November 15, 2021
Greetings WESTAF trustees and staff:
Some really significant advances in all corners of WESTAF World over the past few weeks! Look immediately below for some great news about a confirmed new partnership with The Wallace Foundation. This is a huge step forward for WESTAF and our RAO partners and we’re all extremely excited about this project! This week, we also responded to an RFP issued by the state of Washington—more on this below, as well. Fingers crossed! Also, check out Creative Vitality Suite’s new DataEd project—a really crisp and elegant way to make some complex ideas more understandable for those with a growing interest in evaluating their own creative economies. Last but not least, ZAPP is off to a strong start just 45 days into the new fiscal year. Thanks and gratitude to the team for taking WESTAF programs, fundraising and technology businesses to new heights! Read on for more.
WESTAF RECEIVES FUNDING FROM THE WALLACE FOUNDATION TO REGRANT TO ARTS ORGANIZATIONS OF COLOR (AK/CG)
The Wallace Foundation, whose mission is to foster equity and improvements in learning and enrichment for young people and in the arts for everyone, has launched an initiative to support arts organizations of color and learn whether and how their community orientation can help bolster their financial strength and sustainability. WESTAF has been selected to establish a regranting program for Wallace’s second cohort of arts organizations of color, focusing on those with organizational budgets of less than $500,000. The program will provide WESTAF with $2 million per year for three years for a total of $6 million to regrant to these organizations throughout the West. Each of our counterpart regional arts organizations (RAOs) across the country will receive similar funding for this work in their regions.
WESTAF SUBMITS PROPOSAL TO DEVELOP A WASHINGTON STATE CREATIVE ECONOMY STRATEGIC PLAN WITH CULTURAL PLANNING GROUP AND RANDY ENGSTROM (DH)
WESTAF/CVSuite submitted a proposal to the State of Washington Department of Commerce in response to an RFP to develop a creative economy strategic plan in collaboration with Cultural Planning Group and Randy Engstrom of Third Way Creative, LLC, the co-director of the Creative Vitality Summit. The proposed project team includes members of the Alliances, Advocacy, and Public Policy, CVSuite, Business, and Leadership teams, as well as three CPG consultants, an academic economist, and Engstrom. If successful, the two-year project would begin in December 2021.
WESTAF AND RAOS TO ATTEND INAUGURAL CREATIVE STATES COALITION CONFERENCE (CG/DH)
Next week, Christian and David will be attending the first Creative States Coalition Conference, with David attending in person in Charleston, South Carolina. The Creative States Coalition aims to serve as a coalition of state-level arts and cultural advocacy leaders that initiates, supports, strengthens, and elevates action for arts sector growth at the state and local level through collaboration, education, capacity building, and public policy development. The RAOs are considering making investments in the initiative to support essential infrastructure, and Susie Surkamer, president and CEO, South Arts and chair of the U.S. RAOs; Torrie Allen, president and CEO, Arts Midwest; Margaret Keough, director of marketing and communications, Mid-America Arts Alliance, and Charles Phaneuf, vice president of strategy, South Arts, will also be attending the conference to learn more about and contribute to the plans of the group. WAAN Co-Chair Julie Baker of Californians for the Arts/California Arts Advocates and Crystal Young of Utah Cultural Alliance will also attend.
WESTAF DEPUTY DIRECTOR TO SERVE AS MENTOR ON THE NEW MEXICO WOMEN OF COLOR NONPROFIT LEADERSHIP INITIATIVE (DH)
ELC alumna and former WESTAF team member Madalena Salazar, executive director, Working Classroom, has been selected for the 2021 cohort of the New Mexico Women of Color Nonprofit Leadership Initiative, and David has been invited to serve as her mentor in the program. WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund and American Rescue Plan Fund panelist Elena Higgins, executive director, Indigenous Ways, has also been selected for the 2021 Cohort. The New Mexico Women of Color Nonprofit Leadership Initiative is a program of the Santa Fe Community Foundation designed by 2019-2020 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz, Ed.D. for established and emergent women of color looking to broaden their skills and create community while deepening their leadership in a peer-based, supportive environment. The long-term goals of the Initiative are to build the leadership capacity and practical skills of participants and, ultimately, to see a sustainable increase in nonprofit leadership roles filled by women of color.
WESTAF TO PRESENT ON REGIONAL ADVOCACY BEST PRACTICES AT UPCOMING CREATIVE NEW MEXICO ADVOCACY PLANNING SESSION (DH)
David will be presenting on regional arts advocacy best practices at an upcoming Creative New Mexico board and constituent meeting being facilitated by New Mexico First, a nonprofit bipartisan advocacy group that has been commissioned to support capacity building for arts advocacy across the state with support from WESTAF. Creative New Mexico are members of the Western Arts Advocacy Network and recipients of WESTAF Advocacy Funds. At the meeting, the group will be identifying arts advocacy priorities the organization can advance in 2022. In the last year, the organization focused on communication and outreach, redesigning the website to be more inclusive, effective, and informative and developing an email advertising campaign targeted at NM legislators and asking them to include meaningful funding of the arts and culture in the state budget.
WESTAF DEPUTY DIRECTOR PARTICIPATES IN COLORADO CREATIVE DISTRICTS PANEL SITE VISIT TO AURORA CULTURAL ARTS DISTRICT (DH)
On Friday, November 5, David participated in an Aurora Cultural Arts District site visit with Colorado Creative Industries Deputy Director Christy Costello and Colorado Minority Business Office Director Antonio Soto. Panelists arranged the site visit as part of the creative district certification process. The group met with representatives from the City of Aurora and Cultural Arts District board members and visited WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund grantee Downtown Aurora Visual Arts, The People’s Building, Martin Luther King Jr. Library, The Aurora Fox Arts Center, and Vintage Theatre as well as a number of local creative businesses within the district. The site visit concludes David’s service on the Colorado Creative Districts review panel.
The theme for technology in Q1 has been about learning. With Paul Nguyen taking the helm as Director of Technology, it has been a timely opportunity to take inventory of everything we do across technology, security, and our stakeholders with a fresh perspective. Here are some highlights from our recent learnings: the foundation for security across our products is sound. We are working closely with Brownrice to implement dashboards to detect and measure vulnerabilities in PCI compliance. Discussions with Extrahop will begin to actively monitor threats within our networks for the first time; the Public Art Archive has the least comprehensive knowledge about system administration and deployment, but every day we learn something new with the help of the PAA team and Code & Care Each new learning builds our collective understanding of how the product works, and Trevor and Paul kicked off six internal interviews across the business to learn more about our data needs and goals. We are exploring the potential of a data lake to provide WESTAF with a central repository of data for business intelligence and an analytics engine for our customers.
NASAA ANTI-BIAS TRAINING SESSIONS CONCLUDE (CG)
Christian and Anika attended the final NASAA Anti-Bias Training Session, a 3-part series meant primarily for state arts agency executive directors. The last session focused primarily on: Agent Identity and Target Identity, how identity presents itself in varying situations and also the different types of power dynamics and how different forms of power can be present in certain situations even if not being consciously exercised. Sometimes, people bring these dynamics into situations based on their own lived experiences. This session was particularly timely, as the concept of power dynamics provided a useful preface to the all-team feedback session this past week.
ALL-TEAM GOOD FEEDBACK SESSION (CG)
Val Atkin provided a useful two-hour workshop on the giving and receiving of useful feedback—a competency that WESTAF wants to deploy as part of its evaluation and development process with all WESTAFers. The session was a more complete and thorough presentation than the last one, held in May 2021 during that all-team meeting. The team responded positively to this session (which was recorded in its entirety) and followed along closely with this presentation deck along with a few breakout sessions.
AMERICAS CULTURAL SUMMIT (CG)
Some team members dropped in and out of the 2021 Americas Cultural Summit from November 1-4, an ongoing initiative of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), which the IFACCA Secretariat delivers in partnership with a National Member of the Federation from the Americas. The Inaugural Americas Cultural Summit was hosted by the Canada Council for the Arts in Ottawa in 2018, with a program that explored the theme of Cultural Citizenship. The second summit was hosted by the Secretary of Culture of Argentina in Buenos Aires in 2019 under the theme Cultural Change in a Diverse Territory. A highlight for me was the presentation given by Angelique Power, President and CEO of the Skillman Foundation in Detroit.
TOUCH BASE WITH LYRASIS (CG)
Last week, Christian caught up with Robert Millier, CEO of Lyrasis. WESTAF has a limited partnership with Lyrasis by licensing their Collections Management System for Public Art Archive customers. This is a great partnership, but Robert and Christian believe there is more that could be done together. The nonprofit Lyrasis is interesting because it provides similar kinds of services and activities for humanities and academia as WESTAF provides for arts and culture. A funding partnership might also make sense for both of our organizations, particularly because we’re both nonprofits in the business of developing technology for not dissimilar customer profiles. Christian and Robert are in ongoing conversations.
FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION (AH)
The finance server will be migrated out of the Sherman office to a hosting vendor on November 16. The F&A team is very excited about this change which will provide more uptime and quicker response times when issues occur. The team has been updating the Insights platform with new goals for the FY22 fiscal year. Amy continues to work with our former payroll provider to file amended 941 payroll tax forms which can provide WESTAF with two quarters of Employee Retention Tax Credits which amount to $440,000. Audit preparation is wrapping up this week and all documents will be uploaded to the auditor site on Monday, November 15. The auditors begin fieldwork virtually on Monday, November 22nd—Amy and Becky will be the primary contacts for all audit needs. Becca and Jess are coordinating a “move out day” on November 16 for all Denver staff to get into the old office and clean out their desks and the kitchen. Office furniture will be picked up for donation on November 30, and we are hoping we will effectively be done with our move in early December.
CaFÉ began contacting clients that were impacted by the data integrity issue around the post-deadline fees. 51 calls did not have the fees assessed, 16 calls have already been settled. Additional correspondence will be sent to clients this week. BRI released a fix to the report and the issue is now resolved. We will be launching an open call in hopes to help spotlight some of the work done by CaFÉ artists over the last 18 months. The team is still working out the social media campaign around this but our hope is to highlight the resiliency, hope, and creative endurance around the community of artists that use CaFÉ.
CVSuite is following up with the large amount of incoming demos we had from the last few weeks. From those demos we have one contract out for signature, Idaho Arts Commission, and one signed contract, Assembly for the Arts, for a contract value of $3,850. On the marketing front, CVS released the first installment of the DataEd project on Thursday, November 11. The team did a retrospective of the project and noted that the design and production process took longer than expected, which led to a tight lead time for producing the WordPress page. In the future, we will be sure to plan a sufficient amount of time for the design, edit, and review process. CVSuite met with our contact at Emsi to discuss the Emsi Burning Glass merger and were informed that there would be no major impact on our current data access or contract, which ends in 2023 and likely no major changes then. We ended the conversation by considering more ways to use the Emsi data and ensure that we are making the most out of the API key.
GO SMART (JG)
Jessica and Natalie S. are partnering with Julia of the ZAPP team to produce a GO Smart webinar for the ZAPP audience. The webinar will be held Thursday, November 18 at 1:00 p.m. MST and will cover best granting practices, case studies, and equity in grantmaking. Jessica continues to close the sale with Chattanooga Arts, offering an additional demo to stakeholders on Friday, November 12.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE (LG)
The PAA team completed testing on a number of bug fixes and enhancements across PAA’s front-facing platforms. This includes the completion of the on view/off view filter for deaccessioned and temporarily-sited works that are no longer on view to the public; increased visibility of additional multimedia on the artwork record for YouTube, Vimeo, and PDF links embedded within the artwork records; and a bug fix to the search within collection feature. Lori had a successful discovery call with a member of the Bloomberg Philanthropy team to better understand where PAA might fit into their future grantmaking endeavors.
With the fall season comes a jump for our clients to renew their licensing agreements and an increase of new prospective clients! Brandon renewed 66 clients in October and has already seen 21 renewals in the first two weeks of November. On the sales front, Ken has seen a large increase in interest with eight new leads, five demos performed, and closing two new sales in the past two weeks. Many of the leads and demos performed are promising, so we are hopeful for a large increase in sales at the end of November as compared to the past few months.