Incoming executive director Shawn Hirst, left, with Pat Snyder today at East End Arts' headquarters. Photo: Denise Civiletti

There was a passing of the baton today at East End Arts.

With little fanfare, longtime executive director of the arts organization finished up her last day of work in that position.

Her successor, Shawn Hirst of Lake Ronkonkoma, officially takes the helm as East End Arts’ seventh executive director on Tuesday. Hirst has been working side by side with Snyder since Aug. 6. Snyder will stay on in a part-time consulting role, concentrating on special projects, through the end of the organization’s fiscal year next summer.

Snyder has served East End Arts as executive director for 17 years and prior to that headed up its school of the arts, a post she was hired for in 1995, when the organization took over management of the Eastern Suffolk School of Music.

East End Arts, founded in 1972, has grown and prospered under Snyder’s leadership. With an annual operating budget of just under $1 million, East End Arts offers gallery shows, educational programs in music, visal art and theater, as well as individual private music instruction and produces more than a dozen events each year, including the popular Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival, which Snyder brought to downtown Riverhead in 1996.

Hirst comes to East End Arts from Suffolk YJCC in Commack, where she worked as chief development officer and acting chief program officer. Prior to that, Hirst was the executive director of Patchogue-Medford Youth and Community Services, a community-based organization providing social, recreational and educational services. She has a master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Syracuse University.

Hirst said her experience at Patchogue-Medford Youth and Community Services showed her the power of the arts to influence community development and revitalization.

“That’s what sparked my interest in East End Arts,” Hirst said today.

Her goal, she said, is to continue to continue to grow the organization, diversify its funding sources and expand its programming.

Headquartered on grounds owned by the Town of Riverhead, East End Arts occupies historic buildings on East Main Street in the heart of the downtown historic district.

Its galleries, gift shop and offices occupy the circa 1830 Davis-Corwin House. The carriage house to the rear of the Davis-Corwin building is used for instruction space, a professional recording studio and and an artist-in-residence apartment.

The circa 1860 Benjamin House is home to the East End Arts School, where professional faculty provide private and group instruction in music, visual arts and theater. The school is a member of the National Guild of Community Arts Education.

A barn on the grounds is slated to be renovated into a ceramics studio and oversight of that renovation is one of the special projects Snyder will be overseeing during the coming year.

During her 23-year tenure at East End Arts, Snyder said, “I have been reminded on a regular basis that the arts can indeed improve the face of a community and offer joy, hope and inspiration to individuals. I am proud to say East End Arts successfully demonstrates how the arts can touch lives from birth through to end of life.”

Snyder said Hirst has demonstrated success in executive leadership, strategic planning, program development, fundraising, board development and fiscal stability.

“I am confident East End Arts will be in good hands,” Snyder said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.