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 $40 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 10, and self-proclaimed future doctor Imani, who in 2019, two months shy of her 13th birthday, played violin with her youth orchestra in Sicily.