Dear WESTAF Trustees:
As we head into the Fall (OMG! Really?), we’ve been hard at work at WESTAF, with a variety of initiatives on the horizon and coming right up. Thank you for your continuing leadership and support as a WESTAF trustee! Here we go:
NASAA LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE
David Holland and I just returned from the NASAA Leadership Institute in Providence, RI. This was the smaller and more intimate conference presented by NASAA in alternate years. It was a useful opportunity to catch up in person with WESTAF EDs (at the conference were Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Wyoming). There were some really well chosen session topics, including Mindful Leadership (which was great!), state-by-state advocacy activity (or lack thereof) led by NASAA’s Kelly Barsdate, and Inclusive Leadership. Ben Brown and Andrea Noble gave a moving “How Alaska Came Back” session and the Arts Endowment were also there in force, with Michael Orlove and Andi Mathis soliciting feedback and a candid group discussion on the state and regional application process. Mary Anne Carter offered warm and collegial remarks to the gathered EDs. Of particular note was a breakfast hosted by Pam Breaux from NASAA to brainstorm ways for the US territories and RAOs to work together. From a WESTAF perspective, these would include Guam, American Samoa, and the Marianas Islands. Also at the table were the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico (where the NASAA Conference will be held in October 2020). In the coming months, it seems likely that if and how WESTAF incorporates territories into its region will become a topic of discussion at the WESTAF BOT table. Overall the convening was an excellent opportunity for Christian and David to deepen and further personalize relationships with NASAA, SAAs and the Arts Endowment.
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING
The Executive Committee met in Sacramento, CA on September 11 and 12. In addition to the budget review, ED performance review and executive update sessions, the committee focused on considering ways that the BOT could be most helpful in advancing the strategic priorities of the organization in the coming year. A working dinner also included WESTAF guests from California: Anne Bown-Crawford, Executive Director of the CAC, Julie Baker, Executive Director of Californians for the Arts, Lucero Arellano, MAC member and Jason Schmelzer, CFA’s lobbyist in Sacramento. Crawford sent along a thank-you note the following day which said: “It was the most valuable WESTAF experience I have had to date in my brief tenure as CAC’s ED. The conversation was candid, honest, and inclusive. It gave me a much clearer picture of the possibilities that exist between all of us to nourish the field of arts and culture. We talked about many intersection points that I hope we continue to explore in the same manner.”
ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERSHIP COACHING
WESTAF’s leadership coach Val Atkin will be returning to WESTAF for a follow-up session with both the LRT as well as the whole team to continue her work around leadership, feedback and communication. We’re still working out the best time in the fall, but now that we have the framework of the Performance Management plan instituted company-wide, now is the perfect time to develop the tools to make that framework as productive as possible with better ways to assess, appreciate, acknowledge and coach moving forward.
BUDGET & FINANCE
The executive committee reviewed and approved the FY20 budget and the new employee handbook at their September meeting this past week. The budget will next be presented to the board in October for final approval. This past week, the finance team welcomed Jessica Martinez to the team — she is part-time and will be assisting Lauren Wilson in the day-to-day processes of the department, including managing the high volume of transactions for both CaFE and ZAPP.
ADVOCACY & ALLIANCES
David Holland will be representing WESTAF on an Americans for the Arts Creative Economy Advisory Group and will participate in an opening meeting in Washington, DC on September 26th. This group was brought to our attention by Susan Soroko of the National Creative Economy Coalition and Arlington Economic Development, a contact with which David is engaging to explore WESTAF’s collaboration with or participation in the Coalition. David will be representing WESTAF at the Western Governors’ Association’s Reimagining the Rural West workshop in Fargo, ND on October 1st and is in discussion with Lauren DiNinno, Policy Advisor at the WGA, about this initiative and engagement by WESTAF. David has had introductory calls with ten of the thirteen state arts agency executive directors (with others in process) and is organizing initial visits to four of the thirteen states. Executive directors have been very generous in sharing their priorities, key challenges and observations about the policy and advocacy environment for their work in their states, and their insights will inform WESTAF’s SAA Advocacy & Services strand of work.
INCLUSION & EQUITY CONSULTING
On September 16, Chrissy Deal co-presented with two Utah-based ELC alumni — Renato Olmedo-Gonzalez and Moana Palelei HoChing — and Jorge Rojas from the Utah Museum of Fine Arts at a session on community connections and engagement. As important cultural leaders in the Salt Lake City community, Renato, Moana and Jorge shared their perspectives on ways Zoo, Arts & Parks’ equity commitment can extend to include key stakeholders from underrepresented communities. The conversation prompted deep discussion about ZAP’s broader role in the community as a public sector agency/funder and the kind of change necessary to become more equitable organization. Trustee Vicki Bourns not only attended as a ZAP Equity Task Force member but also invited two state arts agency staff members to join the interactive session.
WESTAF & EQUITY IN DENVER
For the past year, Chrissy has been working with Dr. Patricia Baca and a broad coalition of board members of color from the Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Zoo who are advocating for increased access, representation and inclusion within the arts and culture community. Referred to as the SCFD Tier I Cultural Leaders of Color (SCFD being the voter-approved special tax district that allocates 1 cent for every $10 spent in a 7-county area), their goal is to support the advancement of diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility within SCFD Tier I arts and culture organizations. On September 25, the group, along with WESTAF and local arts funder Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, is co-sponsoring an event with Kimberly Wilson, Deputy Director for Human Resources, Volunteers, & Community Service of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, who will speak about the VMFA’s inclusion and equity journey. Chrissy is honored to be collaborating with local leaders on this important cross-organizational effort to create a more inclusive arts and culture field in the place WESTAF calls home.
GENERAL BUSINESS UPDATES
The business vertical introduced OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), a tool to help each business product set goals, prioritize, and maximize alignment for FY20. The business leadership team (Seyan, Christina and Adam) is assessing the OKRs to identify resourcing gaps and overlapping work. In addition, the Business Cohort is working on generating scoping documents for three key strategic goals: Technology Infrastructure, Operational Excellence and Investment Strategy. The business cohort, being the largest cohort and having a wide range of needs, decided to build sub-cohorts to tackle these three areas. For clarity, the Business Cohort should be building a strategy for longer-term goals (three-year planning increments). These will be projects that benefit the business vertical as a whole or umbrella operational changes that would feed into product work goals in the future, whereas the OKR is a quarterly and annual work plan for each product.
The CaFE team is onboarding and training a new team member, Annie Wiegel, and also preparing to help train Shaya and Brandon starting next week—our two new customer experience coordinators. CaFE will close out the FY with nearly 200 new clients, and over 1,100 call listings.
Kelly Ernst and Seyan Lucero attended CVSuite data partner Emsi’s conference in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. The conference focused on higher education enrollment/curriculum development and workforce councils. There were several great presentations on the use of data to highlight gaps in the workforce and working with colleges and universities to fill those gaps. Because CVSuite utilized its labor market data — but is not a workforce development product — staff had to extrapolate how that data might align with CVSuite’s goals and how staff can use their model for analysis. Another new development from Emsi is a skills tagging tool to create workforce profiles, one that is open source and has the potential to help WESTAF analyze the artist data collected from CaFE, ZAPP, and GO Smart. Staff met with a representative from the Colorado Rural Economic Development board who noted that Emsi data does not work well for rural economies or areas, and they also met with Josh Wright, the executive vice president on community insights for Emsi. Wright was supportive of the WESTAF/Emsi partnership and indicated a willingness to renegotiate the partnership arrangement in the spring of 2020.
GO Smart recently signed Arts Huntsville, which is a client of ZAPP and CaFE as well. The City of Seattle Office of Economic Development, a client since 2015, has stopped using GO Smart. The agency no longer needs a SaaS system for grant administration because it is decreasing its grant administration. It also hopes to create its own grant software in the future. Great in-house development continues for GO Smart, with a focus on smaller UX/UI changes. An upcoming enhancement to convert PDFs to HTML is slated to be released before September ends.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE
Lori Goldstein, PAA Manager, presented at a LYRASIS Community Spotlight webinar to 40 public art professionals. She will also be presenting at the LYRASIS Member Summit in Chicago, in addition to the California Public Art Consortium. The PAA team is onboarding Metro Arts, the organization that administers public art for Nashville and Davidson County, to the Collection Management System. Metro Arts has expressed a great deal of interest in the system.
ZAPP launched its redesigned artist site on Sept. 12. The team received positive and negative feedback, but a majority of the initial response from artists (less than 1% of users overall) was focused on confusion over the new layout or frustration over the changes. The primary goals for this redesign were to make the site responsive, adhere to accessibility standards, and update the code and underlying infrastructure. ZAPP has not seen a negative impact to business operations since the launch but will continue to monitor feedback and business metrics.
CHRISTIAN’S UPCOMING TRAVEL
9/29 – 10/2 Anchorage, AK for ASCA Commissioners “next steps” convening
10/31 – 11/11 Bhutan for personal trip
11/14 – 16 Phoenix, AZ for National Creative Placemaking Summit
11/19 – 20 Washington, DC for RAO meeting
11/21 – 22 Portland, OR for meetings, touring with Oregon Arts Commission
Thank you again for important trusteeship! If you have any questions or comments at all about any of these items, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.
As ever, with appreciation,