NASAA Notes: August 2021

August 3, 2021

An Update from NASAA's Board Chair

We asked Suzanne Wise, who serves as NASAA board chair and executive director of the Nebraska Arts Council, to author the column this month.


In preparing to write this column, I reflected on the past year and realized that my memories automatically jump back to 2019. I guess it’s because that was the last reference point for face-to-face interactions with people, arts events and just about everything else.

Despite that backward leap, 2020 in reality was a busy time for all of us, even if it didn’t seem that way. I am proud of the way our field met the challenges we faced. The arts saved our sanity and helped heal our souls—and will continue to do so as we face COVID-19 variants coupled with ongoing polarization in how our nation’s public health strategies should be managed. Therefore, it is critical now more than ever that we work together with our policymakers to fund and protect the arts.

I’d like to share some highlights of what your NASAA board, staff and committee colleagues have been up to.

  • The NASAA board of directors has been meeting virtually for over a year, and state arts agency needs have always been central to our agenda. In meeting our fiduciary obligations as board members, we ensured that NASAA could continue to work at a high level with a responsible budget. In addition, our most recently completed audit was presented to the board, and I’m pleased to report that it is absolutely clean assessment.
  • Working from home, the NASAA staff managed a complete portfolio of activities that included pandemic related webinars and convening state arts agency peer groups to keep us all connected and learning from each other. I know you’ll join me in applauding their tireless efforts to be responsive to the membership in our time of maximum stress.
  • The board monitors agency activities, and all committees are now in full swing undertaking the critical work of our organization. I am grateful to the board and our membership for serving on NASAA committees. NASAA could not be the exemplary and responsive service organization it is without you.

One of the key roles NASAA plays is representing us by being at the table in any national conversation involving the arts. This past year, NASAA was virtually present in conversations regarding the presidential transition, positioning the arts in executive branch policy and working with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. (And no, I do not have a clue who the next NEA chairman will be.)

The pandemic was not the only historic event of 2020. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were a tipping point in a long series of senseless deaths that crystalized into a national conversation. Among other things, that conversation took a hard look at equity and inclusion, and expanded our awareness about what that means in our work. I’m immensely proud that NASAA included an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in its strategic plan several years ago. As Pam Breaux characterized it in the July issue of NASAA Notes, NASAA has committed to “a DNA change so that our entire organization embodies and advances the DEI agenda.” To single out just a few examples, NASAA has established a mentorship program for state arts agency staff who are people of color, developed a national DEI Consultant Sourcebook and posted other DEI resources such as exemplary programs. These are concrete actions that NASAA members can benefit from in our respective DEI journeys.

Finally, I’m pleased to share that we’ll be heading to Kansas City, Missouri, for the Assembly in fall 2022. For the first time, a regional arts organization, Mid-America Arts Alliance, will be sharing hosting duties with a state arts agency, the Missouri Arts Council. I know Kansas City well, and I can guarantee that its wealth of cultural institutions, civic beauty, shopping and foodways will make your visit memorable. I can’t wait to see you in person! Stay tuned for details as they unfold. We’ll be able to share dates and more during our virtual Business Bash this October. Until then, stay safe and enjoy the summer.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA

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