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Naples Therapeutic Riding Center Hands the Reins of Executive Director to Esteemed Community Leader

Laura Burns is an impressive presence in Collier County. However, before she became a successful administrative leader and champion of Arts, she was a horse girl. The term horse girl has become a cliche in recent years, meaning that those who fall into this category speak nothing but their passion for what they love. Laura embodies this type of passion wholeheartedly, and it may have been the trait taught by horses that blossomed success in her Arts career and brought her full circle.  

Laura was gifted her first horse at twelve, and her mare, Mana Makani, was with her for 29 years. She dreamed of pursuing a career in the equine industry, but her creative skills got her noticed in another field. Laura’s undeniable talent earned her a scholarship from Savannah College of Art and Design that would redirect her career path. Laura studied for her Master of Arts in Art Administration from the University of Akron. She worked at a local non-profit called Hattie Larlham in Mantua, Ohio, where she once volunteered as a high school student—and subsequently co-founded a program about freedom of expression for individuals with severe and profound disabilities while pursuing her advanced degree. 

Laura’s successful career journey has numerous highlights. In New Zealand, she served in multiple positions, including Interim CEO for Creative Northland, where she played a pivotal part in enriching the region’s art and culture scene, working with local and central government.

Upon returning to the United States in June 2016, Laura landed in Naples, Florida, where she reunited with her family. Laura’s continued love for the arts led her to discover United Arts Collier (UAC), where she would soon serve as Executive Director. Laura’s career at UAC checked off individual goals and led to landmark community achievements. She was a key player in launching the Naples Uptown Art Festival and the Arts and Prosperity studies that led to developing and adopting the Collier County Arts and Culture Strategic Plan.

Laura’s next career opportunity guided her to Opera Naples. It was here that she met with unexpected challenges. Before Laura could begin developing strategic growth plans for the organization, Hurricane Ian swept across Southwest Florida. The devastation was immense and did not spare the Opera’s building. Despite her position as an administrator, Laura rolled up her sleeves and began working alongside her colleagues to clean storm damages, demonstrating the qualities of a true leader. When Laura speaks about this period, she fondly recalls that through the crisis, she bonded with workers with whom she might not otherwise have had close relationships. 

With her dedication to growth, implementation of team values, and sheer passion, Laura Burns will be an effective Executive Director who will lead Naples Therapeutic Riding Center into new growth.

Naples Therapeutic Riding Center extends the warmest welcome to its new Executive Director, Laura Burns.



Laura Burns and Horse

Pictured above is Laura with Mana Makani, her heart horse of 29 years.

Pictured below is a cherished memory of Laura’s. The image is of her son, with whom she shared the love of horses, sitting in a hay pile next to Mana Makani and Toby, Laura’s 18-Hand American Sport Horse.

Author Christian Vanorsdale

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