Biden-Harris administration appoints four senior executives at National Endowment for the Arts

Posted on: February 9, 2021

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced that the Biden-Harris Administration has appointed four senior staffers at the agency. They are: RA JOY, chief of staff; JENNIFER (JENN) CHANG, White House liaison and senior advisor to the chief of staff; SONIA CHALA TOWER, director of strategic communications and public affairs; and BEN KESSLER, director of congressional affairs. The previous political appointees and former chair Mary Anne Carter left the NEA on January 20.

Ra Joy was most recently executive director of CHANGE Illinois, a nonpartisan coalition working on government reform. From 2007 to 2015, he was executive director of Arts Alliance Illinois, and from 2001 to 2007 he served as a senior staffer for U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, specializing in appropriations, community development, education, and the arts. Jennifer Chang goes to the Arts Endowment after serving on the appointments team with the Biden-Harris transition. She recently worked as an associated consultant with WolfBrown, with a portfolio of performing arts and education clients. Prior to that, she spent over a decade at Google; while there, she earned a master’s degree in viola performance from the Juilliard School. Sonia Chala Tower has spent more than two decades in leadership roles at cultural institutions and performing arts groups, and as an arts program officer for a community foundation. She was municipal arts director for the City of Ventura in California, and occupied senior roles at Americans for the Arts and Ovation TV. Tower is a classically trained mezzo-soprano, specializing in Byzantine and Russian liturgical music. Ben Kessler is an intellectual-property lawyer who worked at the United States Senate Committee on Aging; at Invariant Government Relations, a lobbying firm; and at Pew Charitable Trusts, where he focused on food safety. While pursuing post-graduate studies at American University Washington College of Law, he spent summers working for the Future of Music Coalition and Copyright Alliance.