Ballet Veteran Takes Helm of United Arts Council

by Jeff Lytle

A Naples native with international ballet dancing and management experience is the new executive director at the United Arts Council, which promotes, coordinates and plans ahead for culture in Collier County.

Elysia Dawn (Courtesy Hana Snajdroval)

Elysia Dawn brings degrees from Columbia University in arts, business and management. She danced and worked there as well as with companies in New York, Montreal and Boston. Dawn’s resume also includes fundraising and arranging events for the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and GAMMIL (Hebrew for waves) in New York.

She moved back to Naples to work remotely and be closer to family, including parents Jeff and Lucy Fridkin, when the UAC post opened up. She answered questions for Life in Naples.

Q: Before going to New York, did you train or dance in the Naples area?

A: I did indeed! I trained with several different teachers who wonderfully nurtured my love of dance during my formative years including Debi Clementi, Ana Kaiser and Robert and Barbro Roland. I also had the incredible opportunity to perform at Artis—Naples for what I believe was its first dance performance. It was with Miami City Ballet which, at the time, would include local children in performances of The Nutcracker. Some years later, I danced the lead children’s role of Marie and the founding artistic director, Edward Villella, came to find and speak with me backstage. Our conversation led to my family and I thinking of ballet as a real career path, which then led to my dancing in New York and around the world before getting to come back home.

Dawn with Mikhail Barysh;nikov after they performed in Boston in 2002

Q: Your resume is so broad and varied in the performance as well as the business sectors of the arts. How will that prepare you for the challenges of the UAC post?

A: One of the biggest challenges is finding the balance of making the biggest impact on the arts within the organization’s abilities. I’m grateful to have had the invaluable opportunity to live the life of an artist before discovering my interest in the business of the arts. I think it’s my deep love of the arts that drives my business side to succeed. All organizations operate within limitations, and it takes passion and creativity to stretch them and strengthen operations. I want so much to share the moving power of the arts with as many people as possible, and I do have experience with stretching and strengthening both physically and figuratively.

Q: The local arts scene today seems so dynamic, with multiple theater projects planned or underway. How will they blend with the various smaller arts groups and individual artists who vie for public support?

A: That’s an important question that lies in many hands and one that I hope spurs conversations which UAC can facilitate. We aim to help all our arts organizations, groups, and individuals be well-supported regardless of size. They are all valuable as part of a healthy and dynamic arts environment. As we’re reaching out to the organizations, groups and individuals we are affiliated with, we also encourage those we aren’t connected with yet to reach out to us and see how we might be able to help them, as well.

Q: Is Naples an arts destination yet?

A: It is and growing into its potential to become even more of one. The more the arts are funded, the more they’ll flourish.

Q: In the past, local arts groups could collide rather than collaborate on issues. Can you offer ideas for better relationships and complementing efforts?

A: I envision UAC serving as the heart of the arts in Collier County. Art is crucial to culture and infuses inspiration into community, which is all part of one interdependent body. It is a goal of mine to find ways in which UAC can be a uniting thread throughout our arts community. I believe UAC is uniquely positioned to do so and I aim to develop mutually beneficial collaborations and partnerships among people and organizations from all arts disciplines, which can positively impact our Collier community at large. I’d like to hear from our local groups as to how we might best serve them and find creative ways to work together toward our common goal of serving the arts and our community. I expect we will find many exciting ways to keep suffusing life into our arts and creating more opportunities and growth for all involved.

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