July 12, 2022
Pacific Island Jurisdictions Partner with WESTAF
I’m so pleased to share that Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), one of the nation’s six regional arts organizations, recently announced an important new partnership with our member agencies in the Pacific island jurisdictions. The partnership will expand networks and resources for artists and arts organizations in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and Guam. WESTAF is welcoming and embracing the Pacific island jurisdictions as part of the Western States Arts Federation community.
WESTAF will serve as the official intermediary between the jurisdictions and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Arts leaders from the jurisdictions are particularly excited that the partnership is designed to provide them with greater access to new resources and opportunities. Previously unrepresented at the regional level, the jurisdictions’ geographic distance from the U.S. mainland has proven to be a barrier in connecting to the arts sector across the country. WESTAF’s presence and role as intermediary will reduce barriers to access.
When I visited our members in the Pacific island jurisdictions in 2018, I experienced a rich creative culture. I witnessed our colleagues working directly with artists and organizations to connect the arts to the heartbeat of community life. These members work tirelessly to connect contemporary and traditional artists to community, to markets, to educational opportunities for young and old, and to countries across the Pacific and beyond.
In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, I witnessed our colleagues’ work to preserve traditional boat building and sailing. I also saw their laser focus on connecting artists to opportunities to earn a living. In Guam, I experienced Chamorro Village, a lively hub for arts, culture and commerce. In American Samoa, I was privileged to see a summer youth encounter that centered on learning and passing on traditions, including woodworking, printmaking, and siapo and elei (bark cloth creation and painting). These creative pursuits, both traditional and contemporary, deserve greater access to resources and connections to the rest of the country.
As I visited and engaged in conversations with colleagues in each island jurisdiction, a recurring theme arose: the need to connect regionally and the need for connection and representation on the U.S. mainland. With this in mind, NASAA convened a conversation of the U.S. jurisdictional arts agencies not represented by regionals, all U.S. regional arts organizations and the NEA to explore the issue and develop some ideas to respond to this challenge. Although the pandemic forced continued conversations to the virtual space, our regional and jurisdictional colleagues continued to move forward.
All our colleagues at US Regional Arts Organizations demonstrated a heartfelt desire to be part of the network that helps to connect our jurisdictional partners to new opportunities. I’m so grateful to them all for their spirit of openness, generosity and partnership. I’m also grateful for the NEA’s involvement; the partnership team participated every step of the way.
I’m particularly appreciative of the WESTAF team, led by Christian Gaines, for picking up the mantle and working with the Pacific island jurisdictions to craft a partnership that centers working with these members, in service to them. Thanks as well to our colleagues in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam: your investment of time and commitment to this new partnership will pay forward for your communities, and I’m thrilled to see your work advance, be supported more, and be embraced by WESTAF as well as your colleagues nationally.
This partnership is emblematic of the very best opportunities the NASAA community can provide. We create the space for members and partners to connect and lift each other up and be of service to each other, individually and collectively. Our cooperative work is key to strengthening state and jurisdictional arts agencies.
In a final note of thanks, I want to acknowledge former NASAA board member and former Guam Council on the Arts & Humanities Agency Chair Monica Guzman, who provided the inspiration for my original outreach and travel to the Pacific island jurisdictions. Proximity is always key. I greatly value what I learned in the Pacific, and I treasure the relationships formed. As Monica occasionally reminded us, America’s day begins in Guam. Fourteen hours ahead of Eastern Time, I can attest that it definitely does! Most importantly, it was illuminating and instructive to begin those days with our colleagues, artists and the communities of the Pacific island jurisdictions.
In this Issue
From the President and CEO
State to State
- Connecticut: Summer at the Museum
- Rhode Island: General Operating Support Grants
- Montana: Montana Circle of American Masters
The Research Digest
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