WESTAF and the technology mandate

I’ve got a somewhat irregular Saturday ritual of listening to recent NPR show episodes while knitting, or winding yarn, or just cleaning house.  Not long ago, I added Len Edgerly’s Arts and Technology podcast to this ritual. 

His latest, an interview with Anthony Radich, Executive Director of WESTAF – the Western States Arts Federation, has really got me buzzing.  They talked about what Radich sees as WESTAF’s role in bringing the arts community up to speed in the use of technology.  Arts nonprofits have always lagged in the use of technology, Radich says, but new technology is much cheaper and easier to use – and is really a natural for use by arts organizations and artists. 

He says that WESTAF really has an obligation, as a super-regional arts agency, to lead the way, both through their own use of technology, and by increasing access to and the understanding of technology for artists and cultural organizations. 

This is really what I’ve been circling around in many of my discourses on how to use social media, open architecture, and bottom-up content creation even though your constituency might be somewhat behind the times in the adoption of technology. 

In some cases (in my own, one could argue), the use of technology itself is part of the service you are providing to your members.  The access to it, the opportunity to get familiar with the tools.  A starting point.  A launch pad. A training ground.

It’s tough to make the case for instituting ground-up content creation when it’s an open question if any of your members will actually create content. 

But, when an arts agency considers it part of its mandate to provide professional and business training to artists and cultural organizations, isn’t it also part of that mandate to introduce them to the new tools of the internet?  Tools that can bring their creative product and repute to the global community?

WESTAF is creating a new website that will try to do just this.  It will allow artists to upload video of their events to help them get the word out.  It will help artists findand support one another, despite geographic disparities.  It will give the members agency to decide what programming, modules, and web-based capabilities they want for themselves, by opening up the stage for them to comment and share.

They already have modules on their website that offer their constituency: 

  • a grant administration technology tool for cultural organizations;
  • a job board for the arts and culture community;
  • a Call for Entry management program;
  • a universal application system for applying to shows and craft fairs;
  • blogs.

It seems that they are updating all of this (some of it is a little dated, but that’s to be expected) and unifying it under a common banner.  Then they’re adding more useful bits as they go along, based on community response.  How exciting…

I can’t wait to see the results – and to learn from them.

The knitting?  I’m afraid it still only looks like this:



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