Marialaura Leslie is an arts administrator with thirty years of experience in nonprofit arts management, cultural policy and local arts agency operations. She serves as Deputy Director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, a public arts agency with an annual budget of more than $50 million, dedicated to strengthening the work of arts organizations and artists in Miami-Dade County through grants and technical assistance; promoting arts education; making cultural activities more equitable and accessible for all residents and visitors; building new and improving existing cultural facilities; operating arts centers; managing public art projects and improving the visual quality of the County’s built environment. She joined the Department in 2001, moved to New York City for 5 years and returned to the Department in 2014. Prior to being promoted to Deputy Director in 2018, Marialaura served as Chief of Strategic Initiatives. During her tenure at the Department of Cultural Affairs, she has managed millions in grants programs, led technical assistance workshops, developed equity initiatives, created professional development opportunities for arts administrators of color, and oversaw the Department’s communications strategies promoting cultural opportunities for artists and arts groups as well as their audiences. She administered the International Cultural Exchange Program, New Forms Grant for individual artists, Dance Miami Choreographers Fellowship Program, and the Community Grants Program, a quarterly competitive program that funds two hundred cultural organizations each year. Marialaura has led several grants writing workshops for individual artists and cultural groups, created the Miami Emerging Arts Leaders and worked with the Creative Capital Foundation to produce the Creative Capital Miami Professional Development Program. In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, she worked closely with Cultural Affairs Director Michael Spring to successfully develop and implement the Miami-Dade Arts Support (MAS) program, allocating 100% of the federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds approved for Miami-Dade County’s arts community, representing more than $10 million to cultural organizations, artists and artist-entrepreneurs.
Marialaura has worked with cultural institutions in Miami, New York and Puerto Rico, including Miami City Ballet, Coconut Grove Playhouse, City Theater, Jerry Herman Ring Theater at the University of Miami, Miami Hispanic Ballet, International Ballet Festival of Miami, Queens Jazz Orchestra, Teatro del Sesenta, Balleteatro de Nana Hudo and Taller de Otra Cosa. She has worked with many renown artists including Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Herman, Kathleen Turner, Carol Channing, Tony Randall, Jack Klugman, Eli Wallach, Theodore Bikel, and NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath. In NYC, she worked at El Museo del Barrio, a major Latino and Latin American museum on Fifth Avenue with a 572-seat theater. Previously, Marialaura served as Deputy Director of Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts at the historic Flushing Town Hall, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Queens and a partner venue for Carnegie Hall’s Neighborhood Concert Series with an art gallery and a 300-seat theater. Marialaura served as the Queens Borough Leader for the NYC Cultural Institutions Group Government Affairs Committee and as co-captain for the State of New York during National Arts Advocacy Day 2012 in Washington, D.C.
Marialaura was a founding member and Past Chair of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council from 2002-2007. She was named among the Top 25 Powerful People in the Arts in America (Barry’s Blog) and received the 2005 Emerging Arts Leader Award from the Arts & Business Council. In 2004, she served as a Member of the South Florida Cultural Board of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration. In 2020, she was honored by the South Florida Theatre League with the Remy Award for Civic Arts Leadership.
Marialaura has served on grants panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, New York State Council on the Arts, Arts Council of Indianapolis, Arts and Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina, Florida Division of Arts and Culture, Nebraska Arts Council, Queens Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. She has traveled with the Miami-Dade County International Trade Consortium and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce on business development missions to South America to promote Miami’s cultural assets. Marialaura is a current member of Americans for the Arts, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, Florida Cultural Alliance, the Arts Action Fund, the Cultural Tourism Committee of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a former member of The Beacon Council’s Creative Design Committee. She also serves as liaison to the Greater Miami Festival and Events Association.
She has presented at various conferences including Americans for the Arts, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, National Arts Marketing Project Conference, Florida Alliance for Arts Education, Florida Association of Museums, Arts and Business Council of Miami, and the Arts Extension Service - University of Massachusetts Amherst Winter Arts Management Institute.
Marialaura studied theater and dance at Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR) under Gilda Navarra, Idalia Pérez Garay, Jorge Luis Ramos Escobar, Dean Zayas, Rosabel Otón and Viveca Vazquez. A member of UPR’s Teatro Rodante, her favorite role was The Young Lady in August Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata. Marialaura worked with theaters in Puerto Rico, including Teatro del Sesenta, where she performed for two years in ¡Mete Mano...es cuestión de bregar!, a long-running touring show educating the public on HIV/AIDS and with Cuarzo Blanco (Balseando con Edelmira by Sergio Arrau; El Misterio de la No Lluvia by Adriana Pantoja.) She trained in ballet, jazz, modern, Spanish dance and pantomime under Nana Hudo. She performed with Teatro del Sesenta, Cuarzo Blanco, Danza Contacto, Ecuador’s Wilson Pico and studied in workshops with Peru’s Yuyachkani, led by Miguel Rubio.
Beginning in the late eighties, she worked for 9 years with Balleteatro Infantil de Nana Hudo, as an Administrative Assistant in the dance studio; as a Production Coordinator in dozens of dance theater shows; as an Assistant Dance Instructor for students with disabilities including children affected by spina bifida and on the autism spectrum; and, as a Grantswriter for Taller de Varones, an initiative to provide free ballet training for boys and young men ages (3-25), producing alumni who went on to perform with New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Ballet de San Juan, Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico, and Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet, among others.
In the early nineties, Marialaura worked as a Production Assistant with Rompeformas: Maratón de Baile, Performance y Visuales, an experimental dance and performance summer festival, which presented more than 60 Latinx artists from across the Americas in performances, exhibitions, theater installations, poetry and spoken word events, panel discussions and workshops in San Juan from 1989-1996. Produced by Viveca Vázquez (San Juan-based Taller de Otra Cosa) and Merián Soto (NYC-based Pepatian), Rompeformas gave Marialaura the unique opportunity to work with phenomenal Latinx artists including Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Coco Fusco, Arthur Aviles, and Nuyorican Poets Café Founding Poets: Rev. Pedro Pietri, Miguel Algarin and Sandra Maria Esteves.
Marialaura has a MA in Arts Administration from Goucher College and BA with a double major in Theater Arts Management and Spanish from University of Miami. Marialaura is a proud member of the United Way’s Women United Miami leadership group.