BRICKS & MORTAR The A-List

TANESHIA NASH LAIRD

Bringing vibrant color and nourishing artistic spirit to the Princeton community, the Arts Council of Princeton has been a leader in arts education and outreach for more than 50 years. Having dedicated her impressive career to utilizing the arts as a platform for community and economic development, Taneshia Nash Laird now picks up the A.C.P. gauntlet as only its third executive director since 1967, and the first person of color. We sat down with Nash Laird to find out a little more about A.C.P. and the Princeton arts scene, what’s on her nightstand, and, of course, ice cream.

On why Princeton art is so special: “We have incredible depth as a community, filled with people who are accomplished in all aspects of the visual and performing arts, and who actively share their work, via the Princeton Public Library and our Arts Council. And there’s the most remarkable, open-to-the-public programming from in-town institutions like McCarter Theatre, Princeton University Art Museum, and the Lewis Center for the Arts.”

Her sources of pride: “Our Taplin Gallery has won favorite art gallery in New Jersey six out of the past seven years. I’m also extremely proud of the newly launched Community Stage initiative, which showcases local talent in A.C.P.’s Solley Theater. This first season’s talent ranged from OnStage Seniors to the new ARB2 development company from American Repertory Ballet to Legacy Arts International, which preserves the music of contemporary composers. And in order to expand our faculty, we are also in the process of creating a professional development program to train more artists to become teaching artists.”

Favorite things to do, in and around town: “Other than at the Arts Council, you can usually find me with my two prides and joys—my sixth- and second-grade daughters—at the Princeton University Art Museum, followed by a trip to one of the many ice cream shops. That might be one of the best-kept secrets of this town: We have more ice cream shops per capita than any other town I know and they are all amazing. And then there is the shopping …”

On her nightstand: “A picture of my late mother, standing in front of ancient ruins in Rome, which was one of her favorite European trips. There’s also my Kindle, smartphone, and a rotating series of books. A nightstand mainstay is a special edition of Vintage Black Glamour, with a padded silk cover and a glorious collection of rarely seen early-20th-century photos of African American actors, educators, writers, students, and musicians.”

On her career at A.C.P.: “I grew up very modestly and loved the arts, so I benefited from the work of organizations like the Arts Council. What appealed to me about A.C.P. is there is something for everyone here. I personally believe that the creativity is a catalyst for opportunity. To be able to work at a place that is absolutely at the cross section of the community is a privilege. It’s my honor to be in this role.”

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, Princeton; 609.924.8777, artscouncilofprinceton.org.

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