Chris Finan

Executive Director

Christopher Finan is NCAC’s executive director. He previously served as president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFE), the bookseller’s voice in the fight against censorship. He has been an advocate for free expression since 1982. Prior to joining ABFE, he was executive director of Media Coalition, a trade association that defends the First Amendment rights of producers and distributors of media. He is a former chair of NCAC and Media Coalition. He was a trustee of the Freedom to Read Foundation and received its Roll of Honor Award in 2011.

A native of Cleveland, Chris is a graduate of Antioch College. After working as a newspaper reporter, he studied American history at Columbia University where he received his PhD.

He is the author of From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America (Beacon Press), which won the 2008 Eli Oboler Award of the American Library Association. He also wrote Alfred E. Smith: The Happy Warrior (Hill and Wang) and edited National Security and Free Speech: The Debate Since 9/11 (IDEBATE Press), a reader for high school students. The Hugh M. Hefner Foundation honored the latter with its First Amendment Award. His latest book is Drunks: The Story of Alcoholism and the Birth of Recovery (Beacon Press).

Chris is married to Pat Willard, author of several food histories, including America Eats! On the Road with the W.P.A.–The First Fries, Box Supper Socials, and Chitlin’ Feasts that Define Real American Food (Bloomsbury).  They have two sons and live in Brooklyn.

Svetlana Mintcheva

Director of Programs

Svetlana Mintcheva joined NCAC after years of academic teaching and research on post World War II art and literature. Having spent a large part of her academic career analyzing provocative art and its socio-political contexts, she is happy to be on the front lines protecting the coexistence of a diversity of voices in the cultural sphere. Svetlana has published and presented multiple papers on contemporary art and writing — most recently, she co-edited Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression (2006, The New Press). She curated the 2007 exhibition “Filth, Treason, Blasphemy?: Museums and Censorship,” at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum in Chicago, IL and conceived “Exposing the Censor Within,” a traveling interactive public art installation, which opened in California in March of 2007. 

An academic and an activist, Mintcheva has taught literature and critical theory at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria and at Duke University, from which she received her Ph.D. in critical theory in 1999. She currently teaches part-time at New York University. Her academic research and writing focus on postmodern literature and aesthetic provocations as well as issues in censorship and ethics.

Denise Clegg

Director of Development

Denise Clegg is NCAC’s Director of Development. Prior to joining our team, she served in director and executive positions at organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of New York and New Mexico, the Drug Policy Alliance, the International Campaign for Tibet, the Penn Center for Neuroscience & Society and the Garrison Institute. Denise is dedicated to building the capacity of organizations as well as the people who do important work for positive social change. She teaches mindfulness, has served as a trainer for the Potential Project and Penn Resilience Program, and has a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Nora Pelizzari

Director of Communications

Nora Pelizzari is a storyteller with over a decade of communications, editing and marketing experience. She has created and edited children’s and young adult books, working on numerous NYTimes bestsellers, at both HarperCollins Children’s Books and Alloy Entertainment. After moving to Ireland for graduate school, she joined Trinity College Dublin’s Global Relations Office as the university’s International Marketing Officer. Most recently, she managed marketing, communications and business development at a major international law firm. Nora holds a BS in English and marketing from Boston College and an MPhil in popular literature from Trinity College Dublin. Her academic interests focus on the intersection of culture, media and social change, particularly the changing place of adolescence and adolescents in popular culture.

Joy Garnett

Program Associate, Arts Advocacy Program

Joy Garnett is a visual artist and writer with a history of writing about free expression in the arts. She received her BA in Humanities and Middle East Studies from McGill University, studied painting at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and completed her MFA at The City College of New York. She was the Arts Editor for Cultural Politics (2005-2016), a peer-reviewed cultural theory journal published by Duke University Press. Joy served on the Committee for Intellectual Property at the College Art Association and has written extensively about art, copyright, and fair use for publications that include Harper’s, M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Journal of Visual Culture, Artnet, and Art21 Magazine. Her paintings have been shown at the Milwaukee Art Museum, MoMA-PS1, Whitney Museum of American Art, the FLAG Art Foundation, Boston University Art Gallery, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Museum of Contemporary Craft Portland, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and Witte Zaal in Ghent, Belgium.

Gordon Danning

Program Associate, Youth Free Expression Program

Gordon Danning has a background in both law and K-12 education.  He obtained a JD from the University of California, Berkeley but decided not to practice law and instead taught Social Studies for many years at a public high school in Oakland, California.  He has also worked for more than 25 years on an occasional basis doing research and writing for criminal defense attorneys who represent indigent defendants in Los Angeles County.

He relocated to New York in 2012 to pursue doctoral work in Political Science, and immediately before coming to NCAC he served as the History Research Fellow at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where he was tasked with researching the connection, if any, between “hate speech” and political violence.  He has published several academic and law review articles on issues relating to free speech, including Did Radio RTLM Really Contribute Meaningfully to the Rwandan Genocide? Using Qualitative Information to Improve Causal Inference From Measures of Media Availability; “It Ain’t So Much the Things We Don’t Know That Get Us in Trouble. It’s the Things We Know that Ain’t So”: The Dubious Intellectual Foundations of the Claim that “Hate Speech” Causes Political Violence; Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease? Censorship of Hate Speech May Well Increase Violence; and Freedom of Speech in Public Schools: Using Communications Analysis To Eliminate The Role of Educational Ideology.

Barbara Pyles

Finance & Administration

Lauren Truong

Development & Communications Coordinator

Lauren Truong currently works as the Development & Communications Coordinator at NCAC and is interested in the intersection of free speech, technology, and global human rights. Prior to joining NCAC, she served in the Peace Corps in Armenia, where she taught English to rural Armenian youth and facilitated sessions on gender equality, climate change, and leadership development.

Zach Garrett

Administrative Assistant

Zach Garrett was born in the sweetest place on earth – Hershey, Pennsylvania. He graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Dickinson College, where he double-majored in Philosophy and Religion. Having witnessed firsthand the destructive potential of censorship in academia, he joined NCAC to play a direct role in defending free expression and fighting its curtailments. He’s a music junkie, stand-up comedy fanatic and lover of conversation surrounding the philosophical topic of personal identity.