Museum donors and private business owners with ties to the cultural sector across the country are among 14 people nominated by Joe Biden to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts (PACA), a council formed in 1958 which gives advice on programming the Kennedy. Center in Washington, D.C. The 14 individuals shortlisted for the presidential committee include board members of major arts institutions in Los Angeles, Houston and New York, as well as figures active in the DC political circuit who have supported causes democrats. None of them will receive money for their participation in the committee.
Among the donors to American museums approached for the initiative is Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, the wife of the late publicity director and former American ambassador Carl Spielvogel. She previously served as New York’s Director of Cultural Affairs and a member of commissions overseeing fine arts and landmarks initiatives during the Clinton and Obama administrations. Through a charitable foundation she established with her late husband in their names, she made donations to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New-York Historical Society.
Bonnie Lautenberg, a New York-based philanthropist who was married to the late Democratic New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, was also selected for the group. She serves on the international board of trustees of the Guggenheim Museum in New York and, through a family charity bearing her name, has made donations to the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Whitney Museum, among other American art institutions. Lautenberg has personal ties to Biden through her late husband and supported fundraising efforts for Biden’s 2019 presidential campaign.
Houston-based philanthropist Barbara Goot Gamson is another museum benefactor chosen to serve on the White House commission. Gamson gives to arts-related causes with her husband, retired oil trader and left-leaning political donor Michael Gamson. She is a trustee of the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and sits on the national committee of the Whitney Museum. The Gamsons donated $8,300 to Biden’s campaign in 2019.
Two personalities from the west coast are also part of the committee. Charlie Pohlad, a contemporary art collector and heir to a Minneapolis-based family investment and real estate fortune worth an estimated $3.8 billion, sits on the board of the Dia Art Foundation in New York and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. He has donated funds and artwork to the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, LAXART, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Meanwhile, Thomas Safran, affordable housing developer and co-founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, is one of three property developers chosen to serve on the committee. He hosted a Biden fundraiser in 2019.
PACA is not the only government committee set up to oversee policies related to the cultural sector. The Presidential Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) was created during the Reagan administration in 1982 to advise the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In August 2017, all 17 members of PCAH resigned in protest of former President Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn the violence at the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally and his calls to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.