Newark Symphony Hall CEO named to National Independent Venue Foundation’s inaugural board

Taneshia Nash Laird. (File photo)

Newark Symphony Hall CEO Taneshia Nash Laird has been appointed to the newly formed, eight-member board for the National Independent Venue Foundation.

The industry is experiencing upward of 90% revenue loss during the COVID-19 pandemic — with closures seemingly open-ended. Nash Laird is the only New Jersey board member for the advocacy organization, which is tasked with saving independent venues across the U.S. and shaping the future of the industry, while promoting social and racial equity.

Nash Laird, an accomplished social change agent and community developer, joins NIVF in its pursuit to preserve and nurture independent live performance venues and promoters — through COVID-19 and beyond. The foundation will focus on its Emergency Relief Fund, raising money for the most vulnerable venues, and will build upon the work of sister organization, the National Independent Venue Association — its sponsorship and membership trade organization branch.

NIVA Executive Director Rev. Moose said the organization is eager to work with Nash Laird.

“NIVF is thrilled to have Taneshia on our inaugural board, as she’s done some remarkable work at the Newark Symphony Hall, a historic venue that’s spurring impactful economic development in its neighborhood and within the state’s largest city,” he said. “We’ll be leaning on Taneshia’s industry expertise to rescue and sustain independent venues across the country.”

Nash Laird, the only Black female leader of a performing arts center in the state, said the economic impact of the arts community is huge.

“The live music business contributes billions of dollars to the nation’s economy,” she said. “Independently owned venues are important not only for their economic value, but for the quality of life they contribute to their communities.

“I’m delighted to join this board and contribute my expertise in economic development, and equity and inclusion. We’ll work towards not only saving our stages, but helping owners maintain financial resilience.”

Since taking the reins of Newark Symphony Hall in 2018, Nash Laird has dramatically expanded the venue’s programming — and has announced plans to restore the 95-year-old concert hall in a $40 million renovation beginning in 2021. The project is set to create 500 construction jobs and opportunities for 50 small businesses — in a city where nearly one in three people live below the poverty line.

Nash Laird, the acclaimed co-author of “Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans,” also has served as executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton, notably as the first person of color in that role. She has also served as director of economic development and acting director of housing production for Trenton. She is also the co-founder of MIST Harlem, a popular entertainment center in New York City, and an adjunct professor at Drexel University, where she teaches Strategic Management in Entertainment and Arts Management.

In response to the ongoing public health crisis, both NIVA and NIVF have promoted bipartisan COVID-19 relief legislation (Save Our Stages Act, S. 4258 and H.R. 7806), which would allow the Small Business Administration to provide financial assistance to independent venues and promoters, thereby assisting tens of millions of unemployed workers. This comes as the live event industry is experiencing upwards of 90% revenue loss — with closures expected to last well into 2021.

The foundation estimates that, without support from Congress, 90% of NIVA’s 2,900 members (independent venues) may permanently close their doors. Both U.S. senators from New Jersey, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, have signed on as co-sponsors of the Save Our Stages legislation.

The foundation also will support a transparent, competitive marketplace that services a diverse and inclusive community for artists, fans and industry workers.

Hal Real, president of NIVF and secretary of NIVA, added: “The foundation hopes to learn from existing best practices and training programs undertaken by NIVA’s members and expand upon them to provide education and community programming, employee training and support, and economic development initiatives to further develop both organizations’ efforts to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Recently, NIVA hosted the Save Our Stages Fest, #SOSFest, which brought together more than 35 renowned artists from 25 venues across the country. More than $1.8 million was raised for NIVA’s Emergency Relief Fund. Featured artists included The Roots, Miley Cyrus, the Foo Fighters, Brittany Howard, Dave Matthews, The Lumineers, Nathaniel Rateliff and others.