President Biden Announces Key Appointments to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Biden announces his intent to appoint the following individuals to serve as members on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts:
- Eugene William Stetson III, Chair
- Andi Bernstein
- Christopher Carrera
- Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel
- Barbara Gamson
- Melissa Hedden
- Lorna Johnson
- Bonnie Lautenberg
- Allison Putala
- Sunil Puri
- Charlie Pohlad
- Diane Robertson
- Thomas Safran
- Andrew Tavakoli
Established in 1958 by President Eisenhower, the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts (PACA) has played a valuable role in sustaining the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Cultural Center. Members of the Committee are civic and cultural leaders who are selected by the President of the United States to serve as representatives in their own communities for the Kennedy Center. The Center considers PACA appointees to be “Ambassadors for the Arts.” Acting as a national network for the Center, the PACA helps to broaden the Center’s influence and extend its vision across the country. The Committee serves as a national forum, giving its members the opportunity to share with the Kennedy Center their views on the Center’s artistic programming.
Eugene William Stetson III, Chair, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Eugene William Stetson III has been a film producer, a political, arts and environmental adviser for over 40 years. Stetson is currently a Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council, where he serves on the climate cohort at the Global Energy Center. Under President Obama, he was a member of PACA and later co-chaired the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize with his wife, Jane Watson Stetson. Stetson has served Governors Howard Dean, James Douglas and Peter Shumlin as a member of their Councils on Energy & the Environment. He has served on Vermont Public Radio/Vermont PBS, the Harvard University Center for the Environment, and the Connecticut River Conservancy. He is a Trustee and Governor for the Smith Richardson Foundation, a foundation dedicated to addressing domestic and international public policy challenges. He established the Vermont Film Commission, serving as its founding President. Stetson has produced numerous independent films, most notably A Closer Walk, which highlights the impact of the AIDS epidemic on women. Stetson earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, where he was appointed a Fellow to the Institute of Politics. He also attended the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Andi Bernstein, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Andi Bernstein has worked across a spectrum of industries including finance, media and technology and the arts. She specializes in start-ups and new and emerging businesses, having held key roles on the founding teams of both Oxygen Media and Compass. She is also the founder and CEO of Beach Walk Media, a diversified media company that produces Emmy Award-winning content across different platforms, including most recently, Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union (HBO). She is currently a Partner at The 98, a venture capital firm investing in tech-enabled, women-led businesses. Andi is a longstanding Board member of The Public Theater, and a member of both The Storytelling Committee for the Obama Presidential Center and the Advisory Board of One Nation/One Project. Andi graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University (1980) with a B.A. from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. She lives in New York City with her husband and three children.
Christopher Carrera, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Christopher J. Carrera is President of Carrera-Willowbridge, LLC. He was previously a Partner in the Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities Division at Goldman, Sachs & Co. where he began his career as a summer intern in high school. Carrera serves on the board of the FDNY Foundation and is Treasurer of his co-op building. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and was a former member of the Board of Overseers of the College of Arts and Sciences. Carrera also served as a Trustee of Riverdale Country School.
Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel is an advocate for the arts, architecture, preservation, design, and public policy. At the White House, she helped create the White House Fellows and the Presidential Scholars programs, as well as the first and only White House Festival of the Arts in 1965. Diamonstein-Spielvogel was the first Director of Cultural Affairs for New York City and the longest-serving Commissioner of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Foundation. Previous presidential appointments include the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and the American Battle Monuments Commission. She has also served on the New York State Council on the Arts. The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Diamonstein-Spielvogel earned her doctorate with high honors from New York University. She is the author of 24 books about art, architecture, photography, crafts, design, and public policy. Diamonstein-Spielvogel serves on numerous, diverse, cultural and community-oriented boards. She currently serves as the Chair of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Foundation.
Barbara Gamson, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
A native Houstonian, Barbara Goot Gamson is a passionate supporter of contemporary art. Pursuant to her belief that the arts and humanities contribute to the vibrancy of society, promote social awareness, foster dialogue and curiosity, and nurture creative and critical thinking, she is integrally involved in the visual arts community in Houston, Texas; Aspen, Colorado; and around the United States. Barbara serves as Trustee for The Menil Collection in Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Aspen Art Museum, and is a National Committee Member of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Barbara resides in Houston, Texas with her husband Michael. Their two daughters, Emma and Carly, also share their love for the arts.
Melissa Hedden, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
A second-generation Greek American from Canton, Ohio, Melissa Hedden is the daughter of an educator and a retired Common Pleas Court Judge. Hedden has been on the Ohio Democratic Party’s Executive Committee for fourteen years and served as a delegate to the 2012, 2016 and 2020 Democratic Conventions. Hedden also chairs the Central Ohio Diabetes Association Women’s Board, hosts events for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and serves as development Chair for the Childhood League. Hedden graduated from Bowling Green State University with a B.S. in Business Education and Spanish.
Lorna Johnson, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Lorna Mae Johnson is a fierce and proven successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, Chair and CEO of LMJ Global Enterprises, and host of podcasts’ “Live with Lorna.” She is a committee member of the White House Historical Association, former Assistant Treasurer of the DNC, and an appointee of President Obama. Lorna is a graduate from the University of Southern California (USC) and former clinical Professor and Lecturer at UCLA. Crowned Queen Mother in Ghana in 2019, Lorna is a globally recognized speaker on issues surrounding women, girls, and finance and has worked alongside Melinda Gate as an Essayist with the UN Foundation for Women and Girls. An Olympic qualifying athlete in the 100-meter dash, Lorna Mae Johnson holds no bounds on what she can accomplish.
Bonnie Lautenberg, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Bonnie Lautenberg is a business woman, author of a new book on her late husband, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), a supporter of the arts, an art collector, photographer and a conceptual artist. She has her first solo show of a conceptual art project called Artistica!,opening at the Boca Raton Museum in 2022. She is presently in an exhibition on the Pandemic at the New York Historical Society. Her work is in six museum collections including the Library of Congress and the African American Museum of History and Culture. She is on the International Directors Council at the Guggenheim Museum and is a co-producer of a new musical on the life of Andy Warhol that will open in 2023.
Allison Putala, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Allison Kaminsky Putala is from Georgia and is a graduate of American University. She holds a BA in Public Communications and an MA in Public Affairs and Journalism. Mrs. Kaminsky Putala served in many positions at NBC Network News including the Today Show, Nightly News and Dateline. She founded Kaminsky Putala Public Relations in 2008, providing clients with targeted media placement and effective media presentation. As a board member of N Street Village, Allison advised on media strategies for Washington’s leading non-profit provider of services to homeless women. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and their daughter and son.
Sunil Puri, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Sunil Puri is CEO and Founder of First Midwest Group, a national real estate firm active in residential, commercial, and industrial development. Founded in 1984, FMG has expanded into the hotel, restaurant, self-storage, and gaming industries. Sunil has been active in venture capital and other private equity investment domestically and in Africa, South America, and Asia for over two decades. An immigrant from India who came to the U.S. in 1979, Sunil is a long-standing advocate for social equity and immigration issues, and previously served as a commissioner for President Obama on the White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Puri Family is also highly active in philanthropy, notably with the creation of the Puri School of Business at Rockford University in 2014.
Charlie Pohlad, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Charlie Pohlad serves as Director at Pohlad Investment Management, LLC, the investment arm of Pohlad Companies. Mr. Pohlad serves on the Board of Trustees of Dia Art Foundation in New York and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and is actively involved with several other arts organizations in Los Angeles, New York and London. He is also a member of the Pohlad Family Foundation Third Generation Board, responsible for annual grants to organizations serving the greater Twin Cities metro area. Mr. Pohlad resides in Minneapolis and New York City.
Diane Robertson, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Diane M. Robertson lives in Carrboro, North Carolina, where she is a proprietor of a horticultural design firm and plays an integral role in the state’s voting rights initiative. She is an award-winning documentary film producer and serves on nonprofit boards for arts and civic organizations that include the North Carolina Humanities Council, Playmakers Repertory Company, East Coast Greenways, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, and the NAACP. She has committed her time and efforts to the boards of Democracy North Carolina, and the Southern Documentary Fund, where she also served as Interim Executive Director. She also served as the Director of Development for the American Dance Festival. Ms. Robertson was born in Jamaica, West Indies, and grew up in Queens, NY. She studied history at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio and pursued a graduate degree in Latin American history at Indiana University. She lived in the Rio Grande Valley, before moving to North Carolina, where she raised her family. She is motivated every day by her belief that she should leave the world a better place for her grandchildren and future generations.
Thomas Safran, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Thomas Safran is the Founder & Chair of Thomas Safran & Associates, developers and managers of multifamily residential housing and mixed-use projects, specializing in affordable housing for lower income seniors and families. It owns and manages over 6,000 units of rental housing as well as commercial retail space mostly in the greater Los Angeles area. Tom has a Bachelor’s Degree from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and an MBA from UCLA. Prior to establishing his own company in l974, he held various positions over a five-year period with the Los Angeles Area, Chicago Regional, and Washington, D.C. Central offices of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Safran has been on the Board of a variety of organizations over the years including the Music Center of Los Angeles.
Andrew Tavakoli, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Andrew Tavakoli is the Principal and CEO of Tavaco Properties, the holding company for a portfolio of commercial real estate nationwide. Andrew earned his BSEE degree in computer systems from University of Pittsburg in 1981, MBA in marketing from CSULB in 1983, and MSBA in finance from University of Southern California (USC) in 1986. Mr. Tavakoli holds investment positions in dozens of companies under the umbrella of Tavaco Capital Management, a private equity firm. Tavakoli serves on the USC Marshall school of business board of leaders. He is the chair of development committee as a board member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council (LAWAC), and a board member of the Cedars Sinai Medical Center, the second largest medical center in California. As a Philanthropist, Mr. Tavakoli supports number of other charitable organizations.