President Biden Announces Key Appointments to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Biden announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to serve as members of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts:
- Mary R. Boyle
- Guy Cecil
- Merle C. Chambers
- Leslie Jackson Chihuly
- Cynthia Friedman
- Robin Leeds
- Robert A. Mandell
- Tom Mims
- Cheryl McKibben Najafi
- Esther Brollier Oppenheimer
- Eric Paquette
- Michael Parham
- Mark D. Sena
- Jessica Slater
- Gary Sugarman
- Carri Belinda Twigg
- Charlotte R. Cramer Wagner
- Stephen N. Zack
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.
Mary R. Boyle, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Mary R. Boyle is a community leader and philanthropist in Portland, Oregon. Her leadership and involvement has impacted numerous nonprofit organizations. Her interests range from education, the arts, social service agencies, and children’s issues. Boyle currently serves on the boards of the Portland Art Museum, University of Portland, and Legacy Hospital Foundation’s Women’s Committee. She has served on the Board of Directors of Portland Center Stage, Oregon College of Arts and Crafts, Outward Bound, Jesuit High School, YWCA, St Mary’s Academy, and SMART, a literacy program for children. She attended the University of Oregon.
Guy Cecil, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Guy Cecil has spent time as a high school teacher, minister, community and political leader, field organizer, non-profit board chairman, and university adjunct lecturer. He is currently the Chairman of Priorities USA, senior strategist for Priorities USA Action, and President of Miles Strategies. Cecil previously served as Executive Director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Chief of Staff to U.S Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. Cecil has made a mark in public affairs and issue advocacy, having served as a Principal at the Dewey Square Group and National Field Director for the Children’s Defense Fund. He has appeared as an analyst and guest on MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, NPR, and in news outlets across the country.
Cecil has served on the boards of Foundry United Methodist Church, Color of Change, Faith Forward, EL Haynes PCS, and Run for Something. He is a graduate of the University of Florida where he previously served as an adjunct lecturer for the Graduate School of Political Science. He lives in Washington, DC, with his husband Ed McNulty.
Merle C. Chambers, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
A pioneer of women’s leadership, Merle C. Chambers was one of few women CEOs in the male-dominated oil and gas industry. For more than 20 years, Chambers led Axem Resources, a privately held independent oil and gas exploration and production company. In 1997, she founded Chambers Fund, a private foundation with a commitment to social justice. In 2020, Chambers deepened her commitment to equity, democracy, and economic security with Chambers Initiative, a strategic alignment of her personal giving and the foundation’s grantmaking.
Actively involved in civic and cultural affairs in Colorado, Chambers believes arts and culture institutions are vital in creating and sustaining vibrant and livable communities, inspiring civic pride, and providing educational and engaging experiences. For decades, she has supported numerous arts organizations in Denver to sustain their general operations and ensure future viability. Chambers has been a major donor to various arts and culture capital campaigns, including the Denver Art Museum, Clyfford Still Museum, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Colorado Ballet, Colorado Symphony, Aspen Music Festival & School, and the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Chambers was instrumental in the construction of the new building housing Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. Her financial support was an investment in Kirkland Museum as a Colorado art institution, and in the further development of the Golden Triangle Neighborhood and Denver’s nationally important art scene. Chambers currently serves on the boards of Kirkland Museum and Denver Art Museum.
Cynthia Friedman, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Cynthia Friedman is a private investor and lifelong advocate for educational programs, political engagement, and access to the arts. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Mellon University and currently serves on the College of Fine Arts’ Advisory Council. For the past 20 years, the University’s “Friedman Fellows” Internship Program has provided students with scholarships to intern and study government policy in Washington, DC. Previously, Friedman co-chaired Carnegie Mellon’s School of Music 100th Anniversary/Centennial Celebration and served on the University’s traveling advisory group.
In Palm Beach, Friedman currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Chamber Music Society and is a longtime member of The Society of the Four Arts. She also serves on the American Friends of the Louvre Board of Trustees and on the Advisory Council of New York City’s Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Friedman is a former member of the Collector’s Committee at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and, in 1999, was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. She graduated with a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and continued her education at the George Washington University Graduate School of Public Administration. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she now resides in Palm Beach, FL and maintains an apartment in New York City. Friedman and her late husband Milton are the parents of three grown children.
Robin Leeds, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Robin Leeds is CEO of Winning Strategies, a communications advisory firm in Washington, DC that specializes in multi-cultural and crisis communications, public policy advocacy, coalition building, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and corporate social responsibility planning. A Woodrow Wilson fellow and member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts Advisory Board, Leeds has devoted her career to expanding access to economic, civil, and social opportunities for all Americans with a focus on increasing visibility for social impact artists, women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups. For over four decades, she played key leadership roles in presidential, gubernatorial, and congressional campaigns and administrations. While serving in the Clinton White House Office on Women’s Initiatives and Outreach, Leeds coordinated domestic and global engagement efforts, organized the President’s Childhood Immunization Initiative at the Department of Health and Human Services, directed the interagency implementation of the National Voter Registration (Motor Voter) Act for the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs, and cultivated public-private partnerships for the Youth Opportunity Movement at the Department of Labor.
Leeds was the National Co-Chair of Women for Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and served as a senior women’s policy advisor during the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Most recently, she served on the women’s outreach and policy teams for the Biden for President campaign. Leeds’ knack for coalition building combined with a deep understanding of public policy advocacy and a talent for forging connections among diverse constituencies has earned her leadership positions at the National Council of Jewish Women, Harvard Women’s Leadership Board, the Radcliffe Center for Advanced Leadership, and the Women in Politics Institute at American University.
Leslie Jackson Chihuly, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Leslie Jackson Chihuly is an American arts executive and philanthropist committed to democratizing access to the arts and to arts education. She is the president and CEO of Chihuly Studio, the working studio of American artist Dale Chihuly; co-founder of Warm Springs Productions, which aims to strengthen community through music, art, sport, and visual media; and co-founder of the Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation, which educates the public regarding all forms of art and ensures ongoing viability for artists and arts organizations. Chihuly is Chair of Seattle’s Benaroya Hall Music Center and serves on the boards of Vassar College, Pilchuck Glass School, and the Seattle Symphony. She was elected Chair Emerita of the Seattle Symphony after serving nine years as Board Chair and implementing revitalizing changes. Chihuly is a speaker and advocate who shares her distinct perspective in keynotes for organizations such as the Foster School of Business, Fidelity, Path with Art, and Tugboat Institute. She is a spokesperson for McLean Hospital’s “Deconstructing Stigma” international campaign to change perceptions around mental illness. Chihuly was awarded the Women of Valor Award by Senator Maria Cantwell and was inducted into the College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in recognition of her extraordinary achievements in the arts.
Robert A. Mandell, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Robert A. Mandell is a retired U.S. Ambassador and currently serves on the boards of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Human Rights First in New York City. Mandell is currently a partner in Velocitas Venture, a medical device company. He previously was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Greater Construction Corp. in Orlando, Florida. He has also been involved in state and regional governments, including as chairman of the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission and chairman of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority. Additionally, Mandell has served on the boards of Florida Hospital, a division of Adventist Health Systems; the Burnham Institute for Medical Research of La Jolla, California; and the Vermont Studio Center. In 2010, he was named by President Barack Obama to the President’s Export Council and was later appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, where he served from 2011 until 2015. He was the first ambassador in 60 years to be honored with induction into the Order of the Oak Crown by Grand Duke Henri for outstanding service to Luxembourg. Mandell earned a B.S. from the University of Florida in 1969 and a Juris Doctorate in 1972. In addition, he graduated from the Harvard Business School Owner/President Management program in 2000. Mandell is married to Julie Walker Mandell and is father to four grown children
Tom Mims, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Tom Mims is Founder and President of T. Mims Corp., a central Florida investment, real estate, ranching, sand mining, and development company, owning and managing 10,000 acres. His development of the Alafia River Wetland Mitigation Bank is the largest wetland mitigation bank in the Alafia River basin consolidating and optimizing environmental impacts. Mims has worked with solar companies to develop solar farms and address their long-term sustainability. Elected to the Florida House of Representatives at the age of 24, Mims became steeped in recognizing the importance of equity, social justice, and economic responsibility. He is a Trustee of the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. Mims and his wife Paula are extensively involved in their community including the arts, public education, and maternal health equity. A longtime patron of Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College, Florida House in Washington, DC, Volunteers in Service to the Elderly, the League of Women Voters, Bonnet Springs Park, local music programs, and many others, his philanthropic interests are at the forefront of his daily efforts. Mims is a graduate of the University of Florida with a B.S. in Accounting and earned his MBA in Accounting at Florida Southern College.
Cheryl McKibben Najafi, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Cheryl Najafi is a best-selling author, speaker, activist, and entrepreneur. In 2010 she founded food website EverydayDishes.com. After a decade in media, she founded The Cause Collection, a socially responsible clothing company to support nonprofits who fight for equality, humanitarianism, and social justice. Her latest initiative is writing and producing an children’s animated TV series that addresses social, environmental, and humanitarian issues. Najafi currently serves on the executive committee of the Barrow Neurological Institute Foundation Board, Charter 100, ASU Art Museum Creative Impact Board, University of Chicago Parent Council, and The New American Council for Arts and Design at Arizona State University. Najafi holds a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from Arizona State University. She has been the recipient of several awards including Arizona’s Most Intriguing Women for its Centennial Celebration as the 48th state and ASU’s 2019 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Leader, among others. Najafi splits her time among Phoenix, Los Angeles, and New York City.
Esther Brollier Oppenheimer, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Esther B. Oppenheimer is an artist residing in Boise, Idaho. She has served on and chaired the Idaho Governor’s Commission for Volunteerism and Community Service. Oppenheimer has also served on the Boise Art Museum, including serving as Chair of the Board. She worked as a licensed and board-certified mental health counselor and as an art therapist working with families and children. Oppenheimer was named the Idaho Counselor Supervisor of the Year and also awarded the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Stick Your Neck Out for Children Award. She is currently working as a studio artist with ceramic and mixed media pieces.
Eric Paquette, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Eric Paquette has over thirty years of experience creating content for some of the biggest media companies in the world such as CBS News & Sports, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, and Sony Pictures. Paquette, a well-respected executive and producer, is currently the CEO of the film and television company Meridian Pictures and is the Founder and CEO of the co-viewing start-up LetScreen. For the past fifteen years, he served as Senior Vice President of Production at Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Screen Gems where he supervised the development and production of feature films with budgets ranging between $10 million to $60 million. Prior to joining Sony in 2005, Paquette served in senior executive positions at Metro Goldwyn Mayer and Phoenix Pictures. He started his career in media as a researcher for CBS Sports and as an Associate Producer for Dan Rather and Connie Chung at CBS News. He is an advisory board member for The Johns Hopkins School of Education and is the former President and current Commissioner of The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. Paquette is also a member of The Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences and was a previous member of the International Feature Film Executive Committee. He co-founded Tudela Futbol Club Los Angeles and has run twenty-six marathons, including the Boston Marathon three times. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Jessica Postigo and their two daughters, Libby and Nina. He and his family are beekeepers.
Michael Parham, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Michael Parham is the Senior Vice-President and General Counsel of RealNetworks, the company that pioneered streaming media on the internet. Previously, he served as the Regional Counsel for IBM in Chicago, where he began his legal career at the law firm of Chapman and Cutler. He is highly-regarded for his commitment to civic engagement. Parham serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Seattle Art Museum. He has served as Chairman of the United States-Canada Fulbright Foundation Board of Trustees and President of the Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees. Parham has served on the Board of Trustees of the Bullitt Environmental Foundation, the Washington Technology Industry Association, and the education non-profits Communities In Schools and America’s Promise Alliance. He is also a co-founder of the Black Boardroom Initiative, established to develop a pipeline to increase corporate board diversity. He received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. Parham resides in Seattle with his wife Hyeok Kim and their son Marc.
Mark D. Sena, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Mark D. Sena is a Florida resident with a professional background in investment banking specializing in media, communications, and entertainment. He is currently president of Mars Communications, Inc., a telecommunications company with FCC spectrum licenses deployed for wireless broadband and cellular communications. Sena serves as a trustee of the international dance center Jacob’s Pillow, a trustee of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, an advisory board member of WUSF Public Media in Tampa, and an advisory board member of the Institute for Research in Art at the University of South Florida. He is an alumnus of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and an emeritus member of the school’s advisory board. Sena has been a trustee of the Tampa Museum of Art and Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts. He is a member of Leadership Florida (Class XXIV), the Tampa Bay Committee on Foreign Relations, and an inductee in the Cable TV Pioneers. Sena lives in Tampa, New York, and the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.
Jessica Slater, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Jessica Slater is a Director at The Slater Foundation, where she works to identify grant recipients and manage commitments. Additionally, she focuses on the continued support and development of the foundation’s relationships with its chosen grantees. Slater is involved in fostering partnerships with a variety of organizations ranging in both size and mission, from local grassroots to major institutions. Slater has worked on the establishment of endowments at institutions including Boston University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. She also serves as an Overseer at the Boston Children’s Museum. Previously, she produced a narrative feature film, with major distribution from Sony Pictures and Netflix. Slater graduated from Suffolk University with a Bachelors of Arts in Marketing and Journalism and lives in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood with her husband Sam and their two sons, James and Dylan.
Gary Sugarman, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Gary Sugarman is Principal of Richfield Associates Fl, Inc., a firm he founded that provides equity investments in the telecom sector. He was Managing Member of Richfield Capital Partners, a fund that he formed that provided working capital investments in the technology sector. Sugarman has invested in and operated numerous telecom/data companies through Associates and Capital Partners. He is currently a freelance consultant for Morrison and Co, an infrastructure fund based in New Zealand and previously served as their Senior Digital Infrastructure Advisor. He is also on the board of a telecom operating company, LICT Corp, and an investor in a fintech company, Interchecks, based in New York.
Carri Belinda Twigg, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Carri Belinda Twigg is Co-founder and Head of Development for Culture House media, a Black, Brown, Women owned, full service, premium film and TV production company that specializes in storytelling about the urgent cultural questions confronting America and the world. Prior to Culture House, Twigg spent ten years in politics and government, including serving as Special Assistant to President Obama and Director of Public Engagement for then-Vice President Biden. She also leads Culture House’s consultancy work, collaborating with major studios like Paramount Pictures and creatives to ensure their projects are culturally productive. Twigg is an expert in crafting engaging, socially relevant, and politically resonant stories, and has been seen on stages from TedX to SXSW. Select current TV series include The Hair Tales for Hulu and OWN, Growing Up for Disney+, and a to-be-announced project for Netflix about racism, misogyny, and music.
Charlotte R. Cramer Wagner, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Charlotte R. Cramer Wagner resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is a longtime advocate and supporter of contemporary art. She is the Founder and President of Wagner Foundation, whose vision of a “just and robust” community recognizes that the arts are essential to societal well-being. Additionally, the foundation focuses on health equity and economic mobility, and engages historical inequities as part of a broader commitment to cultural transformation. Her appreciation of the cultural and institutional role of the arts is matched by a personal commitment to supporting socially engaged artists and artworks. Wagner is a Trustee on the Boards of the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, VIA Art Fund, and Partners In Health. She is also a member of the Leadership Council at the Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School. Prior to her philanthropic focus, Wagner held positions at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Fidelity Investments, and Tribune Media Services. She has an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and A.B. from the University of Michigan.
Stephen N. Zack, Member, President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts
Stephen N. Zack is an Attorney, Partner, and Executive Committee member at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP. He was nominated by President Barack Obama for the position of Alternate U.S. Representative to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and he served as Senior Advisor to the United States Department of State. He served as the first Hispanic President of the American Bar Association and he was also the youngest President of the Florida Bar. Zack represented former Vice President Al Gore in the trial of Bush v. Gore. He was appointed by Governor Lawton Chiles to re-write the Florida Constitution as a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. Zack served as General Counsel to Florida’s former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham and also Chaired the Florida Ethics Commission. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute. Zack is a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He was recognized by The American Lawyer with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his many years of service and accomplished career. Zack received a B.A. from the University of Florida and a J.D. from the University of Florida Law School and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University. He has also received honorary degrees from numerous law schools.