Hitting a high note: New CEO aims to revitalize Newark Symphony Hall

By Eric Strauss
Newark | Feb 27, 2019 at 1:11 pm

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.

“I’m excited to bring my vision and leadership to this institution,” she said in a statement. “Newark Symphony Hall not only has a rich legacy, but it also has incredible potential as a world-class entertainment hub.”

Laird said she intends to fund a complete renovation of the center, while working to add new programming.

“I’m committed to working with my board, city administration, donors, Symphony Hall staff and community members to restore our legendary performing arts center and transform the entertainment experience within the hall,” she said. “The historic preservation and revitalization process will also provide significant local community economic development opportunities.”

Among her widespread experience, Laird is the founder of Legacy Business Advisors, a consultancy that had offices in Newark and Trenton and advised social entrepreneurs, nonprofits and government agencies. She also co-founded New York City entertainment center MIST Harlem, served in the administration of former Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and was regional director of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, among other roles.

“Newark Symphony Hall is a historic location with countless memories for generations of residents,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement. “Ms. Laird has been a tireless advocate for the arts. I can’t think of a better person to help revive the legacy of this institution and revitalize the Lincoln Park neighborhood.”

Newark Symphony Hall opened in 1925 in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of the Central Ward.

“Newark Symphony Hall is a historical gem and local cultural icon,” Aisha Glover, CEO and president of the Newark Alliance, said in a statement. “I am thrilled to welcome Ms. Laird to Newark and I commend the board on their decision to bring her talent and vision to this signature institution. The Alliance and its members look forward to working with her, and have no doubt that she will ensure this iconic venue reclaims its space in the city’s revitalization.”

The executive search firm Arts Consulting Group assisted NPAC with the search, it said.

Eric Strauss | estrauss@roi-nj.com | acerimrat