Adirondack Diversity Initiative’s new leader says she’s up to the task


SARANAC LAKE – Tiffany Rea-Fisher is used to taking center stage as a dancer, choreographer and artistic director. On Feb. 1 she will be in a new spotlight as the Adirondack Diversity Initiative’s director. 

Rea-Fisher heads the Lake Placid School of Dance and is executive artistic director of EMERGE125, a dance company that teaches students in Harlem and Lake Placid. She is the first woman of color to be the Lake Placid school’s director. The 41-year-old lives in Saranac Lake with her husband and 18-month-old daughter, and plans to juggle work between her dance company and ADI. She will be part-time at first, transitioning to full-time at ADI starting March 6. Rea-Fisher said she will alternate each week between Harlem and Saranac Lake. 

Rea-Fisher replaces ADI’s first director, Nicole Hylton-Patterson, who left in October for a nonprofit position in New York City. ADI is a burgeoning program under the nonprofit Adirondack North Country Association and focuses on ways to make the approximately 6-million acre Adirondack Park more welcoming and inclusive. Rea-Fisher said she’s up to the task.

“A lot of time artists don’t get the credit that we deserve, because a lot of the things organizations do, we have to do,” she said. She balances budgets, brainstorms ways to make “abstract concepts more tangible for people,” and communicates with people from all over the world, in her director roles. 

Elizabeth Cooper, executive director of ANCA, has temporarily served in the ADI director position. She thinks Rea-Fisher’s background is a huge asset to the program and will help her show why diversity, equity and inclusion are important.

“She’s very much going to be the face of ADI,” Cooper said. “I think very much through her dance she is used to being out in front. That is something that comes very naturally to her.”

ANCA received about 20 applications for the job and conducted interviews into early January. Cooper said one of the applicants talked about the Adirondack Park as though it was a place people visited for the day and left at night. Rea-Fisher, Cooper said, already lives in the park and understands its uniqueness.

Search team member Rocci Aguirre, Adirondack Council deputy director, said “Tiffany just brought something exceptional — a solid background in Adirondack-related issues, practical knowledge, passion and a certain fearlessness that I think made her the right person for ADI at this time.” 

Rea-Fisher was a principal dancer for Elisa Monte Dance for eight years, eventually becoming the company’s artistic director from 2016 to 2017. She first came to the Adirondacks in 2003, she said, as an artist-in-residence. Every September the dance company would provide three-week residencies. Now, she is the one bringing dancers from New York City to the Adirondacks, championing its outdoor, historical and cultural offerings. She has been the director of the Lake Placid School of Dance at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts since 2018.

Martha Swan, founder and executive director of John Brown Lives!, is also a member of ADI’s core team. Last year, the organization awarded Rea-Fisher the Spirit of John Brown Freedom Award, which “honors women and men whose work invokes the passion and conviction of the 19th-century abolitionist and celebrates leaders and innovators in civil and human rights whose courage, creativity, and commitment are models for others to follow,” according to its website.

Swan said Rea-Fisher was also one of the awardees for a grant program called “Creatives Rebuild New York,” funding full-time artists at organizations to help boost the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic. She is working with John Brown Lives! on a dance film she hopes will air this year at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

“She is extraordinarily creative and effective,” Swan said. “She’s very clear, very communicative. I also feel very lucky, very fortunate for John Brown Lives! Because I think this will open and deepen opportunities to work with ADI.”

Cooper also hopes Rea-Fisher will resume programming that ADI was attempting, such as bringing students in kindergarten through senior year of high school from New York City to the Adirondacks. She would also like to see ADI help local schools create diversity, equity and inclusion committees and develop better pipelines for people of color to get jobs as forest rangers and police officers in the park. 

Housing will also be an issue for her to work on, and Rea-Fisher understands the difficulty of that firsthand. For seven years, Rea-Fisher and husband Matthew Fisher searched for a home in the Adirondacks, relying on short-term rentals in the interim. It wasn’t until last March that they closed on a house in Saranac Lake. 

The number of short-term rentals has astounded her, and made her wonder what impact that has had on schools, sports teams, scouting programs and other community activities. 

“When everything is transient and transactional, what does that do to a community?” she said. “There are very strong neighborhoods, but that transitional, transient culture is creeping in. I never want the Adirondacks to be unaffordable for people that want to be here. It can’t just be a playground for the rich. The Adirondacks deserve more than that, and the people of the Adirondacks deserve more than that.”

This story is from the Adirondack Explorer, a nonprofit news organization that covers the Adirondack Park. Its journalism is published in a bimonthly magazine and daily on




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