Laura Scales, a metro Detroit native with 17 years’ experience in professional stage and production management, has been named executive director of Living Arts, a Detroit-based arts education nonprofit.
Scales is currently as an academic specialist faculty member at Michigan State University’s department of theatre. Before joining MSU, she served as the production manager for the Theater and Performance Studies Program as well as the Chicago Performance Lab at the University of Chicago.
She served as the production manager for Chicago’s Emerald City Theatre Co., where she oversaw the mainstage and touring productions, and was the production management apprentice at the Steppenwolf Theatre Co.. Her stage management credits include being the resident stage manager at the Dorset Theater Festival in Vermont and a stage manager for the Human Festival in Chicago.
Living Arts’ 40 teaching artists have partnered with schools, organizations, and communities to bring arts education experiences to Detroit youth since its founding in 1999. The metro Detroit native said she is excited to return home to lead an arts organization that values diversity, equity, and inclusion and provides artistic opportunities for youth, especially coming out of a global pandemic that shuttered many creative outlets and isolated youth.
“Having been through this year, I can’t imagine going through it as a young person,” says Scales. “We’re here to help them process this year and to unpack it through art and expression. I want them to dance it out and draw it out. I want them to write about it, to sing about it, to illustrate it, and I think Living Arts is uniquely qualified to help students do that — not just in southwest Detroit, but across the metropolitan area.”
Scales says she sees Living Arts as a hub for arts education that can mobilize its resources to meet and engage with young people where they are.
“My hope is that we can be a destination for arts education, and that we can get our quality programming and expertise from our teaching artists into classrooms and homes,” she adds. “Even if they’re not actively pursuing art on a daily basis, we want to encourage students, parents, and the community to live through art.”
Living Arts is supported by a $1.1 million budget, raised through individual, corporate, and foundation partners.
The organization formed a search committee of parents, teaching artists, staff, and board members for the position. Koya Leadership Partners, The Kresge Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation also supported recruitment efforts.
Lasting five months, the hiring process brought in a range of diverse applicants, according to Living Arts leaders, but Scales stood out as the right fit due to her prior experiences and connection to the area.
“As an artist, small business owner, and production manager, Laura’s transferable skills lay the ideal foundation for an arts executive,” says Matt Nahan, board chair. “Her experience managing, budgeting, and working closely with artists, producers, and institutional stakeholders to bring creative vision to life on stage and in schools makes her the ideal person to lead the next phase of Living Arts.”
Scales will assume the role June 1, taking over for former executive director Alissa Novoselick. Novoselick says she believes in Scales’ vision for the organization.
“I look forward to watching and supporting her vision to elevate the transformational role that the arts play in young people’s lives,” says Novoselick.