Commission Members

Commission Members

Darren Walker, Co-Chair

Darren Walker is President of the Ford Foundation, the nation’s second largest philanthropy, and for two decades has been a leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. He led the philanthropy committee that helped bring a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and chairs the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance. Prior to joining Ford, he was Vice President at the Rockefeller Foundation where he managed the rebuild New Orleans initiative after Hurricane Katrina and COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Harlem’s largest community development organization, where he oversaw a comprehensive revitalization program of central Harlem. He had a decade long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS and in 2016, TIME magazine named him to its annual list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.

Tom Finkelpearl, Co-Chair

Tom Finkelpearl is the Commissioner of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. He was appointed in 2014 by Mayor Bill de Blasio. In his tenure, he has overseen an array of initiatives to enhance the health of the cultural sector and the cultural life of New York City including: Affordable Real Estate for Artists (AREA); Public Artists in Residence (PAIR); and the City’s first comprehensive cultural plan, CreateNYC. Prior to his role as Commissioner, he served as Director of the Queens Museum, Chair of the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG), Deputy Director at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, and Director of the DCLA Percent for Art program. Based on his experiences in public art, he published Dialogues in Public Art (MIT Press 2001) and What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation (Duke University Press Books 2013).

Ex-Officio City Agencies: Public Design Commission, Law Department, Department of Education, and Department of Parks and Recreation

Richard Alba

Dr. Richard Alba is an American sociologist and Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York, Graduate Center. He is known for developing assimilation theory to fit the contemporary, multi-racial era of immigration, with studies in America, France, and Germany. Alba has also written about the historical realities of assimilation exemplified through the experiences of Italian Americans. His book, Ethnic Identity: The Transformation of White America (1990), summarizes his thinking on the assimilation of the “white ethnics” and Blurring the Color Line: The New Chance for a More Integrated America (2009) applied these ideas to non-white Americans. He is a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute and former Vice President of the American Sociological Association. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.

Michael Arad

Michael Arad is partner at Handel Architects and designer of the World Trade Center Memorial titled “Reflecting Absence” that was selected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation from among more than 5,000 entries submitted in an international competition held in 2003. In 2006 he was one of six recipients of the Young Architects Award of the American Institute of Architects and received the 2012 AIA Presidential Citation award for his work on the National September 11 Memorial. Previously, he worked for Kohn Pedersen Fox and the Design Department of the New York City Housing Authority. Most recently, Michael was selected to design a memorial to the victims of the 2015 Charleston church massacre at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte is an American singer, songwriter, actor, and social activist. One of the most successful African-American pop stars in history, he was dubbed the "King of Calypso" for popularizing the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. Belafonte has won three Grammy Awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award. In 1989, he received the Kennedy Center Honors. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994. Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for political and humanitarian causes, such as the anti-apartheid movement and USA for Africa. Since 1987, he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.

John Calvelli

John Calvelli is Executive Vice President for the Public Affairs Division of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) headquartered at the Bronx Zoo and specifically oversees the work of WCS in Government and Community Affairs, Policy, Marketing, Communications and Public Engagement. He is the founder and Chair of the International Conservation Partnership and the Cultural Institutions Group while serving on the board of the National Italian American Foundation, New York City and Company, and the Italian American Forum, among others. In 1999, he received the honorific title of Knighthood in the Order of Merit for his work promoting stronger US-Italy relations. Previously, he served as legislative counsel for the New York State Assembly and, for more than a decade, as the Senior Washington DC staff person for Congressman Eliot Engel.

Mary Schmidt Campbell

Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell began her tenure as the 10th president of Spelman College in 2015. A leading liberal arts college for women of African descent located in Atlanta, Georgia, Spelman has long enjoyed a reputation as the nation’s leading producer of Black women scientists. Prior to arriving in Atlanta, Mary was a major force in the cultural life of New York City including a decade of service at the Studio Museum in Harlem. When she took the helm of the organization, the city was on the verge of bankruptcy and Harlem was in steep decline, and under her leadership, the museum was transformed from a rented loft to the country’s first accredited Black Fine Arts Museum. Currently, she is completing a book on Romare Bearden for Oxford University Press. She is former vice-chair of President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Gonzalo Casals

Gonzalo Casals is the Director of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York. His experience ranges from innovative programming, authentic engagement strategies, and progressive cultural policy. Gonzalo was part of the consultant team that led CreateNYC, the city’s first comprehensive cultural plan. He also teaches Arts, Culture and Public Policy at the Roosevelt House, Hunter College’s Policy Institute. As Vice President of Programs and Community Engagement at Friends of the High Line, he led the organization in a transformative process that shifted the focus of the organization to equitable cultural practices. For over 8 years, he held various roles at El Museo del Barrio and is a member of Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York (NOCD-NY) where cultural production is understood to be a vehicle for empowerment and civic participation. Gonzalo has taught Museum Education and Arts Administration at CUNY and is a regular guest speaker on issues around arts, culture, and equity and inclusion.

Teresita Fernández

Teresita Fernández is a visual artist best known for her prominent public sculptures and unconventional use of materials. Her experiential, large-scale works are often inspired by landscape and natural phenomena as well as diverse historical and cultural references. Through her work she has explored issues in contemporary art related to perception and the fabrication of the natural world. She is a 2005 MacArthur Foundation Fellow and the recipient of numerous awards including the Aspen Award for Art in 2013, the 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Award in 1999. Appointed by President Obama, she is the first Latina to serve on the 100-year-old U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, a federal panel that advises the president, Congress, and governmental agencies on national matters of design and aesthetics.

Amy Freitag

Amy Freitag is Executive Director of the JM Kaplan Fund and brings more than 24 years of professional and personal experience in greening, conservation and historic preservation. Prior to this she served as Executive Director at New York Restoration Project and as Deputy Commissioner for Capital Projects in the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation in the Bloomberg Administration where she administered a $3 billion capital program including the first LEED-certified projects. She has facilitated and led large-scale park projects and programs in New York City, Philadelphia, and throughout the United States. She serves on the boards of and former U.S. Program Director for the World Monuments Fund (WMF). She currently serves on the boards of the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation and the New York Preservation Archive Project.

Jon Meacham

Jon Meacham is a renowned presidential historian, contributing writer to The New York Times Book Review, contributing editor at TIME, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. He is the author of several New York Times bestsellers including Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, and Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship. He is currently at work on a biography of James and Dolley Madison. Jon is a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University and The University of the South and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the Society of American Historians. He had a two-decade journalism career at Newsweek, The Washington Monthly, and The Chattanooga Times.

Catie Marron

Catie Marron’s career has encompassed investment banking, magazine journalism, and public service. She is currently chairman of the board of directors of the High Line and a longtime contributing editor to Vogue. She is the creator and editor of two anthologies exploring the value and significance of urban public spaces: City Squares (2016), and City Parks: Public Places, Private Thoughts (2013). She is a member of the Columbia Journalism Review advisory board and CEO and Founder of For Good, a not for profit enterprise and website. Catie was chairman of the board of The New York Public Library from 2004 – 2011, where she is now chair emeritus and a trustee. In addition to serving on other boards, she has been a trustee and vice chair of Thirteen/WNET New York. Photo by Sebastian Kim; courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers.

Pepón Osorio

Pepón Osorio is a visual artist, Laura Carnell Professor of Community Art at Tyler School of Art, Temple University, and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation MacArthur Fellow. His work combines Latino popular culture and traditional aesthetic sensibilities to explore culture and community dynamics. He has worked with communities across the U.S. and internationally, creating installations based on real life experiences. For almost two decades Pepón has been presenting work in unconventional places prior to exhibiting in a museum setting. His major works include The Scene of the Crime (Whose Crime?), featured in the 1993 Whitney Biennial, No Crying in the Barbershop (1994), Badge of Honor (1995), and Los Twines (1998), an installation focusing on conflict resolution between South Bronx youths. He was nominated by President Obama to serve on the National Council for the Arts.

Harriet F. Senie

Dr. Harriet F. Senie is professor of art history and director of the M.A. program in Art History and Art Museum Studies Program at The City College of New York. She also teaches at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her most recent book is "Memorials to Shattered Myths: Vietnam to 9/11" (2016) and the co-edited volume “A Companion to Public Art" (2016) that contains her essay, “The Conflation of Heroes and Victims: A New Memorial Paradigm.” She was appointed Visiting Distinguished Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and previously served as Associate Director of the Princeton Art Museum and Gallery Director at SUNY, Old Westbury. She co-founded Public Art Dialogue with Professor Cher Krause Knight an international organization that is also a College Art Association (CAA) affiliate. Together they also started and co-edited “Public Art Dialogue,” a journal published twice annually since 2011 that remains the only peer review publication devoted to public art.

Shahzia Sikander

Shahzia Sikander is a Pakistani-born, internationally recognized, visual artist whose pioneering practice takes Indo-Persian miniature painting as a point of departure. She challenges the strict formal tropes of miniature painting as well as its medium-based restrictions by experimenting with scale and media. Such media include animation, video, mural, and collaboration with other artists. Her process-based work is concerned with examining the forces at stake in contested cultural and political histories. Her work helped launch a major resurgence in the Miniature Painting department in the Nineties at the National College of Arts in Lahore, inspiring many others to examine the miniature tradition. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, grants and fellowships, including the Asia Society Award for Significant Contribution to Contemporary Art (2015) and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation MacArthur Fellow.

Audra Simpson

Doctor Audra Simpson is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University who researches and writes about Indigenous and settler society, politics and history. She is the author of Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States (Duke University Press, 2014), winner of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s Best First Book in Native American and Indigenous Studies Prize, the Laura Romero Prize from the American Studies Association as well as the Sharon Stephens Prize from the American Ethnological Society (2015). She is co-editor of Theorizing Native Studies (Duke University Press, 2014). She has articles in Postcolonial Studies, Theory & Event, Cultural Anthropology, American Quarterly, Junctures, Law and Contemporary Problems and Wicazo Sa Review. In 2010 she won Columbia University’s School for General Studies “Excellence in Teaching Award.” She is a Kahnawake Mohawk.

John Kuo Wei Tchen

Doctor John Kuo Wei Tchen is an urban cultural historian, Associate Professor at New York University, and in 2018 the inaugural Clement A. Price Chair of Public History and Humanities, Rutgers at Newark. He is the founding director of the Asian-Pacific-American Studies Program and Institute at NYU. He co-founded the Museum of Chinese in America in 1979-80 where he continues to serve as senior historian and authored the award-winning books New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882 and Genthe's Photographs of San Francisco's Old Chinatown, 1895-1905. He co-authored, along with Dylan Yeats, of Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear. He has been the senior historian for the New-York Historical Society exhibition: “Exclusion/ Inclusion” and the Steeplechase Films “Chinese Exclusion Act” showing on PBS’s American Experience. He was awarded the Charles S. Frankel Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities and, in 2012, received the NYU MLK Jr Humanitarian Award.

Mabel O. Wilson

Dr. Mabel O. Wilson is a Professor of Architecture at Columbia University GSAPP, Research Fellow at the Institute for Research in African American Studies, co-directs Global Africa Lab, and leads a transdisciplinary practice Studio &. She is a founding member of Who Builds Your Architecture? (WBYA?) — an advocacy project educating about the problems of globalization and labor. She is the author of Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums and is currently developing the manuscript Building Race and Nation: How Slavery Influenced Antebellum American Civic Architecture and collaborating on a collection of essays on race and modern architecture. Mabel has received numerous awards, fellowships, and residencies including the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow at the National Gallery of Arts Center for Advanced Study in Visual Arts, Getty Research Institute, New York State Council for the Arts, and the United States Artists Ford Fellow in architecture and design.