Writer: Joey Garrand
2 min read July 2022 — In a post-pandemic landscape, partnerships and significant renovations line the future for Newark Symphony Hall.
“We are doing a $50 million renovation that is creating 500 construction jobs and contracting opportunities for 50 small businesses,” said Taneshia Nash Laird, president & CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, with Invest:. “In Newark, nearly one out of three people live below the poverty line and only 18% of jobs here are held by people who reside in the city. There is a profound economic impact we can have for individuals and entrepreneurs in our local community. “ The project will help to modernize the property, not only providing a facelift to the building’s exterior but also adding improvements to the city block such as adding bike lanes, improved curbing and so forth.
Laird hopes to have the four-year revitalization project 75% complete by Newark Symphony Hall’s centennial in 2025 and will include the community in all aspects of it. In engaging the community, partnerships will play a key role moving forward.
“Frankly, the pandemic reinforced the idea that nonprofit entertainment venues like ours don’t need to be siloed. We need to create partnerships that are mutually beneficial,” said Laird.
Newark Symphony Hall recently hired a director of communications and social impact who is building out a department to support the expansion of these community-based programs and initiatives. “Partnering with organizations like Newark Alliance, Invest Newark and Newark Regional Business Partnership really helps maximize community impact. More recently, we are getting involved with nonprofit community development corporations that have a vision to improve workforce development and affordable housing,” said Laird. “There is an old African proverb, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.’”
On another front, Newark Symphony Hall has also been impacted by the acceleration of technology over the past few years. While technology was important to the institution in the past, it is now an “absolute must-have,” with Laird putting an emphasis on technology such as motion-operated facilities in restrooms, mobile ticket ordering and touchless entries. Virtual programming, something that became necessary during the pandemic, will also remain in the post-pandemic landscape at Newark Symphony Hall. “It gives our audience an additional level of access and accommodation and further removes barriers for anyone to enjoy the arts,” said Laird.
While the Newark Symphony Hall is pursuing significant renovations and amplifying its reach, economic impact isn’t the only goal for Laird. Referring to a study commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and conducted by Urban Institute, Laird is inspired by how the arts are what tie people emotionally to a community. “For communities of color, it is about quality of life and activating the community. In that study, other than affordable housing, transportation infrastructure and job opportunities, surveys identified the arts as a basic community need. I’m excited about our work in democratizing the arts and increasing access for a broader, more diverse community,” said Laird.