November 29, 2021
Hello WESTAF colleagues:
Here’s hoping that everyone had a very peaceful holiday weekend doing just what you wanted to do! While the holidays are now definitely underway, there are still loads happening in WESTAF-world. The PAD (Performing Arts Discovery) program is moving into a new phase. We’re excited for our new partnership with the Hewlett Foundation and for our co-chair position with the newly-formed Creative States Coalition—congratulations to David on all fronts! Thanks also to the executive committee for meeting just before the holiday to review our beginning of the year financials as well as other matters, and to the finance team for stewarding the intense-but-necessary seasonal audit activity. Lots of vital streamlining work happening across business platforms and I’m especially excited learning about the Recharge The Arts with CaFE program, and also about ZAPP and GO Smart teaming up to host a webinar—way to model togetherness! Read on for details on these highlights as well as a range of other great activity…
PERFORMING ARTS DISCOVERY ENTERS SECOND PHASE WITH APPLICATIONS DUE ON JANUARY 7, 2022 (DH/AK)
Western Arts Alliance has presented a review of the first phase of the Performing Arts Discovery Program, and 50% of the ten artists selected identify their discipline as music, 30% as dance, and 20% as multidisciplinary. 100% of the artists selected identify as BIPOC and 20% as LGBTQ+. For Phase Two, an additional 20 applicants will be selected, and all 30 PAD artists/ensembles will work remotely with the PAD showcase production team beginning March 2022 to develop professionally produced live performance videos to be featured on a dedicated platform and included in selected international online showcases later in 2022. Applications, which are selected through a panel review process, are open through January 7, 2022, 5 p.m. PT. All US-based performing artists with readiness to tour internationally are eligible for the program. PAD encourages those who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and/or LGBTQ+ to apply. Please share with your networks.
HEWLETT FOUNDATION INVESTS IN WESTAF TO CREATE AN ARTS POLICY SEMINAR IN THE BAY AREA (DH)
The Hewlett Foundation has awarded a grant of over $170,000 to develop a proposed arts advocacy and policy seminar in the Bay Area over 14 months. The award comes after more than a year of conversations between David and Hewlett’s Performing Arts team about pressing policy issues in California and the Bay Area. The project will be led by the Alliances, Advocacy, and Public Policy team in collaboration with the Marketing and Communications team and with WESTAF board chair Tamara Alvarado serving as a program advisor. WAAN member Californians for the Arts will also be a partner on the project.
WESTAF DEPUTY DIRECTOR ELECTED AS A CO-CHAIR OF THE CREATIVE STATES COALITION (DH)
Ernesto Balderas, communications director, Utah Cultural Alliance, Claire Rice, executive director, Arts Alliance Illinois, and David were elected as Co-Chairs of the Creative States Coalition at their conference in Charleston, South Carolina the week before last after being nominated. They will serve a national member network of 50 state arts advocacy organizations, national arts service organizations, including the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, state arts agencies, and regional arts organizations across the country.
WESTAF INVITED TO MODERATE A PANEL AT THE ASSOCIATION OF PERFORMING ARTS PROFESSIONALS CONFERENCE (DH)
Having been invited, David is working with Krista Bradley, director of programs and resources, Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP), and Tim Wilson, executive director, Western Arts Alliance, on putting together a December 8 panel at the APAP Conference on the evolution of presenting and what these changes mean for arts practitioners, convening, and service organizations.
WESTAF PARTICIPATES IN LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES DISCUSSION WITH COLORADO OFFICE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE, COLORADO CREATIVE INDUSTRIES, COLORADO BUSINESS COMMITTEE FOR THE ARTS, AND BRANDEBERRY MCKENNA PUBLIC AFFAIRS (DH)
On November 12, the WESTAF managed lobbyist BBMK, Colorado Creative Industries, CBCA, WESTAF and OEDIT met to discuss departmental legislative priorities following the announcement of the Governor’s budget in Colorado.
WESTAF ENDORSES ARIZONA CITIZENS FOR THE ARTS COALITION LETTER IN SUPPORT OF THE ARIZONA COMMISSION FOR THE ARTS (DH)
Prompted by WESTAF vice chair Teniqua Broughton, WESTAF has signed on to a coalition letter supporting the Arizona Commission for the Arts. Arizona state agencies undergo an audit review once every ten years for the purposes of the Arizona Legislature deciding whether to reauthorize the agency or abolish it. The Commission is currently under review. WESTAF’s next check-in with the Commission’s Interim Executive Director Alex Nelson will take place on December 6. WESTAF has been supporting Arizona Citizens for the Arts during a leadership transition and welcomed their board president into WAAN during our last meeting on November 12.
WESTAF ENDORSES CHARITABLE GIVING COALITION LETTER ON EXPANDING AND EXTENDING THE UNIVERSAL CHARITABLE DEDUCTION (DH)
WESTAF signed on to a Charitable Giving Coalition letter to Congressional leaders that, among other items, supports the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act (S. 618, H.R. 1704), bipartisan legislation which would raise the $300/$600 cap on the non-itemizer charitable deduction to roughly $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for couples. As the nation recovers, encouraging all American taxpayers—regardless of their income—to give more provides charities and faith-based organizations across the country with the critical resources needed to achieve their missions and support their communities and workforces.
During these last two weeks, we have focused on moving out of the Sherman office. Like any home, we’ve collected a lot of stuff over the years; desktops, old laptops, analog audio recorders, tech that is no longer relevant in today’s remote environment. Thanks to Ben Casalino, we inventoried all of our technology equipment and facilitated a giveaway to staff to downsize for our new space at the Alliance Center. The remaining electronics are recycled, erased, and properly broken down for precious metals and parts. In addition, we migrated our finance server to a data center with minimal impact to our finance operations. Although moving can be stressful, it can also be liberating a time of reflection and taking stock of what you have.
The MarComm team has now presented all of the FY22 marketing plan drafts to each technology product team during our monthly marketing meetings. The teams have the opportunity to add feedback to the marketing plans to ensure business priorities and OKRs are met. We are finalizing the FY21 MarComm Recap and Report, which will then be shared with leadership. The team is also collaborating with the technology department to work on mockups for the new WESTAF website; we are excited to see this project move forward in the coming weeks. We are also working on a new project plan to revamp the GO Smart website, as well as looking into new ways to present our TourWest and ARP grantees in a more visual and dynamic way on westaf.org. Also keep an eye out for some teaser social media posts for the launch of the CVSuite DataEd project!
The MarComm team is working on prioritizing and creating timelines and plans for major FY22 communications projects, including the new WESTAF website, developing a PR and media outreach strategy, and the initial phase of the WESTAF rebrand. The team is also in the process of creating a newsletter strategy for GO Smart, (after deciding to pause the GOS newsletter in FY21) and is also working on SEO and blog strategies for both CVSuite and Public Art Archive. (An SEO and blog strategy was created and launched for GO Smart in FY21, and we plan to develop one for CaFE later in the year, so that all technology products have documented strategies that have been initiated by the end of FY22.) The has also begun research on press and media contacts to help amplify the reach of the work of both the AAP and SRI divisions. We have received and are reviewing a couple of firms for WESTAF’s rebranding efforts this year—thank you to trustee Ann Hudner for her recommendations! We will be reaching out to all WESTAF trustees soon for additional recommendations, so stay tuned!
STRATEGIC PLANNING COHORTS (CGREEN)
The business cohort surveyed all staff who began at WESTAF since the dispersion of the office. The goal was to gauge the efficacy and value of the business department orientations so that they could analyze and perhaps reframe our current strategies when orienting new employees. The response was positive and helpful. Overwhelmingly, staff appreciate the orientations per business product and department, feel they are terrific ways to connect across departments, and a few asked that one-sheet informational packets be provided per department. Full anonymous responses can be seen here. After analyzing the survey results regarding business department orientations, the business cohort agreed to create a single document with resources for each product and the business department as a whole so that new employees would be able to access additional information if desired. They are focusing next on internal documentation with the hope of creating staff guidelines for all products used by WESTAF. The business cohort and business department will work with HR to further this endeavor. Once completed, the next goal of the cohort is to focus on the viability of internationalization in general and perhaps CaFE specifically as a test case.
FOUNDATION FUNDRAISING UPDATE (CG)
As the calendar year winds down, it’s worth noting that since we have launched this foundation funding tracker, we have raised over $14.3 million from four funding sources, all since the end of May. We are considering an LOI to the Terra Foundation and are keeping track of the Vulcan Foundation as it potentially freshens up its portfolio with a more arts-focused mission. The RAO collective has an ask in to the Mellon Foundation, where this additional private-sector funding could bolster our NEA equity initiative (more on that below) and also serve as a match. We are looking for opportunities with most of the other “in flight” foundations on our radar, but we’re also in a position where we do not want to overextend our capacity until we have a final sense of how some in-development programs may pan out.
ART ENDOWMENT’S NATIONAL ARTS EQUITY INITIATIVE (CG)
The RAO collective checked in with Arts Endowment leadership last week regarding the planned National Arts Equity Initiative. This program is planned to get up and running in late spring of 2022 and is currently awaiting funding approval, as the current administration hopefully moves past the continuing budget resolution and Congress passes the full budget. This will unlock the funding for this $10M/2-year program administered by the RAOs in partnership with the National Endowment of the Arts. Our endowment colleagues have been doing a lot of work in the meantime, with the OMB, DOJ etc. to check language and approach and feel that they’re in a good position and fully committed to moving forward with the program as soon as the full budget is approved.
ASCA TRUSTEES MEETING (CG)
Christian joined the Alaska State Council on the Arts last week in a virtual board of trustees meeting to give a brief presentation on WESTAF’s programs and activities. Kelly Barsdate at NASAA also gave a presentation about their work. Several new trustees appointed by Governor Dunleavy were also in attendance. Much of the conversation focused on the potential and challenges of developing an Alaska Cultural Trust—a possibility that WESTAF has also considered through studies commissioned by ASCA in 2009 and 2014. The 2014 WESTAF study on this matter was still very much the centerpiece of this spirited discussion, with most trustees generally being in favor of pursuing this goal.
FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION (AH)
Working with Director of Technology Paul, the finance server was migrated to a new location and is now being hosted by a vendor. The move went smoothly and there was minimal downtime for the team. The office move continues: Denver staff were encouraged to come into the office last Tuesday to clean out desks and to help organize the remaining items. At this point, the old office only has furniture and office supplies to donate and trash. Audit fieldwork began this past Monday and will continue until December 3. So far, requests for staff time have been minimal but are expected to increase after Thanksgiving. The team is properly prepared! October financials have been compiled and shared with the executive committee. Please see the financial memo and the cash financials. Note this is the first month of the new 2022 fiscal year, so there are limited data included. Generally, things are on track with the note that the American Rescue Plan funds have been received, and awards will be paid out in November or early December.
GENERAL BUSINESS (CV)
Christina and Lori wrapped up a proposal for the possible expansion of PAA, which we’ll discuss with Christian after Thanksgiving. Blair did a great job of managing tech projects (testing nine tickets!) while Natalie V. took a well-deserved break, and upon her return, Natalie has been working on tech projections and backlog prioritization given the higher-than-anticipated costs we’ve incurred in Q1 for tech work. We’ve had a rush of contract negotiations or legal language modifications in CaFE, GO Smart, PAA, and ZAPP. Christina is also evaluating the benefits of switching some business plan subscriptions from monthly to annual payments based on upcoming changes in pricing, and she’s working on filing taxes for activity in the state of Washington.
The team has been busy renewing clients, scheduling e-blasts, demoing the site, making improvements, and overall tending to a busy end-of-year flurry. The team still made time for some well-deserved vacations in November. In the pipeline for soon-to-be-released tech improvements or fixes are a handful of small issues that are annoying to encounter but not preventing the use of the site. Major enhancements are continuing with UI updates to internal-use only admin pages, as well as improvements to existing features that our users have requested. On November 22, we opened our call to artists with Recharge the Arts with CaFÉ, a free open call to our community of artists. The call will stay open until 12/15—and we already have 59 entrants!
CVSuite has had a slow two weeks in the sales department compared to the beginning of November. We completed an additional two demos with an individual representing several non-profit and media organizations and the College of Creative Studies (CCS) Detroit, along with their research lab Design Core. Both demos have communicated their interest in revisiting CVSuite after the new year. The relationship with CCS is promising as it puts us closer to achieving our key result of developing relationships with universities and conducting demos with students. On the marketing side, CVSuite is working with high school student Sandy Askins, who used CVS data on her AP research project on the art market on a “Client Spotlight” blog post for December. In tech, CVSuite chatted with Trevor and Paul for the data discovery project to brainstorm bilateral relationships between additional data points to add to the tool, client data needs, and WESTAF data needs.
GO SMART (JG)
Chattanooga Arts requested a contract and will be signing in the coming week. San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture requested a modified RFO to renew their contract for another five years of service. Jessica and Christina returned the RFO with slight modifications and are awaiting review by their legal department. Blair and Jessica completed the first round of testing for the Program Cycles update and have returned it to BRI, needing some additional attention. Blair and Natalie are completing several ticket scopes, including enhancements for the addition of a site-wide banner, the addition of a Unique Entity Identifier field (to replace the current DUNS system), and our multiple submission tool.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE (CV)
No PAA updates this week. Lori is taking a Thanksgiving break, but she’s been hard at work and will update next round.
ZAPP and GO Smart teamed up as part of one of our OKRs to host a collaborative webinar for ZAPP clients to learn more about what it means to host a grant and what all is entailed in that process. With this, we also created several resources for us to use if anyone asks more questions about grants. We have also been working with the finance team to shift the way we send remittance statements so they will all be emailed. The first round of this shift will happen in early December!