Really fun and productive few weeks, including a remarkable trip to the Black Rock playa of NW Nevada (more on this below) and great progress on a variety of important fronts! Read on . . .
WESTAF AT WAA
Chrissy and Seyan attended the Western Arts Alliance’s annual conference August 27-29 in Los Angeles. As a longtime partner in WESTAF’s regional touring program, it was a rich learning opportunity for Chrissy, who is gradually assuming responsibility of WESTAF’s TourWest program and key relationships with leaders in the touring and presenting field. (TourWest is our competitive grant program that provides subsidies to arts and community organizations for the presentation of out-of-state touring performers and literary artists.) Equity has become a key focus for WAA, which presented an opportunity for staff to connect with leaders from organizations like Women of Color in the Arts, El Teatro Campesino, Association of Performing Arts Professionals, as well as colleagues from other RAOs and artists of color. Seyan has done a fantastic job of overseeing TourWest for the past several years — she, Madalena, Chrissy and I look forward to the continued enhancement of this integral, 20+ year old WESTAF program in the coming year and beyond.
This was my third “burn” but it was the first for some special guests that were part of a US Conference of Mayors’ tour of Black Rock City on Wednesday, September 28. Mayors, generally, are intrigued by the municipal design and potential of Burning Man and Black Rock City. In addition to the dozen or so mayors and assorted aides and associates, Burning Man’s External Relations Team (XRT) also welcomed National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Mary Anne Carter and Endowment Senior Deputy Chairman Tom Simplot. Also on board for the tour was Nora Halpern, VP of Leadership Alliances at Americans for the Arts. Here are some pictures of our day (and a few bonus Burning Man ones, too). Also spent some quality time with Crimson Rose, a Burning Man co-founder and potential new WESTAF trustee (more on that in the coming months).
FORT COLLINS, CO
Visited Fort Collins, CO to learn more about this very interesting community and to meet with several individuals working to make it vibrant and very musical! Included was Bryce Merrill, former WESTAF-er, key to the founding of IMTour and now a program officer at the Bohemian Foundation. As IMTour re-imagines and re-fashions itself as a programmatic activity of WESTAF (rather than as a technology platform with revenue goals), Bryce and the Bohemian Foundation will be key to this transformation. Also visited and toured the Lincoln Center and the campus of CSU’s School of Theatre, Music and Dance, where there are some extraordinary programs happening and also some collaboration possibilities in the area of creative economy curriculum. It was enjoyable spending time with Jim McDonald, the new-ish Director of Cultural Services for the City of Fort Collins, who hosted me for most of the day.
David Holland and I had a really congenial and productive meeting with Margaret Hunt, the head of CCI. This was a great meet ‘n’ greet meeting with David, and we also talked in depth about CCI’s leading initiative this year, which is to develop Cultural Tax Districts in more rural parts of CO, modeled after Denver’s successful (but also urban) SCFD program. The funding issue is coming up on the ballot in Manitou Springs, CO this November 2019, and if it’s successful it could be replicated in 20-30 other CO districts in 2020 and beyond. This raises a really interesting issue around WESTAF’s advocacy funding, which has been scaled to lobbying (mostly funding) bills through legislative sessions. This is effective, but what if this or other resources are also targeted more locally, but with a statewide impact? Such as advocacy training at a local/rural level that also includes volunteer recruitment, ballot language and talking point development. In the meantime, public art is having somewhat of a moment in Colorado. This is all part of really examining the benefits for our participating states and making sure they are as relevant as they can be as the field matures and adapts.
TRUSTEES IN THE NEWS
Wanted to give a shout out to our wonderful trustee Nikiko Matsumoto, who’s family and family farm (a truly magical place) were featured recently in a really thought-provoking New York Times article tackling farming, family, climate change and resiliency.
NEW EXECUTIVE AND BOARD COORDINATOR
This is big news, so pay attention: we are excited to announce that Natalie Scherlong will be promoted from a part-time tech assistant to full-time Executive and Board Coordinator. Natalie will be working part-time as a tech assistant through the month of September and will be training with Samantha Ortega during this. time. Our goal is for Natalie to become full-time as of 10/1, but it’s dependent upon the hiring and retaining of a replacement part-time tech assistant. If you who are wondering why we would be replacing the amazing Samantha Ortega — Sam will be moving over to Leah Horn’s nascent but emerging Marketing & Communications department as of 10/1 into a coordinator position. This is a great example of being able to identify and professionally develop WESTAF-ers to better utilize untapped skills, reward loyalty and harness responsibility. Yay Natalie and Sam!
DAVID HOLLAND UPDATES
David has really hit the ground running since his August 17 start date. Rather than run-through this accomplishments, here are his strategic goals and here’s his very first bi-weekly. He has been remarkably focused and productive, and the whole team has really enjoyed getting to know him.
LEADERSHIP RESOURCE TEAM (LRT) TRANSITIONAL PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT PLAN MEETINGS
These past few weeks, the LRT has embarked on the very first of our Performance Management Plan, which will be taking shape over the next year into FY20 and beyond. Each WESTAF team member has received a detailed personal compensation and benefits report comparing YOY compensation (these are for sharing only between manager and employee, but I am happy to share an example of one if you’d like to see it). In addition to this report, each manager goes over the PMP process and makes notes to revisit each quarter, introduces the PMP timeline and asks for a signature acknowledging a comprehension of compensation and PMP process moving forward. As a manager of seven direct-reports (and a “dotted line” manager of two), I completed my first four this week and will complete the rest next week. It’s gratifying to have this process underway and huge kudos to Amy Hollrah and her team, who really got this on the tracks.
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AND BOARD MEETING PREP
We are gearing up for the in-person Executive Committee meeting in Sacramento from 9/11-12 and then the BOT meeting in Denver from 10/23-24. The agenda and board book are out and circulating to the Executive Committee. Among the work of the committee, we’re looking forward to a visit to Sol Collective while in Sacramento and also a working dinner with Anne Bown-Crawford, Executive Director, California Arts Council; Julie Baker, Executive Director, Californians for the Arts (CFTA); WESTAF Multicultural Advisory Committee member Lucero Arellano; and lobbyist Jason Schmelzer. We’ve also been developing and fine-tuning the agenda for the October BOT meeting in Denver. The confirmed venue is the historic and delightful Brown Palace Hotel and Spa downtown Denver. Here’s a sneak preview of the two-day agenda (although still in draft). Please direct any questions or concerns about your travel to Samantha Ortega. We’re excited about this one!
I reported a little earlier in the year on the ongoing archiving process happening at WESTAF thanks to the care and attention of Dinah Zeiger. The core project here is to develop a detailed digital index of everything in our physical paper and artifact archives (located in the basement of our office building at 1888 Sherman St.). Additional archive projects also include a mapping of every WESTAF convening since 1974 as well as a detailed index of every trustee that has served the organization. We’re also working on a fun infographic that when designed and finished out will be an effective tool in simply and elegantly telling the WESTAF story and its influence on western art and culture in the context of a comprehensive presentation deck. Do let me know if you have any questions about this project. I am excited about everyone one day soon having such easy access to artifacts, memorabilia and notable documents for understanding, appreciation and scholarly pursuit.
9/11 – 12 Sacramento, CA for Executive Committee Meeting
9/18 – 21 Providence, RI for NASAA Leadership Institute
9/29 – 10/2 Anchorage, AK for ASCA Commissioners’ “next steps” convening
10/31 – 11/11 (personal trip) Bhutan for personal enlightenment
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
We’ve conducted several interviews for a new CaFE operations coordinator to replace staff member Julia Alvarez as she transitions to the sales coordinator role. We hope to finalize a hire by Sept. 10 and bring someone on in the next few weeks.
Our new Data Analyst Trevor McElhaney started on September 3rd. We are excited to have him on the team and are working to quickly onboard him to all things CVSuite!
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE
The PAA team successfully on-boarded and deployed a Collection Management System for the State of New Mexico, a collection of almost 3,000 objects, and is preparing to bring on our 10th client, Metro Nashville and Davidson County, TN. A pilot project effort is in progress to deploy our first collection-specific map feature to the Arts Council of Lake Oswego ahead of their upcoming sculpture celebration. PAA Manager Lori Goldstein is also in preparation to lead LYRASIS’ (technology partner) first Community Collections Spotlight webinar in mid-September.
Two customers recently switched over to CaFE, and we’re continuing to communicate with existing users about the approaching closure of YJI. We’re continuing to transition current clients to CaFE and ZAPP.
The ZAPP team has been finalizing the last round of testing. The redesigned artist side of ZAPP will launch to the public on Sept. 12, and will include updated design, text, and some new functionality, including a streamlined checkout process.
That’s it for now! Thank you for your good work as a WESTAF trustee. Look forward to seeing you all together again in Denver in October.
As ever, with gratitude,