In early January 2022, WESTAF will welcome Cynthia Chen as the manager of public policy and advocacy. She will manage WESTAF’s public policy and arts advocacy programs and services. An alumna of WESTAF’s Emerging Leaders of Color program, Chen joins WESTAF’s Alliances, Advocacy, and Policy Division, which leads the organization’s efforts to strengthen advocacy for the arts at local, state, and national levels, support state arts agencies across 13 states in the West, and facilitate regional and national dialogue on contemporary policy issues that affect the arts. These efforts include conducting arts policy research, delivering professional development programs for state arts agencies, supporting the work of arts advocates, and convening thought leaders in the field. The division also connects, coordinates, and mobilizes a western network of artists, administrators, public officials, and influencers within and outside the arts field to build awareness of arts-related issues to drive legislation and policy. 

“Cynthia brings a commitment to advancing cultural policy and equity to this work as well as a wide range of skills in partnership development, grantmaking, fund development, and legislative advocacy, which will be a true asset to WESTAF as we refine the focus and direction of our work in advocacy and public policy,” shared Deputy Director David Holland. “We are so fortunate that she has chosen to continue her professional journey with us.”

Chen is a versatile arts and culture professional who has diverse experiences in development, marketing, grant writing, and advocacy at local, state, and international levels. Trilingual in English, French, and Mandarin, Chen has contributed to the production of cultural projects in the United States, France, China, and Taiwan. Chen joins WESTAF from Paris, France, where she contributed to the implementation of French cultural policies by working on revenue and international development for publicly managed cultural institutions such as the Centre Pompidou and Musée d’Orsay. Her most recent projects include coordinating merchandise and international brand licensing at the Centre Pompidou and product development with the West Bund Museum in Shanghai. She has previously worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan, as a grants consultant, and English teaching assistant in France.

Raised in the Salt Lake City area, Chen attributes her professional commitment to cultural policy and the creative economy to the dynamic community of Utah. Chen began her career working as a legislative fellow for the Utah Cultural Alliance. She continued to engage actively in public policy issues as the development associate for the nationally-recognized youth media arts nonprofit, Spy Hop Productions, where she worked on a legislative appropriation at the Utah State Legislature for the construction of a new media arts education facility. She has served as a grant panelist for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums and on the boards of Mestizo Institute of Culture and Arts and the Utah Flute Association. Chen graduated magna cum laude with an honors bachelor’s of music from the University of Utah where she majored in flute performance and minored in political science. As an Émile Boutmy scholar, she holds a master of public policy with a specialization in cultural policy and management from Sciences Po Paris. Chen is also an alumna of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Public Policy and Leadership Conference and the American Association of University Women’s National Student Advisory Council.

In regards to the new role, Chen shared, “After working abroad for the last few years, I am looking forward to bringing fresh perspectives, contributing to the cultural policy discourse in the United States, and shining a light on local and national public policy initiatives in the arts and cultural sector.”