WASHINGTON – Today, President Biden announced the appointment of members to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. The Committee for the Preservation of the White House is an advisory committee charged with the preservation of the White House, the official home and principal workplace of the President of the United States. The Committee is largely made up of citizens appointed by the President for their experience with historic preservation, architecture, decorative arts, and for their scholarship in these areas.
The Committee is charged with establishing policies relating to the museum function of the White House, its state rooms, and collections. It also works to make recommendations on acquisitions for the permanent collection of the White House and provides advice on changes to principal rooms on the ground floor, state floor, and the historic guest suites on the residence floor of the White House Executive Residence.
The First Lady serves as Honorary Chair of the Committee, and the Director of the National Park Service serves as its Chair. Additionally, the Curator of the White House, Chief Usher of the White House, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Chair of the United States Commission of Fine Arts, and Director of the National Gallery of Art serve as Members of the Committee.
President Biden announced the appointment of the following individuals to serve as members of the Committee:
- Penny Ashford
- Leslie Greene Bowman
- Mel Buchanan
- Wendy A. Cooper
- John E. Frank
- Lauren Haynes
- Ethan W. Lasser
- Janni Lehrer-Stein
- J. Dean Norton
- Richard C. Nylander
- MK Pritzker
- Ellen Susman
- John Wilmerding
Penny Ashford is a photographer dedicated to capturing the effects of climate change across the globe. For her work, she has traveled to Antarctica, the North Pole, the Great Barrier Reef, Svalbard, Norway, and, most recently, Greenland to focus on water. Her photography has promoted awareness to Save the Children in Ethiopia, Grassroots Soccer in Zimbabwe, and Coaches Across the Continent in India. Her photographs have been exhibited in throughout the United States.
Ashford is the founder of Ashford Interiors, started in 1995 after working for six years with Cullman and Kravis, Inc. in New York City. She served on the board of Winterthur Museum, the Delaware Art Museum, The Pennsylvania Ballet, and St. Michaels School and Nursery in Wilmington, Delaware.
She is the mother of two daughters and lives with her husband in Wilmington.
Leslie Greene Bowman
Leslie Greene Bowman is President Emerita of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello – the home of Thomas Jefferson – the only presidential home or slave plantation in America included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Monticello is also a member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. She has spearheaded the Foundation’s vision to bring history forward into national and global dialogue, propelling restoration, dialogue, and programs that offer a full and comprehensive view of our aspirational and complicated past – common ground for all Americans. She earned her Bachelor of Philosophy at Miami University of Ohio, and her Master of Arts in Early American Culture as a Winterthur Fellow at the University of Delaware. She has spent her entire career in museums, authored two books on American decorative arts history, and enjoyed academic appointments with both USC and UCLA, where she taught American decorative arts history. She is a trustee emerita of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a member of the Virginia Bar Association’s Committee of Special Issues of National and State Importance, a member of the Order of St. John, and a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts in London. She has served by Presidential appointment on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House under Presidents Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton.
Melissa “Mel” Buchanan is the RosaMary Curator of Decorative Arts & Design at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), where for nearly ten years she has overseen exhibitions, interpretation, and collection growth for the museum’s wide-ranging craft and design collection. In 2018 she completed a reinstallation of NOMA’s decorative arts galleries, including the launch of a series of commissioned artworks where contemporary designers respond to the museum’s traditional collection. Her exhibitions for NOMA include Katherine Choy: Radical Potter in 1950s New Orleans (2022), Atomic #13: Aluminum in 20th-Century Design (2021), Bror Anders Wikstrom: Bringing Fantasy to Carnival (2017), and Personalities in Clay: American Studio Ceramics from the E. John Bullard Collection (2017). She is currently working on a major 2024 exhibition and catalogue drawing from the museum’s renowned collection of historic glass through themes like craft, exchange, technology, and foodways.
Buchanan serves on the national board of The Decorative Arts Trust and of the American Ceramic Circle, for which she chairs the annual symposium. Before moving to Louisiana, Buchanan worked at The RISD Museum in Providence, Rhode Island, and served as Assistant Curator of 20th-Century Design at the Milwaukee Art Museum, where she curated the exhibition Grete Marks: When Modern was Degenerate (2012). Buchanan holds a BA from Yale University and an MA from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture at the University of Delaware. She lives in New Orleans with her husband, Lance Dickman, and two children, Axel and Leila.
Wendy A. Cooper
Wendy A. Cooper is Curator Emerita of furniture at Winterthur Museum following two decades as senior curator of furniture. She is a cum laude graduate of Brown University, and holds an M.A. from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture from the University of Delaware. Cooper has worked at The Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and has guest curated four exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art: The Kaufman Collection of American Furniture (1986-87); In Praise of America: American Decorative Arts, 1640-1840 (1980); An American Vision: Henry Francis du Pont’s Winterthur Museum (2002); and Masterpieces of Furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700-1830 (2012 – the present). Before coming to Winterthur in 1995, she was Curator of Decorative Arts at the Baltimore Museum of Art where she organized the traveling exhibition Classical Taste in America, 1800-1840, with the accompanying book. In 2011 she organized the groundbreaking exhibition Paint, Pattern, and People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725-1850 at Winterthur, with a publication of the same name. She is now a consultant, researcher, writer, and lecturer, and serves on museum committees and boards.
John E. Frank
John Frank is Senior Vice President, Chief Public Affairs Officer of Illumina, Inc. Prior to joining Illumina, he spent more than 25 years at Microsoft in numerous leadership positions in Paris, Redmond, Brussels, and New York City. Before Microsoft, Frank practiced law with Skadden Arps and Orrick.
Frank previously served on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House from 2016 to 2019. He is an avid collector of French decorative arts and an art history hobbyist, with special interests in French furniture maker Pierre-Antoine Bellange and French painter Martin Drölling. Frank is a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and sits on numerous boards including the U.S. Council on International Business and the Seattle Art Museum, which he previously chaired. Frank received his B.A. in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University and his J.D. from Columbia University School of Law. He is married to Delia Jampel and they have three children, Carla, married to Rob Flaherty, Elliot, and Mariel.
Lauren Haynes is the Director of Curatorial Affairs and Programs at the Queens Museum in Queens, New York. Prior to joining the Queens Museum, Haynes was the Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Before joining the Nasher, Haynes was Director of Artist Initiatives and Curator, Contemporary Art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Momentary in Bentonville, Arkansas. Haynes led the inaugural visual arts programming for the Momentary when it opened to the public in February 2020. Haynes’s recent curatorial projects include Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love (co-curator, 2023); The Power of Portraiture: Recent Acquisitions (2022); Beyond the Surface: Mixed Media and Textile Works from the Collection (2022); Reckoning and Resilience: North Carolina Art Now (co-curator, 2022); Kenny Rivero: The Floor is Crooked (2021); Crystal Bridges at 10 (2021); Sarah Cain: In Nature (2021); State of the Art 2020 (co-curator, 2020); and The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art (co-curator, 2018). Prior to joining Crystal Bridges, Haynes spent nearly a decade at The Studio Museum in Harlem. As a specialist in African-American contemporary art, Haynes curated dozens of exhibitions at the Studio Museum and contemporary art institutions in New York. Haynes serves on the board of the Association of Art Museum Curators and on the visiting committee for the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. Haynes was a 2018 Center for Curatorial Leadership fellow and a recipient of a 2020 ArtTable New Leadership Award.
Ethan W. Lasser
Ethan W. Lasser is the John Moors Cabot Chair of the Art of the Americas Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He leads the curatorial team responsible for the Museum’s renowned collection of paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from across North, Central, and South America, ancient to modern. A curator, scholar, and convenor, Lasser has contributed to exhibitions and publications on a range of American art topics. His most recent show, Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina considers the enslaved artists who led the ceramics industry across the 19th-century South. Lasser has also curated exhibitions of Philip Guston, Winslow Homer, and 19th century African American art (with artist Theaster Gates, Jr.). Prior to the MFA, he held curatorial positions at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee and the Harvard Art Museums. He received his PhD from Yale University and graduated from Williams College. Lasser lives in West Newton, Massachusetts with his wife and three children.
Janni Lehrer-Stein is a disability rights advocate and retired attorney who is dedicated to achieving access, equity, and justice for disabled persons globally. Nominated by President Obama, Lehrer-Stein served two terms on the National Council on Disability, a federal agency that advises the President, Congress, and agencies. She has been a senior policy advisor to Presidential and other campaigns. Lehrer-Stein is a member of the NIH National Advisory Eye Council and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Forum on Aging, Disability and Independence. Lehrer-Stein presently is a board director for the Foundation Fighting Blindness and the American Foundation for the Blind. She is a lifelong student of history, languages, and culture. She received her B.A. from Yale and her law degree from the University of Toronto, with a year of study at Harvard Law School. Lehrer-Stein lives in San Francisco with her husband and loyal guide dog, Shiloh.
J. Dean Norton
Dean Norton began employment at Mount Vernon Estate on June 23, 1969 and never left. After receiving a degree in horticulture from Clemson University he began his horticultural career as the estate’s boxwood gardener. He was promoted to horticulturist in 1980 and is to this day responsible for applying the latest plant science and management techniques of horticulture in a historic setting. For the past 53 years, Norton has devoted considerable time to researching 18th century gardens and gardening practices and has led the restoration effort of the principle historic gardens and overall landscape at Mount Vernon Estate. He has received awards for conservation from the DAR, the Garden Club of America, and the American Horticulture Society, as well as the Garden Club of America’s prestigious Elizabeth Craig Weaver Proctor National Medal. He is an honorary member of the Garden Club of Virginia and the Garden Club of Providence. Awarded an honorary doctorate from Washington College, Norton serves on several historic property boards and lectures nationally and internationally.
Richard C. Nylander
Richard C. Nylander is Curator Emeritus of Historic New England. He received his BA from the College of William and Mary in Virginia and an MA from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in New York. During his 41-year career at Historic New England, Nylander was responsible for the ground-breaking restorations of the Federal-period Harrison Gray Otis House in Boston and the Colonial Revival Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine. Nylander is an internationally-recognized authority on historic wallpaper and is the author of Wallpaper in New England and Wallpaper for Historic Buildings. He has lectured widely on historic wallpaper and period interiors and has contributed numerous articles to both popular and scholarly journals. His recent publications include a chapter on looking glass maker and art dealer John Doggett in Boston Furniture (2016) and two essays in Everything for the Garden (2019).
Nylander is a fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society and a member of the American Antiquarian Society and the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. He and his wife Jane have received awards from the New England Chapter of the Victorian Society of America, Historic Massachusetts, and the 2010 Award of Merit from the Antique Dealers’ Association of America. In 2022, Nylander was the recipient of the Old Sturbridge Village President’s Award. He was first appointed a member of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House in 1989.
Mary Kathryn (MK) Pritzker has served as Illinois’s first lady since January 2019. In her work as first lady, Pritzker builds on her lifelong commitment to advancing outcomes for women and girls in Illinois and beyond, with a focus on expanding access to reproductive health care and developing restorative criminal justice responsive to women’s needs. The first lady also contributes her time to supporting LGBTQ+ initiatives and promoting the arts.
Having been educated in historic decorative arts and architecture, Pritzker has used those skills to restore the Illinois Governor’s Mansion to a welcoming home and public space that preserves the rich history and culture of the people of Illinois. Her work has brought to the mansion a carefully curated collection of fine art, crafts, and furniture. In addition, the first lady has meticulously researched and documented the mansion’s cultural history and changing architecture over its almost 170-year life. Pritzker turned her work on the mansion into a book, A House that Made History, which chronicles the life of the mansion and its most interesting inhabitants, to be published by Rizzoli in the fall of 2023.
Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, and raised in South Dakota, Pritzker worked on the staffs of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE). She graduated with a B.A. from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and attended graduate school in the Master of Science in Historic Preservation program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She resides in Chicago, Illinois, with her husband, JB, their daughter Teddi, and son Donny.
Ellen Susman is a cultural ambassador and former journalist. She served as director of Art in Embassies, an office of the U.S. Department of State, from 2013 to 2016, with a focus on partnerships and outreach. Previous to this position, she served as a member of President Obama’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Her longstanding relationship with the Aspen Institute resulted in an opportunity to present a multi-session program titled Cultural Diplomacy: Why Art Matters. Susman spent 25 years in the broadcast industry, and from 2004 to 2008, she was the producer and host of “Balancing Your Life,” an award-winning, national PBS program that celebrates the strength of women as they work to balance career and family. The show was a first for PBS and won two Accolade Awards and was nominated for a Lone Star Emmy. She also edited a memoir by her late sister, Carol Spencer Mitchell, who worked for Newsweek. The University of Texas Press published Danger Pay: Memoir of a Photojournalist in the Middle East, 1984 – 1994 in November 2008.
Susman is President of the Susman Foundation and currently serves on the boards of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, NxtHvn, and the Yale University Art Gallery. Previously, she served on the boards of The Texas Tribune, the Democracy Alliance, and the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School.
John Wilmerding is Sarofim Professor of American Art, emeritus, at Princeton University. He is an emeritus trustee of the Shelburne and Guggenheim museums, and a founding trustee of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. He is the longest-serving member of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a presidential appointment, from the first Bush administration to the present. He was previously senior curator and deputy director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where he later served as a trustee, retiring in 2013 as chairman of its board. He has an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Vermont, and is a member of the American Philosophical Society. He is the author of over two dozen books, including volumes on the work of Fitz Henry Lane, John F. Peto, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Eakins. More recently, he has written books on Richard Estes, Robert Indiana, Tom Wesselmann, and Fairfield Porter. His most recent publications are American Masterpieces, an anthology of his essays published in the Wall Street Journal between 2006 and 2018; and Lens on American Art: The Role and Depiction of Eyeglasses (Rizzoli, 2020).