NAPLES — Opera Naples, one of Naples’ leading performing arts organizations, is excited to welcome Laura Burns as its new executive director, beginning October 2022. As a lifelong participant and experienced executive in the arts, Burns will be a valued addition to the renowned opera company.
“I am thrilled to work with Maestro Ramón Tebar and join Opera Naples in their endeavors to cultivate access to arts and culture for the Naples community and throughout Southwest Florida,” said Burns. “Their unwavering passion for delivering diverse international performances and educational opportunities for audiences of all ages matches my own, and I look forward to helping execute their vision.”
With over 25 years of experience in arts management, advanced training in arts administration and nonprofit management, she has served as a dedicated advocate for local arts and culture, developing partnerships and programs to effectively grow the arts and tourism in both the United States and New Zealand.
Burns previously served as the Executive Director of the United Arts Council (UAC) of Collier County in Naples. In this role, she led a variety of projects that were key to the advancement of public art planning and community development. She successfully collaborated with 23 different organizations as the UAC official representative of the local arts agency on behalf of Collier County for the Americans for the Arts survey, and also launched the Naples Uptown Art Festival, which brings thousands of art enthusiasts to the Naples Design District annually.
Additionally, Burns served as a lead visionary and acting liaison, implementing crucial studies and supporting development plans including the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study, a pilot Public Art Plan for the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Community Redevelopment Area and draft City of Naples’ Public Art Master Plan. She also worked in an advisory capacity with the City of Naples and Collier County government, spearheading the Collier County Arts and Culture Strategic Plan, which involved canvassing the community, hosting workshops and collaborating with area organizations to solidify Collier County’s commitment to arts and culture.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome Laura to Opera Naples as our Executive Director,” says Larry Ost, chairman of the board of trustees at Opera Naples. “She truly brings a unique perspective, breadth of knowledge and relationship-building skills that will be vital to the success and growth of our organization and the arts community as a whole.”
In addition to her efforts at UAC, Burns has served in various volunteer leadership roles, including chairwoman of the Public Art Advisory Committee for the City of Naples, an ad hoc art committee member at Bayshore Community Redevelopment Association in Naples and the founding director and president of the Naples Design District.
Prior to joining UAC, Burns served as operations manager and interim CEO at Creative Northland in New Zealand, one of the nation’s most diverse and challenging regions for progression in arts and culture. Her leadership style and entrepreneurial spirit is further exemplified by her time at Hattie Larlham Creative Arts in Ohio, a program that gives artists with severe disabilities an outlet to create without the focus of their limitations.
Burns received her Master of Arts in Arts Administration from the University of Akron in Ohio, completing specialized course work in nonprofit management. She also earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
Burns participated in Leadership Collier in 2019 and earned a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Certification from the University of South Florida Muma College of Business in 2021. She has received numerous awards, including recognition as an outstanding arts advocate in E’Bella Magazine in 2018, and as an influential business leader in the arts in Naples Illustrated Top 100 in 2020 and 2022.
Dedicated to presenting high-quality opera productions and concerts featuring internationally renowned performers and directors, Opera Naples is an artistic powerhouse. Since its inception, the company has presented such well-known grand operas as “La bohème,” “Carmen,” “Faust, “La Traviata,” “Madama Butterfly,” “Rigoletto,” “Tosca” and more. An advocate of community service and education outreach, Opera Naples has introduced opera to more than 60,000 children since its inception through its various programs, including Lee and Collier County in-school programs and performances, the Resident Artists Program and Summer Youth Program. The company has earned local, regional, and state government support. For more information, visit OperaNaples.org or contact info@OperaNaples.org.