Biographies- 21st Century Art and Politics


Paul Smith

Paul Smith has been Director of the British Council in the USA and Cultural Counsellor at the British Embassy Washington DC since August 2012. He is also a member of the British Council’s Regional Leadership Team for The Americas.

Born in 1956, he went to King Edward’s School Birmingham and Queens' College Cambridge (double first in English). From 1978 to 1980 he lectured in English Literature at St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi and then pursued doctoral studies in Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University also working as an academic supervisor for Cambridge BA honours students.

He joined the British Council in 1983 and has had postings in Kano and Lagos (Nigeria), Burma, Chile, Germany and Bangladesh and then as Director of the British Council in New Zealand and in West India (Mumbai). From 2005-2010 he was Director of the British Council in Egypt and from 2010 – 2012 Director of the British Council in Afghanistan and Cultural Counsellor at the British Embassy in Kabul. In the UK he has held the posts of Dy Director Drama and Dance (1987-1989) and Director Arts (1999-2000).

He has directed plays, particularly Shakespeare, in various countries and has published numerous articles in academic texts. He was awarded the OBE in 1999.

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Graham Sheffield

Graham Sheffield is Director Arts for the British Council, having taken up his role in May 2011. He is responsible for leading and delivering a global arts strategy and programme across the British Council's 110 country operation.

From 1995-2010 Graham was Artistic Director of the Barbican Centre in London. Under his directorship, the Barbican became one of the most innovative, dynamic and respected centres in the arts world, with an award-winning international programme across the art forms.
In the last three years he has driven a major expansion and rebuilding of the arts programme at the British Council, defining a new vision, developing new arts specialists in the global network, planning major extended seasons of work in Brazil, China, Qatar, India, Mexico and South Africa, as well as responding ambitiously to social and political change in the Middle East, Gulf and North Africa.

Under Graham’s leadership, the arts programme has grown in size and received more investment: to launch a Cultural Skills programme, expand the work within the Creative Economy, develop a digital arts programme and refresh and enlarge the British Council’s internationally renowned Art Collection – a vital contributor to work overseas in cultural relations.

Graham graduated in Music from Edinburgh University and worked as a Radio 3 producer at the BBC for 12 years. From there he went to the Southbank Centre as Music Projects Director for 5 years, during which time he founded the world-renowned Meltdown Festival. He also served as CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong in 2010. He was Chair of the Royal Philharmonic Society (2007-2010), and consulted to the Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity in Toronto. From 2004-2006 Graham was Chair of the International Society of Performing Arts and a council member of Arts Council England, London (2002 – 2008). In 2014 Graham took up a new role as Chair of the UK’s largest music charity, Help Musicians UK and joined the Board of Rambert.

He was awarded CBE in the 2010 New Year’s Honours’ list for services to the arts and was made Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2005. He is an honorary Doctor of Arts at City University.

Graham was honoured in January 2015 by ISPA with the International Citation of Merit for lifetime achievement in the arts.

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Afa Sadykhly Dworkin

Executive and Artistic Director, Sphinx Organization
Ms. Dworkin has worked with the Sphinx Organization since 1999. In her current role, she handles oversight and programmatic design of all artistic and educational affairs, in addition to all fundraising of the organization. She has appeared as a speaker and presenter at national conferences, including Chamber Music America (opening address), the National Association for Schools of Music, the League of American Orchestras, ICSOM, Americans for the Arts, University of Michigan’s MLK panel discussion, Bowling Green University, Central Michigan University, Lorraine College Signature Artist Series, San Francisco Symphony’s National Orchestral Forum, and various media outlets, including The Toledo Blade, Interlochen Public Radio, Greensborough Public Radio and Michigan Radio. Ms. Dworkin has also participated as a grant review panelist for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Association of Performing Arts Presenters Young Performers Career Advancement panel, as well as the MetLife Awards administered by The League of American Orchestras, National Endowment for the Arts, a well as Charlotte Arts and Sciences Council grants, Independent Sector’s American Express NGen awards, Florida and Oklahoma State Arts Council grants and Atlanta Symphony’s Talent Development Program juries. Ms. Dworkin is a trustee for the Detroit Symphony, member of the Advisory Committee for the Ben Holt Memorial Recital Series hosted by Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, as well as formerly the Board of Trustees of Walnut Hill School for the Arts (the premiere arts preparatory high school). Currently, she serves as a Trustee for the National Guild for Community Music Education, and INTAKE Organization.

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Antonio Aiello

As Content Director and Web Editor at PEN American Center, Antonio Aiello develops written and multimedia content at the intersection of freedom of expression advocacy and the literary arts to give voice to PEN’s mission, campaigns, and literary programming. In his 11 years at PEN, Aiello has been responsible for bringing the organization into the digital age by creating an online presence though the websites and and across social the media platforms FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube. To connect with and expand PEN’s membership and engagement with the broader international literary and arts communities, Aiello founded and continues to direct the PEN America Blog, the PEN Poetry Series, the PEN/Guernica Flash Series, the PEN Ten Interview Series, the Illustrated PEN, and most recently Passages, a quarterly translation chapbook. As previous Associate Director of the Prison Writing program, Aiello co-wrote and edited PEN’s Handbook for Writers In Prison, distributed free each year to thousands of incarcerated writers.
Before joining PEN, Aiello was the lead multimedia designer for, where he headed interactive initiatives to marry traditional broadcast programming with emerging technology, and designed and developed the network’s first Flash and multimedia websites. A philosophy major with a concentration in media theory from Colorado College, Aiello began his career at McCann-Erickson, Seattle, where he developed and managed the agency’s first digital accounts. Aiello studied screenwriting at the University of Washington, multimedia production at New York University, and earned his MFA in creative writing at The New School University.
His interviews, essays, and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in/on the Literary Hub, The Carolina Quarterly, PEN America, Alimentum,,, and Natural Home & Garden among other print and online publications. He lives in Montclair, NJ with his wife, two children, and their chickens.