East End Arts has welcomed a new executive director.
Shawn Hirst, 37, started Aug. 6 and spent the month working with outgoing executive director Pat Snyder. Her first official day was Tuesday.
“So far so good,” Ms. Hirst said of her first month. “Everyone I have met has been warm and welcoming to me.”
She said her biggest goals are to increase fundraising for the nonprofit, to continue growing their programs and to help stabilize some of their internal business practices.
These goals were what helped her stand out among the 50 candidates, John McLane, president of the Board of Directors at East End Arts, said.
“It was clear from the interview process Shawn came to us with experience at managing nonprofits as a business,” Mr. McLane said. “During the interview process she was incredibly prepared, probably the best prepared of all the candidates. And she has experience with the revitalization in Patchogue, which was key.”
Prior to coming to East End Arts, Ms. Hirst, of Lake Ronkonkoma, worked as the executive director of Patchogue-Medford Youth and Community Services for over six years, where she increased programs and diversified funding.
She said when she began they offered two programs in two schools for about 20 children. By the time she left there were nine programs in nine schools that serviced hundreds of children.
Her time there left her wanting to work for a bigger, more established organization rather than a grassroots program so she began working for Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center as chief development officer and the acting chief program officer.
“It was a very large organization, a little bit larger than I wanted,” she said. “I wanted to find a place that would give me that community feeling again but on a bigger scale … It kind of happened naturally that East End Arts was looking for somebody. I knew Riverhead was on the brink of something great, that’s what drove my interest.”
Ms. Hirst, who received her bachelor’s degree in social work from Syracuse University and her master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University, said she understands how important the arts are to the community and is excited to further developing and revitalizing programs to continue enriching lives of community members.
She said she’s excited to work with the staff, community, government and non-government groups and Board of Directors to further East End Arts growth.
During Ms. Snyder’s 23-year tenure she introduced numerous programs to the organization, including the Teeny Awards, JumpstART, Long Island Winterfest and the Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival, to name a few.
Ms. Snyder will be staying on throughout the year as an adviser to oversee the completion of some ongoing projects, Ms. Hirst said.
Ms. Hirst added that she’s most looking forward to next year’s Teeny Awards, an annual ceremony that celebrates excellence in high school theater, since her background includes working with youth.
“The arts touch lives,” Ms. Hirst said. “And does it throughout all stages of life. The arts isn’t something that comes in and out of our lives. From birth to death the arts have an influence over people that is profound.”