National Endowment for the Arts Announces Carla Dirlikov Canales as Senior Advisor and Envoy for Cultural Exchange 

Photo of Carla Dirlikov Canales. A woman with blond hair in a black dress smiles at the camera.

Photo of Carla Dirlikov Canales by Flaminia Fanale

Washington, DC—The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is pleased to announce that Carla Dirlikov Canales has been appointed as senior advisor and envoy for cultural exchange. 

In this position, Canales is responsible for advising the chair, and supporting and leading on projects that reinforce the role of the NEA as a national resource, including focusing on field-wide learning opportunities, international engagement, and implementation of the president’s Executive Order 14084 on “Promoting the Arts, the Humanities and Museum and Library Services,” including work through the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. 

“I am delighted Carla is joining the NEA team in this new position. We are fortunate to benefit from her experience as an artist, a cultural envoy, and an educator. She has a passion for our mission and a wealth of experience and ideas that help bolster our ability to serve our country as a national resource,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD.

Canales has created and led programs concerning cultural diplomacy policy and practice at leading universities worldwide and has served as an arts envoy for the United States Department of State since 2005. In addition, she has won acclaim on leading stages around the world as an opera singer while also being recognized with multiple awards and honors for her work as an arts advocate and as an entrepreneur. 
Prior to joining the National Endowment for the Arts, Canales oversaw cultural diplomacy initiatives at both Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She served from 2021-2023 as a Social Innovation Initiative Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School and as a 2021 Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow at Harvard, the youngest fellow in the history of the program to date. 

During the Obama Administration, Canales served as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities Turnaround Arts program. She is the founder of the Canales Project, a nonprofit arts and advocacy organization focusing on using the arts to address issues of identity and culture. As a classical singer, Canales has been in demand for her portrayal of Bizet’s Carmen, a role she has performed over 80 times in 12 countries. In other leading roles and as a concert singer, she has performed on five continents including, in the U.S., performances at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center.

She is fluent in Spanish, French, Italian, German, and English and is currently working on achieving proficiency in Mandarin.

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. To learn more, visit


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