Ms. Canales

Carla Canales


  • Fellow, Social Innovation and Change Initiative (SICI) at the Harvard Center for Public Leadership
  • Senior Fellow, Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University
  • Master's degree, McGill University
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Michigan School of Music


Since 2005, Ms. Canales has served as an Arts Envoy of the U.S. Department of State, sharing the U.S. arts community with the world to foster cross-cultural understanding and collaboration, demonstrating shared values and aspirations, and address foreign policy themes and objectives.

Previous to her appointment, Ms. Canales established The Future of Cultural Diplomacy initiative, which was co-sponsored by the Future of Diplomacy Project of the Belfer Center at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University. The initiative focused on cultural diplomacy from the U.S and multi-lateral perspectives, diplomacy priorities, and changing technologies, geopolitical trends, and recent events.

Renowned as a mezzo-soprano singer who has performed with opera companies and orchestras around the world, as well as for her leadership in the area of cultural diplomacy, Ms. Canales was selected by Foreign Policy as one of its "100 Leading Global Thinkers" and was named by Musical America as one of “30 Movers and Shapers” of 2018. She was awarded the Medal of Excellence from the Sphinx Organization, which was presented to her at the U.S. Supreme Court by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

In 2016, Ms. Canales founded The Canales Project, a non-profit arts and advocacy organization with a mission of giving voice to issues of identity and culture through music and conversation. Notably, it created the Hear Her Song initiative, a musical celebration honoring distinguished female leaders through new songs written by female identifying composers and songwriters from across the globe. The Canales Project received a National Endowment for the Arts Award in 2021.

She has been a guest speaker and lecturer at Oxford University, Sciences Po, University of Bonn, the Aspen Institute, the Bertelsmann Foundation, Americans for the Arts and TEDx MidAtlantic. In addition, she has authored book chapters in two upcoming publications: Manchester University Press, "Soft Power and the Future of U.S. Foreign Policy," Winter 2022 and Manchester University Press, "US Cultural Diplomacy after the Cold War," 2023.

Previously, Canales served as a co-creator and Artistic Director of Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, an annual conference conceived to bring together arts and policy leaders from around the world to discuss common challenges and to develop joint approaches to using the arts to help address major global issues.

Canales earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high honors (Voice) from the University of Michigan School of Music, and a Master's degree with high honors (Opera Performance) from McGill University. Most recently, she was a Senior Fellow with the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University, and she continues at Harvard as a Fellow with the Social Innovation and Change Initiative (SICI) at the Center for Public Leadership. Canales is fluent in Spanish, French, Italian, German and English, and proficient in Mandarin.