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Sep 11, 2018 3:54 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

East End Arts Welcomes New Executive Director

Shawn Hirst sits on a lounge chair at the front of the East End Arts building on Main Street in Riverhead. VALERIE GORDON
Sep 11, 2018 3:54 PM

Shawn Hirst’s smile is infectious. It’s no wonder that the East End Arts Board of Directors would be drawn to her.

The 37-year-old Ronkonkoma resident is the newest addition to the Riverhead-based nonprofit, taking over for Patricia Snyder as executive director. Ms. Snyder, who devoted more than two decades to the local arts advocacy organization, officially stepped down from her post last month, after working alongside her successor for several weeks.

And while Ms. Hirst said this week that filling Ms. Snyder’s shoes will not be an easy feat, she is excited to take on the challenge.

“When someone is here for a long time they make an impact on the community and I hope to do the same,” she said.

Officially stepping into her role as the Main Street organization’s highest ranking administrator on August 6, Ms. Hirst plans to streamline and expand the nonprofit’s internal business practices through innovative fundraisers and by reaching out to community partners.

“To continue to grow the organization is a really big goal,” she said.

In turn, she hopes to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Riverhead—a goal that she shares with Board of Directors President John McLane.

While working as the executive director for Patchogue-Medford Youth & Community Services, she watched as the once derelict downtown areas of Patchogue transformed, through art, into a robust community.

“I was very intrigued by EEA for that purpose,” Ms. Hirst said. “The arts really can impact people. As someone who has been involved in nonprofits my entire career, the mission of EEA is something that spoke to me.”

For nearly a decade, Ms. Hirst provided emotional support services for at-risk families and individuals facing financial hardships, divorce, unemployment, and other mental health concerns for the Patchogue-based community center. In total, she has more than 15 years of experience managing nonprofits, including serving as the chief development officer and the acting chief program officer for The Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Commack.

“This background will be critical to our successful collaboration and support of Riverhead’s downtown revitalization,” Mr. McLane said of Ms. Hirst’s previous engagements.

“At all of my jobs I’ve been instrumental in implementing development and fundraising strategies,” Ms. Hirst said. “… Be assured that East End Arts has a bright future.”

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