Museum donors and private business owners with ties to the cultural sector across the country are among the 14 people designated by Joe Biden to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts (PACA), a board formed in 1958 that advises on programming for the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The 14 people being tapped for the presidential committee include board members of major art institutions in Los Angeles, Houston, and New York, as well as figures active in the D.C. political circuit who have backed Democratic causes. None of them will receive any money for taking part in the committee.
Among the donors to U.S. museums tapped for the initiative is Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, the wife the late advertising executive and former U.S. ambassador Carl Spielvogel. She previously served as New York’s director of cultural affairs and as a member on commissions overseeing initiatives relates to fine art and monuments under the Clinton and Obama administrations. Through a charitable foundation she established with her late husband in their names, she has donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New-York Historical Society.
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Bonnie Lautenberg, a New York–based philanthropist who was married to the late democratic New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg, has also been selected for the group. She serves on the international directors council at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and through a family charitable organization in her name, has donated to the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Whitney Museum, among other U.S. art institutions. Lautenberg has personal ties to Biden through her late husband and backed fundraising efforts for Biden’s presidential campaign in 2019.
Another museum benefactor picked to serve on the White House commission is Houston-based philanthropist Barbara Goot Gamson. Gamson gives to arts-related causes with her husband, the retired oil trader and leftwing political donor Michael Gamson. She serves as a trustee for the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and is on the national committee of the Whitney Museum. The Gamsons gave $8,300 to Biden’s campaign in 2019.
Two West Coast figures also figure on the committee. Charlie Pohlad, a contemporary art collector and heir to a family Minneapolis-based investment and real-estate fortune worth an estimated $3.8 billion, serves on the board of trustees of the Dia Art Foundation in New York and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. He has donated funds and works of art to the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, LAXART, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Meanwhile, Thomas Safran, an affordable housing developer and cofounder of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, is one of three real estate developers chosen to serve on the committee. He held a Biden fundraiser in 2019.
PACA is not the only government committee established to oversee policies related to the cultural sector. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) was established under the Reagan administration in 1982 to advise the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities. In August 2017, all 17 members of the PCAH resigned in protest of the former President Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn violence at the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally and his calls to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.