National Endowment for the Arts Announces New Staffing Assignments

Photos of Ayanna Hudson and Jen Hughes

Ayanna Hudson (photo by Erika Hawthorne) and Jen Hughes (photo by Jedd Skibo)

Washington, DC– The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is pleased to announce staffing changes which will strengthen its position as a national resource and further the Agency’s work in equity, access, and inclusion. The changes include the reassignments of two longtime NEA employees to newly created positions, effective October 9, 2022. Ayanna Hudson, who has served as the acting deputy chair for programs and partnerships since January 2021 and previous to that as NEA arts education director, will step into the new role of chief strategy, programs, and engagement officer. Jen Hughes, who has served as the director of design and creative placemaking, will assume the new position of senior advisor to the chair on partnerships, expansion, and innovation. Together, these new positions demonstrate the NEA’s commitment to equity and underserved communities; strengthening partnerships between national, regional, state, and local communities; and enhancing the NEA’s role as a national resource. 

NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, stated, “These new positions will better enable the NEA to deliver on goals in our strategic plan including investing in more impactful ways, forging mutually beneficial relationships with other federal agencies, and stepping up in ways to address the challenges and opportunities related to the President’s executive orders. I am thrilled that Ayanna and Jen have stepped into these positions and will focus their considerable expertise on bolstering the Arts Endowment as a national resource that helps to build strong arts ecosystems that make it possible for all Americans to lead artful lives.”

The NEA will be announcing job opportunities soon, including the director of Arts Education and the director of Design and Creative Placemaking. Please check USAjobs and @NEAarts announcements over the next weeks for more information on these job openings. 

Ayanna Hudson, Chief Strategy, Programs, and Engagement Officer

As the chief strategy, programs, and engagement officer for the National Endowment for the Arts, Ayanna Hudson is responsible for providing strategic leadership and working collaboratively with the NEA chair in the planning, execution, and oversight of grantmaking, programs, and initiatives in alignment with priorities of the Office of the Chair, the agency’s Strategic Plan, and the agency’s overarching vision for equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Hudson has dedicated her career to increasing access to the arts for all people and removing barriers to arts participation for historically marginalized communities. She assumes this new position with over two decades of experience in providing visionary leadership, strategic direction, and measurable impact. Most recently, she served as the NEA’s acting deputy chair for programs and partnerships, where she was responsible for overseeing the agency’s grantmaking and initiatives and was part of the team that shaped and implemented the NEA’s ARP funding program, which encouraged applications from organizations that serve populations that are underserved and organizations that were applying to the NEA for the first time. As acting deputy chair, she also co-led the development of the NEA’s first-ever Equity Action Plan. 

Hudson previously served as the NEA’s Arts Education director, where she developed a vision and action-oriented plan for engaging every student in an excellent arts education and developed a comprehensive grantmaking strategy, introducing the agency’s first-ever funding opportunity for systemic change through grants to support collective impact projects. Prior to joining the NEA, Hudson was the first director of arts education for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, where she spearheaded a new vision and multi-pronged strategy for arts education for all students in the nation’s largest educational system, and garnered national attention for the unprecedented scope, scale, and impact. She also previously held leadership positions with the Fulton County Arts Council. 

Hudson received a BA in psychology from Spelman College and an EdM in education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education. 

Jen Hughes, Senior Advisor to the Chair for Partnerships, Expansion, and Innovation

As senior advisor to the chair for partnerships, expansion, and innovation for the National Endowment for the Arts, Jen Hughes is responsible for supporting the chair’s strategic vision by advancing partnerships with federal agencies and philanthropy to extend the mission and reach of the NEA. In this position, she will assist the chair in the development and implementation of key programmatic priorities that elevate the role of arts, culture, and design in advancing the well-being of communities and individuals.

Since 2011, Hughes has held multiple positions at the NEA, most recently serving as the director of design and creative placemaking. As director, she led the evolution of the agency’s Our Town grant program and launched the Creative Placemaking Technical Assistance Program to offer more expansive support for grantees in executing NEA-funded projects. In addition, she has helped to broaden the offerings of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, two key leadership initiatives at the NEA. She’s held prior agency positions as community solutions specialist and design specialist, playing a significant role in forging partnerships across federal and local government, and in helping to shape the agency’s design investments. 

Trained as an urban planner, Hughes previously worked for the District of Columbia government and is passionate about the role of arts and design in furthering community-led goals. She received a bachelor of science in management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a masters in city planning from University of California, Berkeley.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that is the largest funder of the arts and arts education in communities nationwide and a catalyst of public and private support for the arts. By advancing equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, the NEA fosters and sustains an environment in which the arts benefit everyone in the United States.


NEA Public Affairs,