Taneshia Nash Laird is a social change agent and community developer who centers cultural equity in her work. She is the President and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, a historic performing arts center located within the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Newark, NJ. Since her appointment in November 2018, she has expanded programming to respond to community needs and announced plans to restore the 1925 vintage concert hall in a $50 million renovation and leverage it for neighborhood revitalization in a process she calls Symphony Works.
Symphony Works calls for training local residents and entrepreneurs for the 500 jobs and opportunities for 50 small businesses created by Newark Symphony Hall's renovation and providing technical assistance and funding to turn local contractors into developers to undertake the parcel-by-parcel incremental redevelopment of the Lincoln Park area, a neighborhood rich in artistic history.
Taneshia previously served as Executive Director of the Arts Council of Princeton, notably as the first person of color in that role. During her tenure, she launched an instructional art program for adults with disabilities and created a grant-funded professional development program to ethnically diversify the teaching artist pool. Additionally, she secured new funding from family foundations, significantly increased free-to-the-public performing arts programming, and expanded all programming to appeal to diverse communities in terms of age, culture, and ability.
Taneshia has also served as Director of Economic Development & Acting Director of Housing Production for the City of Trenton (NJ), Regional Director of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Trenton Downtown Association, where she initiated Destination Trenton, an award-winning arts and tourism program in NJ's capital city.
Taneshia is an adjunct professor in Drexel University's Entertainment & Arts Management Bachelor of Science degree program. As an entrepreneur Taneshia is the founder of Legacy Business Advisors, a consultancy serving social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and government agencies. She previously co-founded Legendary Eats in the Staples Center in Los Angeles with NBA legend James Worthy. With her late husband Roland, Taneshia also co-founded MIST Harlem, a popular entertainment center in New York City. Together Taneshia and Roland also co-authored the critically acclaimed book Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans.
A passionate advocate for increasing economic opportunity and access to arts and heritage, Taneshia was a special government employee during the Obama Administration as a grants panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. She was previously appointed by NJ Governor Jon Corzine to the governing body of the NJ Urban Enterprise Zone Authority. Her nonprofit board service has included the Preservation NJ, the Advocates for NJ History, and Artpride NJ where she co-chaired the equity, diversity and inclusion committee. In the summer of 2019 Taneshia was elected to a three-year term as president of the board of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation.
Widowed in 2013 and a pink lady warrior since an early stage breast cancer diagnosis in 2019, Taneshia is most proud of being a mom to aspiring ballerina and budding cellist Naima, age 11, and self-proclaimed future doctor Imani, who in 2019, two months shy of her 13th birthday, played violin with her youth orchestra in Sicily.
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CBS New York:
Once-Great Newark Symphony Hall Rising Again As Destination Venue
Revitalizing Newark Symphony Hall
New director inspires enthusiasm for Symphony Hall's future
Appointment remarks at the Arts Council of Princeton
Promoting women and economic development
Just A Sample of Press Mentions
"Meet the Visionary Revitalizing Newark Symphony Hall"
NJ Monthly Magazine - May 2021 Issue
For Taneshia Nash Laird, a longtime local changemaker, the arts are an opportunity to uplift a community.
Taneshia Nash Laird has always been a visionary. Growing up below the poverty line in White Plains, New York, many of Laird’s classmates had parents who were doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers and entertainment executives. “And these included the Black families I knew,” says Laird. “I just wanted to be middle class. I knew I could achieve that because I saw people that looked like me doing all sorts of things. I knew that my dreams could be achieved.”
Since 2018, Laird has been the president and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, one of the Garden State’s oldest and largest venues. She is the only Black woman at the helm of a major performing arts center in the state. “In many ways, I’m living my dream,” says Laird.
Laird’s mother, who never earned more than minimum wage, was integral to her arts exposure.
"How Taneshia Nash Laird Built A Legacy While Pivoting Through A Personal Tragedy"
Forbes.com - May 27, 2019
Taneshia Nash Laird, president and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, is on a mission to revitalize the Symphony Hall brand for a new generation of artists and music connoisseurs. Throughout her vast career, which includes urban planning, the sports and entertainment industry and local politics, Laird has taken each pivot in stride and continues to build a legacy.
"Rush Philanthropic Foundation Elects First Black Female Board President & Moves to Philly"
Electronic Urban Report - June 6, 2019
Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation (Rush Arts) co-founder Danny Simmons has announced the organization’s main office has moved from New York City to Philadelphia, PA. The move coincides with a restructure of the governing body, its board of directors.
“I’m pleased to announce that Taneshia Nash Laird has been elected President of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation’s board of directors,” Simmons said. “Taneshia has chaired our advisory board for our expansion to Philly since we launched RAP – Rush Arts Philadelphia – three years ago. She was instrumental in us establishing relationships with the city’s community leaders. She also chaired our first Art for Life Philly fundraiser back in November,” he added. Laird is the organization’s first female board president since it was founded 24 years ago.
"Hitting a high note: New CEO aims to revitalize Newark Symphony Hall"
ROI-NJ - February 27, 2019
Newark Symphony Hall has a new CEO and president, its parent, Newark Performing Arts Corp., announced this week.
Taneshia Nash Laird joined the organization in November after a national search, succeeding interim Executive Director Leon Denmark, NPAC said in a news release.
“Today, a new curtain rises at Newark Symphony Hall,” Alfred Bundy, chairman of the NPAC board, said in a prepared statement. “Our board of directors is proud to announce that we have selected Taneshia Nash Laird as our new president and CEO of our historic arts organization. The members of our search committee recognize that we have chosen a bright and shining star for the Newark arts community.”
Laird was most recently the executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton — only the third executive director since 1967 and the first one of color. She has decades of leadership in the nonprofit, government and private sectors, NPAC said.
"Taneshia Nash Laird to black girls: It’s important I became leader of Princeton Arts Council"
The Trentonian Newspaper - April 2, 2017
Laird was one of about 10 panelists who spoke at the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls event. The seven-hour session was hosted by U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, who became New Jersey’s first black woman elected to Congress in 2014.