-term loan that is expected to be paid back when ZAPP is in a stronger cash position.


The Executive Committee introduced the first WESTAF compensation policy. With this new policy, staff will have a better comprehension of which factors the organization consider most salient when it comes to a position’s value, and then how to grow within it. This is designed to minimize any variation on this approach between supervisors or departments. To enact this new policy, effective October 1 we will reset some current practices and compensation levels. Specifically, we will establish a minimum base compensation threshold at WESTAF, and bring the lowest-compensated staffers up to that threshold. We will eliminate the yearly performance bonus program. We will also adjust some salaries within other categories, to bring these staffers fairly within peer ranges. Staff not impacted by any of these adjustments can expect to receive a 2% cost-of living adjustment on their base salary beginning in the new fiscal year.


In FY20, the pandemic added a lot of stress and uncertainty to the WESTAF workplace. Given these circumstances, we made a decision to dial back the evaluation process as a way to lighten the administrative load for the staff, especially supervisors, during a chaotic time. As we move into FY21, we’ve had the opportunity to look at ways to pick up this process, but hopefully in a more streamlined and efficient way. The new compensation policy will be supported by a standardized and streamlined system that will provide clarity and transparency around job responsibilities, encourage continuous feedback tied to individual, departmental and organizational goals and objectives, as well as to the guiding principles, core behaviors and 10-year vision and strategic plan that weave together the WESTAF work culture. This process will be housed within the Insights evaluation and feedback tool, which will connect these critical strands to all of the important work the WESTAF team performs on a daily basis. Training on the Insights tool begins this week.


Vice Chair and Chair or the EIC Teniqua Broughton led an inaugural “get to know each other” meeting of this new committee. Members introduced and re-introduced themselves to each other and Teniqua led the group in some really enjoyable and meaningful connection prompts. The next full EIC meeting is planned post-BOT meeting in November with an exact date TBD. However, the EIC will participate in an equity session with the board and staff, scheduled at the conclusion of day 1 of the October BOT meeting.


For several months, the Alliances, Advocacy, and Public Policy (AAP) and MarComm teams have been working on the finalization of the Arts + the Rural West Report and its dissemination. David and Laurel served as the report editors, distilling conversations and developing recommendations; editing notes; and transcribing recordings. Laurel led the process of commissioning and working with a designer to produce a professional quality publication. ELC alumna Alexandria Jimenez was selected and the team have worked with her to produce a visually dynamic piece. Leah released the report last week to our contacts including a new rural arts list of over 40 key contacts regionally and nationally that we hope to build further in the months to come. Please have a look at the press release and the report itself if you haven’t already to learn more. WESTAF is excited to build on these conversations and catalyze this network moving forward. 


Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA) have invited WESTAF to continue the work on strategic plan implementation that we began with their team last winter. In this new phase of work, David and Chrissy (who is joining the project team for this phase) will facilitate four sessions with strategic plan cohorts in late September focused on revisiting and integrating the insights that emerged in phase one, identifying cross-organizational initiatives, developing ideas for an action plan for the next year, and exploring the future of the cohort process within the organization. Prompted by SFCA, Chrissy and David will also expand the equity lens in this phase of the process and invite the SFCA team to discuss and reflect on this focus in their work. Follow-up meetings will be held with SFCA leadership and cohort members to discuss findings and next steps in October. Thanks to WESTAF trustee Jonathan Johnson for entrusting WESTAF with a continuing role in this important process.


David recently met with WESTAF partner California Arts Advocates (CAA) and WESTAF-supported lobbyists, Shaw Yoder Antwih Schmelzer & Lange (SYASL), to discuss and set priorities for the next legislative session including opportunities to secure statewide and local relief funding for the arts, next steps on Assembly Bill No. 5 Worker status: employees and independent contractors (AB5), the state arts budget request, and other matters. AB5 is a contentious piece of legislation that clarifies earlier legal precedents in attempting to establish a clear distinction between an employee and a contractor. The legislation is supported publicly by many arts and entertainment industry trade unions but detractors in the field assert that it has already caused significant challenges, including the closure of some organizations. A number of new bills have been introduced to clarify the language around artists and other creative workers and to offer targeted exemptions. CAA and SYASL have been managing this complex issue, skillfully including relations with the field across the state, labor unions, and elected officials and negotiating changes to legislation to offer clarity to, and in some cases exemptions for, the sector. In recent months, WESTAF has been a sounding board to CAA and the Hewlett Foundation on this hot button issue.


WESTAF has been in dialogue with the Colorado Cultural Partners, a group of Colorado based funders, arts service organizations, and arts advocacy organizations across the state, of which WESTAF is a part, about new directions for arts advocacy in Colorado following the budget process for Colorado Creative Industries this year. David is facilitating a number of conversations between and among key organizations with a view to helping the group to define a collective voice and approach going into the next session.


On Thursday, September, 24, Chrissy Deal will be a featured panelist for Radically Rural 2020, a single-day virtual summit for shaping and sharing ideas surrounding the advantages and opportunities of rural regions. Chrissy will join Lori Pourier, President of First Peoples FundRon Ragin, self-employed, artist, consultant, researcher, and coach; and Erik Takeshita, senior fellow of ArtPlace America in a discussion about Race and Place – Equity in Arts Funding, moderated by Savannah Barrett, exchange director of Art of the Rural. In addition to speaking to the impacts of the Emerging Leaders of Color program and the Leaders of Color Network, Chrissy is looking forward to highlighting findings detailed in WESTAF’s Arts + the Rural West Virtual Workshop Session Report, spearheaded by David Holland. 


Our collaboration with South Arts for their inaugural Emerging Leaders of Color program has entered an exciting new phase. The South Arts team received a total of 94 applications from candidates from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee (8 of the 9 South Arts-region states.) Chrissy, along with project lead, Madalena Salazar, Salvador Acevedo, and two South Arts staffers will be reviewing eligible applications in the coming weeks and extending invitations to participants in early October. Salvador and his team at Scansion are currently wrapping up their research and recommendations for shifting the program to a virtual format by the end of September as well. The WESTAF and South Arts teams, along with Salvador and long-time faculty member Margie Johnson Reese, are eager to launch the program in early December 2020. 


On September 16, Madalena facilitated a panel orientation meeting for the 20 WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund advisors/panelists. This impressive group of community and cultural leaders with roots across the 13-state region are charged with reviewing and scoring 85 Resilience Fund applications and advising staff who will make funding recommendations. Each panel will review between 42-43 applications and will reconvene in mid-October to discuss select applications. Staff will seek approval from the WESTAF Executive Committee for approximately 30-40 awards ranging from $30,000 to $75,000, with a few exceptional $100,000 grants. Here’s a timeline of activities: September 16-October 5, 2020-Application review; October 13-14, 2020-Panel meetings, October 16-27, 2020-Final funding recommendation (staff), Executive Committee approval & award announcement


Since the last update, the Communications cohort has planned to have their kick-off session with their trustee advisors on October 5, 2020. Along with the Policy cohort, who have settled on October 1, 2020 for their kick-off, these sessions will be a chance for cohort members to introduce themselves to their TAs. The cohorts are planning to include fun activities or casual conversation-starters for these first meetings to get to know each other better, before diving in to the following meetings, which will be devoted more to focusing on how the TAs can best collaborate with staff on their work going forward. The Policy cohort has also finished compiling photographs and blurbs for their Stories of Resilience project and will be collaborating with the Marketing and Communications team on putting together any finishing touches before posting the stories onto the WESTAF website.


The team is drafting an enhancement to allow linked media as part of the CaFE artist’s portfolio. With this feature, artists will be able to add a YouTube, Vimeo, Spotify, or SoundCloud link in place of uploading a file, giving them greater control over their work sample quality. Currently we allow only a limited quantity and small file size to be uploaded for submission purposes. Now organizations will be better positioned to issue film or animation type calls for artists and artists will be able to apply to calls with full length high-resolution videos. 


CVSuite has officially rolled out the new data visualization enhancement. The launch went smoothly with no major bugs or issues. We are reaching out to trusted clients to gain feedback. The enhancement was billed over budget, which inspired Kelly and Trevor to refine the new development by including more thorough market research, customer feedback, and prototyping.  David has secured a signed contract from NASAA for a consulting project preparing 12 case studies on various creative regions, and the team is tapped to take on different elements of the project. The CVList campaign is in its final stages and has a release date of Sept. 30, 2020. 


Two clients added additional COVID programs this week, increasing our unexpected FY20 revenue by $1,600. Jessica has worked closely with the tech team to accomplish two big changes that clarify system functionality with updated language and make the user aware of how and when changes will appear on HTML and PDF views. These improvements should prove to be cost effective ways to enhance our users’ brand loyalty, a FY20 OKR objective.


PAA is working through the contractual process with the City of Alexandria, VA, our newest CMS and Showcase client. Next week, Lori will present PAA’s products and services to the Cultural Planning Group consulting firm that works with a number of public art organizations looking for public art inventory tools. This lead was generated through a joint PAA/CaFE marketing campaign.


Over the last two weeks, the ZAPP team has focused on closing out account balances and disabling dropped clients. Some shows will be taking a year off from ZAPP to recover financially, while others will not be hosting an event in 2021. We’ll also be closing down the ZAPP forum, a place started for artists to connect with one another, sell art fair products they no longer need, and ask technical questions about ZAPP. With the rise of social media, the forum hasn’t been widely used in many years and poses a security threat in its current iteration. Given the cost to update the forum to meet 2020 security standards, we opted to remove it and encourage artists to join the Facebook forum hosted by the National Association of Independent Artists. 

Hang in there, everybody. The world is still a beautiful place.

As ever,