August 8, 2022
Dear WESTAF community:
Another fortnight chockablock with super activity. Just below, you’ll learn more about the launch of our anticipated new RAO-led National Leaders of Color Fellowship—it’s really happening, folks! Once a dream, now an emerging reality, the LoCF will expand the reach and potential of WESTAF’s original ELC curriculum, newly updated and revised for a national fellowship of participants in this acclaimed program. Kudos to Jade Elyssa, Anika, and the whole LoCF team of designers and faculty for moving this forward. Also, great committee progress on the BIPOC Artist Grant Program as well as the State Arts Agency Innovation Fund (SAAIF) both readying for launches. Meanwhile, budget owners and the finance team have been crunching the numbers for a first solid draft of the WESTAF FY23 operating budget, which will be reviewed by the executive committee in September and ratified by the board at our October annual meeting. Things are still in flux for the next few weeks as we reach our budget balancing point, but so far roughly one-third of our FY23 budget will be earmarked for direct grants and subgrants to artists and arts organizations in the WESTAF region. This is a (r)evolution for WESTAF, and we’re thrilled by the prospect, even though it’s a lot of work. Thanks to everyone in the WESTAFiverse for making it happen! Let’s get to it, shall we:
WESTAF’S NATIONAL LEADERS OF COLOR FELLOWSHIP PILOT OPENS FOR APPLICATIONS (JEC/AK)
Our National Leaders of Color Fellowship (LoCF) application opened on August 1. Within 5 days, WESTAF has received nearly 100 applications (80, to be exact!) across the United States.
All RAOs have received pre-announcement boilerplate materials and met in early August to align regarding the experiential curriculum arc, administration timeline, and engagement. The respective RAO points of contact are diligently preparing and soliciting panelists to review applications; WESTAF projects receiving over 500 applications. The core planning team is on track to finalize the curriculum within the context of a national format. WESTAF has partnered with alumni Alexandria Jimenez to revamp the Arts Lead website and prepare promotional materials in time for the application launch. The LoCF is a strategic leadership development program for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) leaders in our region who are committed to the advancement of cultural equity in the arts. Using a cohort structure, the program has emphasized experiential learning, community building, and service to the field. Learn more at artslead.org.
WESTAF’S BIPOC ARTIST GRANT PROGRAM DESIGN TEAM INTENSIVE CONCLUDES (JEC/AK)
In direct alignment with principles of participatory grantmaking, WESTAF has convened 17 Paid Design Team Members, all of which are all alumni of our Emerging Leaders of Color (ELC) Program to lead the design of our forthcoming Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Artist Grant program. Supported by MacKenzie Scott’s intention to seed power by ceding power, this grant provides resources to and for BIPOC artists living and working in the 16 states and jurisdictions in the WESTAF region in order to advance their own artistic practice and goals. Throughout July, the design team has cumulatively contributed 300+ hours into in-depth research of what has been done, co-visioning future possibilities, exploring avenues to create empowering inquiry, and grappling with how to accurately record key metrics that convey the depth of impact the artists have in their region.
The cohort is extremely diverse in terms of geography, artistic discipline, occupation, racial identity, gender identity, and disability affiliation. From a data standpoint, the cohort includes 10 WESTAF region states across 13 unique cities:
- 38.9% identify as Latin American descent
- 27.8% identify as Native American, Alaskan Native, or Indigenous peoples
- 27.8% identify as African descent/Diaspora
- 11.1% identify as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Island descent
- 11.1% identify as Asian descent
- 55.55% identify as a woman
- 22.22% identify as a man
- 22.22% identify as genderqueer/gender non-conforming
- 11.12% identify as transgender
- 61.12% identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community
- 27.78% identify as part of the disability community
WESTAF AND NASAA PLANNING A HYBRID SESSION FOR THE PEOPLE OF COLOR AFFINITY GROUP AT NASAA ASSEMBLY 2022 (JEC)
As members of NASAA’s People of Color Affinity Group (PoCAG) Leadership Team, WESTAF’s Jade Elyssa and other team members are working alongside Pam Breaux and Marisa Summers to plan the last PoCAG meeting of the fiscal year to take place during NASAA Assembly 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. The meeting will be hybrid and is currently scheduled for 5-6 p.m. CT on Friday, September 23. The NASAA PoCAG Leadership Team will reconvene on Thursday, August 11 to finalize session details.
WESTAF GRANTS AND EQUITY MANAGER ORIENTS TOWARD CULMINATION OF NATIONAL ARTS STRATEGIES’ 2022 COHORT (JEC)
Composed of 47 students from 6 countries and 17 U.S. states, the 2022 National Arts Strategies cohort is a global class of creatives, designers, educators, community activists, and fellow arts and culture professionals dedicated to sparking transformative change through the arts. The cohort will convene at the University of Pennsylvania from August 17–19 to cultivate deeper networks and discuss issues facing the arts and culture sector. Over the course of the executive education program, WESTAF’s Jade Elyssa has worked closely with a small group composed of government and public service leaders and will continue to apply the tools and frameworks they learn to their day-to-day work. Jade Elyssa is deeply grateful for WESTAF’s ongoing investment in this endeavor.
WESTAF PARTICIPATES AT IN-PERSON LEADERSHIP EXCHANGE IN ARTS AND DISABILITY (LEAD) CONFERENCE (AM)
WESTAF’s SRI department attended the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) Conference from August 1st to August 5th in Raleigh, North Carolina. The conference centers on accessibility in leadership, and advocacy, in the framework of artistic and cultural engagement throughout the United States. In an effort to promote accessibility learning in the west, WESTAF matched the National Endowment for the Arts grant of $500 to cover western arts state agency accessibility coordinators attending the LEAD conference. These matching funds are an ongoing commitment between WESTAF and the NEA.
One goal of the conference included gathering accessibility feedback about the current WESTAF website. Ablr, a disability inclusion and digital accessibility company whose mission is to “remove barriers for all people with disabilities”, provided free website consultation. Ablr provided WESTAF a preliminary scorecard with an accessibility rate of 2.2 out of 4 points (average). The assessment included an evaluation of the following:
- Text Color Accessibility
- Keyboard Functionality
- Page Layout Structure
- Alternative Visual Presentation
- Link Distinguishability
In addition to this assessment, Ablr also included a video of the tester review’s citing additional findings. The MarComm team was informed of the consultation and will be provided with the full assessment. This information will be used to inform and provide recommendations as the new WESTAF website is developed to become more accessible to disabled users. While attending the conference, several people made reference to the upcoming National Leaders of Color Fellowship Pilot program, as well as its ELC partnership with South Arts. WESTAF was joined by Wyoming, Arizona, and Colorado State Arts Agency accessibility coordinators. A debriefing of the conference, along with a virtual 504 workshop for western states accessibility coordinators is planned in late August.
WESTAF GIA CONFERENCE SESSION TO INCLUDE PARTNERS CALIFORNIANS FOR THE ARTS, HEWLETT FOUNDATION, AND KENNETH RAININ FOUNDATION IN DISCUSSION ON GRANTMAKING IN SUPPORT OF ARTS ADVOCACY (DH/CC/MPH)
The conference session being organized by WESTAF at the Grantmakers in the Arts has been confirmed for Tuesday, October 11th with Julie Baker of Californians for the Arts, Ted Russell of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, and Adam Fong of the Hewlett Foundation now confirmed as panelists. Moana and Cynthia will co-facilitate a fishbowl session with the audience as part of the interactive session being designed and David will moderate the panel.
RECORDING OF CONGRESSWOMAN BARBARA LEE ARTS JUSTICE WEBINAR AVAILABLE (DH/CC)
WESTAF continues its engagement and support of Advancing Equity Through the Arts and Humanities Act, H.R. 7627, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) with participation in an online webinar. The webinar discusses how the bill uplifts the role the arts and humanities have in addressing and dismantling systemic racism in the United States. The recording is now available on CFTA’s website. Action items to support the bill include organizational and individual artist endorsements and writing to your federal legislator to ask them to co-sponsor the bill. Talking points for the bill are available here.
CREATIVE STATES COALITION RECEIVES MULTIYEAR SUPPORT FROM U.S. RAOS AND LEADERSHIP TO MEET WITH THE MELLON FOUNDATION TO BEGIN DISCUSSIONS ON SUPPORT (DH/CG)
The U.S. Regional Arts Organizations have committed $270,000 over three years to support the Creative States Coalition (CSC) in building essential infrastructure. CSC Co-Chairs Claire Rice and David will be meeting with the Mellon Foundation on September 7 to discuss the aspirations of the coalition and the potential for investment. The CSC Conference will take place September 21-23 alongside the NASAA Assembly in Kansas City, Missouri.
WESTAF AND PARTNERS ENGAGE PRIVATE SECTOR, INCLUDING MAJOR CORPORATIONS AND SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES, ON WASHINGTON CREATIVE ECONOMY STRATEGIC PLAN PROJECT (DH)
Washington State Senator Lisa Wellman recently nominated Microsoft executive Virl Hill to serve on the Washington Creative Economy Strategic Plan Work Group, which he has accepted. A number of business owners and entrepreneurs have also agreed to serve on the work group including the founders of Drewboy Creative, eqpd (an accessories company), Wenatchi Wear, and accounting firm Francis & Co. To date, 30 individuals have agreed to serve on the workgroup including Martin Cohen of Cultural Planning Group and David, who will co-chair the group. A first meeting of the workgroup is being planned to take place from September 12-13, 2022 in Olympia, Washington with most activities happening at the Longhouse, an indigenous cultural space on the campus of the Evergreen State College.
MANAGER OF PUBLIC POLICY AND ADVOCACY ENGAGES IN CULTURAL ASSET IDENTIFICATION & BUILDING INCLUSIVE CREATIVE ECONOMIES FOCUS GROUP FACILITATED BY AFTA AND ROOTOFTWO (CC)
Under the guidance of rootoftwo, Americans for the Arts has embarked on a year-long process to devise a set of tools, guides, evaluations, and training that will support local arts leaders in their efforts to identify and define their unique creative economies. Cynthia participated in a focus group whose purpose is to understand the need and scope for future tools, resources, and learning opportunities to empower asset mapping work which centers cultural equity and inclusive approaches to the creative economy.
REGIONAL ARTS ORGANIZATION ROUNDUP—NEA, WALLACE FOUNDATION AND FIDELITY FOUNDATION (CG)
Led by lead cooperator South Arts, the RAO collective has been working on the program design and final cooperative agreement with the NEA for its Pilot Equity Initiative, set to roll out this fall. This is a national pilot program to be conducted in partnership with our five fellow RAOs. This program will promote equal access to the arts and address participation in historically underserved communities (those whose access to the arts is limited because of geography, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, and/or disability). Through this program, we will develop a national cohort of approximately 42 organizations that will individually and collectively participate in capacity-building professional development, receive subgrants of approximately $130,000, and share in a cohort-based learning/networking model. The RAO partners believe passionately in the values of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility, and these values guide our vision for this pilot program. Work continues on our partnership with the Wallace Foundation on the Lessons in Thriving program—a project with the primary goal to make much-needed investments in organizations that have been traditionally underinvested. Focused on arts organizations of color, we seek to better understand the connection between community orientation, relevance, and resilience. This program has required some redesigning to better align with the Wallace Foundation’s desired research outcomes, but we’re hopeful for news on progress soon. A third proposal is also in the works with the Fidelity Foundation, with an August 31 deadline for a proposal to fund evaluation that will respond to programmatic activities and outcomes of the regrant programs, and support future planning efforts for RAO-wide equity practices, enabling the RAOs to increase the effectiveness of jointly run programs by setting priorities, strengthening operations, and establishing agreement around intended outcome and results. Along with our efforts to build some infrastructure into the RAO collective, beginning with a National Director, these three major programs will be a big part of RAO programming as we head into FY23.
GENERAL WEB SERVICES BUSINESS (CV)
Over the last two weeks, Christina participated in the leadership retreat and worked with program managers to build and plan their accrual budgets for FY23. Blair has been busy working to add the WESTAF Uptime Status to all sites. Natalie and Blair are working with all teams to ensure they have an update page (or change log) where they list and share with users new features and fixes recently implemented to the websites. Business and tech continue to work closely to finesse the sprint planning process to ensure it works for both teams.
In July, CaFÉ released conditional rules for applicant form questions and linked media capability for artist portfolios. This means that users can control when questions display on the application form based on previous answers. Artists can now use a link from their video or audio platform in place of uploading a file-based work sample. Also coming soon is the ability to zoom in/out on images and expand the juror scorecard to fullscreen using the open-source OpenSeadragon code. We also will be releasing a template generator and scheduler for our e-blast service. New calls for entry added to CaFÉ in FY22 are up 39% compared to the same period last year. We’re hoping to keep this momentum going into FY23. So far in August, CaFÉ welcomed The Canal Arts, a coalition of 14 Marin County organizations using public art, murals specifically, to share the rich diversity of stories and experiences of Latino immigrants in Marin county and beyond.
The WACESP project team successfully delivered the second phase of the project but was hit with an unexpectedly quick turnaround for the quarterly report and invoice, due to the state’s fiscal year ending. Christina and Kelly will be working to set up training to better understand the state’s admin processes. The team will convene in Washington in September and has been focusing on planning the details. In other news, the team discussed the outcomes that can come from the CVSummit from the CVSuite perspective which includes a revenue impact and the second is representation, interaction, and engagement with the CVSuite data. Kelly has contacted Edward Cardimona again to discuss an engagement project with his design students. He has sent a letter of intent which will be discussed with the CVSuite leadership next week before we can commit to the partnership. On the tech side, the team has started to work on the new updates to the region selection page.
GO SMART (JG)
After two successful demos and an RFP process, Collier County Arts Council (housed in the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention, and Visitors Bureau) selected GO Smart. Jessica and Christina updated our standard contract to reflect the new pricing structure and are now awaiting their legal department’s response. Jessica is conducting a demo with Maine Connectivity Authority, who was referred to us by Adrienne Petrillo of New England Foundation for the Arts. Communications went out to current clients regarding the new preview functionality. Jessica, the business team, and the tech team are moving forward with first drafts of tickets for the NEA tool updates. The teams will be finalizing testing for the last remaining pieces of the program cycles dashboard and plan to release those updates in mid-August. The tech team is working on a bug that keeps admin from deleting superfluous fields of optional response questions.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE (LG)
The PAA team has been extremely busy with numerous large projects coming to fruition. First and foremost, we are happy to report the completion of the WESTAF Women’s Suffrage Mural Project, now installed at the Denver Public Library: Montbello Branch. Please enjoy the digital landing page for the project (still in draft form while we await the Spanish translation the library will be providing us), and make sure you swing by if you are in Denver. We are in the final stages of the PAA Anniversary Map Project and plan to distribute the project later this month. We are working on an interactive map component on the project landing page. The PAA team, in collaboration with the business team, is making significant progress on the migration of the Public Art in Private Development database to the PAA network of resources, and we imagine that will launch at the end of the month also. Lastly, we are pleased to report that we are finalizing the design stages for the new PAA front end with tech development firm Bilberrry. View the prototypes, visit this link for desktop and this link for mobile.
We have been working on getting our JuryBuddy system and equipment updated with new timer options for admins to choose from when advancing one group of images to the next. Tim is working with clients to ensure their dates and timelines fit with our schedule, as well as working on getting equipment replaced. Mareike has been working on updating our external guides for clients so they are easier to follow. We are all also excited to get more features from our signature platform, PandaDoc, soon now that Christina negotiated a 35% discount to add smart content features. These new features will allow Elicia and Ken to combine more of our add-on offerings on our contracts which helps us achieve more of our FY22 OKRs.
The team has been busy with initial planning around the 2022 Creative Vitality™ Summit and Public Art Archive Map Remix Project, creating social media strategies, communication plans, various assets, and shareable toolkits. We are also drafting some exciting announcements (keep an eye out on social media in the coming weeks!), pulling metrics for all SaaS products for July, and drafting the next CVSuite blog. We are currently working on refreshing our Google Ads campaign and our GO Smart Facebook ad is now live. We have been receiving some great activity so far, as well as some good results on our other year-round initiatives, which we are excited to share with everyone at the close of the fiscal year.
The team has had a lot of exciting announcements to share out recently, including the launch of the new Regional News Digest, which highlights the latest advocacy and policy news throughout the western region, as well as the Leaders of Color Fellowship application open announcement, and more! A communications strategy for the 2022 Creative Vitality™ Summit is well underway, and Natalie is working with the team at our event management platform, Aventri, to learn about new functionality and innovations we may integrate into the event. A draft of August’s WESTAF Now is also in the works, as well as a fall RAO activity report.
HUMAN RESOURCES (RD)
Amy, Christian, and Becca met with members of Employers Council to begin the process of a full compensation analysis. Paylocity recently implemented a Compensation section in their system, which will make Becca’s life much easier for creating compensation statements for all staff for the new fiscal year. An offer has been made and accepted for the SysAdmin position. Becca has begun the onboarding process, Paul will be sharing more information about that in the next week!
COHORT UPDATE (CGREEN, RD, AND JC)
The Equity and Policy cohorts are planning a 60-minute coaching session together with Team Dynamics. The policy cohort will be spending this month adding the final pieces of information to the Regional Partner Handbook. After discussing the feedback from the ED Forum, we’ve decided to edit down the amount of information we initially planned to include so that the handbook becomes more succinct for those who would use it. Now that the cohorts have been active for three years, Cameron will be sending out a survey to the staff this week to gain feedback on them.
FUTURE MEETINGS (CGREEN)
The Wyoming Planning Committee will meet this week to talk about programming and logistics for the September in-person executive committee meeting and WAAN Gathering. With the compressed meeting schedule, the executive committee will convene at Sheridan College and the WAAN Gathering will take place at the Ucross Foundation. The two groups will gather together for a joint dinner and social catered by Bonafide at the historic WYO Theater. Leah and Cameron continue to evaluate hotel for the Annual Meeting in October.
ONBOARD UPDATE (CGREEN)
There is one more end-user training opportunity for trustees to learn about WESTAF’s new board management software, OnBoard.
STATE ARTS AGENCY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TRUSTEE ELECTIONS (CGREEN)
On Monday, August 1, Development Chair Karen Hanan(WA) and Cameron opened the 2022 SAA-ED Election Ballot to the federated member state arts agencies executive directors to elect two of their peers to serve on the WESTAF Board of Trustees. SAA-EDs on the ballot opted to serve on the board. The ballot will stay open till COB on Wednesday, August 31.
WESTAF LEADERSHIP TEAM COMPLETE TRANSFORMATIVE RETREAT (CG)
The WESTAF leadership team participated in a restorative and productive planning process this past week, with the wonderful Kate Schenot of DEI creative (the company that is also handling WESTAF’s rebranding work) serving as the lead facilitator for our work. Day 1 focused on re-getting to know each other along with exercises around trust, conflict and safety, with Dat 2 really focused on planning the year ahead, including a first draft of our FY23 Initiatives, developed in concert with the Strategic plan and a close review and evaluation of our FY22 ones. It was a wonderful opportunity. Here’s a wonderful trailing comment from someone on the team: “…I’m grateful to have the opportunity to deepen our bonds and think critically about our work. Thanks for making the space feel safe and comfortable, even as we discussed challenging topics.” We can’t wait to share our findings and move forward in FY23 with our insights!
FEDERAL LEGISLATION ALERT: SENATE PROPOSES NEA INCREASE FOR FY2023 (CG)
From Isaac Brown at the NEA: Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its draft interior appropriations bill, which includes funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). That bill proposes increasing funding for the agency by $15 million, for a total of $195 million. While this figure is lower than the figure approved by the House of Representatives, it is nonetheless an important statement of support for the Arts Endowment. With Congress set to go on recess soon, August is an excellent time to contact your senators, thank them for the proposed increase and encourage them to consider increasing their figure to match the House’s. In doing so, please reiterate that 40% of all grant funding allocated to the NEA goes directly to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations, and consequently, any additional increase in appropriations will benefit their states.
SAD NEWS ABOUT RICHARD EVANS OF EMCARTS (CG)
Most of our SAA executive directors and some of our trustees might remember Richard Evans of EMCArts. Richard was with us at our last ED Forum in Reno, NV in 2019 just before the pandemic, where he led a powerful visioning and development session with the executive directors. Sad to report that Richard succumbed to cancer in April 2022. Importantly, EmcArts co-founder John McCann recently announced that as of July 2022 the assets and programs of EmcArts will be integrated into CultureSource, the Detroit-based nonprofit committed to the vitality of cultural organizations and communities across southeast Michigan. CultureSource is a wonderful organization, so this is a pleasing development.