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Executive director of East End Arts steps down from yearslong helm at advocacy organization 

Patricia Snyder led the group for 23 years and helped expand membership, school enrollment and create the JumpstART development program for artists.

After more than 20 years as the head of one of the East End’s biggest arts advocacy groups, Patricia Snyder is calling it a day.

Snyder officially stepped down Friday as executive director for the Riverhead-based arts organization and will be succeeded by Shawn Hirst.

Snyder, a Riverhead resident who joined East End Arts in 1995 as an arts teacher, said Friday that she felt that it was time to pass the torch. “Now is the time to move on,” she said.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, the Riverhead Town Board and Suffolk County Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) and Bridget M. Fleming (D-Noyack) presented Snyder with proclamations for her efforts in promoting arts in downtown Riverhead at the arts organization’s annual members meeting on Aug. 21.

“Within Riverhead, Patricia Snyder has touched the lives of so many through the projects and programs of East End Arts, and our Town owes her a large debt of gratitude for her service and contributions,” Jens-Smith wrote in the proclamation she presented to Snyder.

Noting Riverhead has struggled with negative perceptions due to empty downtown storefronts and its economic struggles, Snyder said she felt some of the organization’s arts initiatives, such as the Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival in downtown Riverhead and “Winterfest — Live on the Vine,”a four-week, midwinter music, wine and performing arts festival, have helped fight that image.

“I think over the years, local government and people in general are getting to know and see that you can make people happy through the arts,” said Snyder, 62. “It’s such a positive experience that it can change an attitude.”

Among the programs Snyder said she was most proud of helping create is “JumpstART,” a professional development program for up-and-coming artists, and developing the organization’s East End Art School, which serves more than 1,000 students annually and offers a full visual arts program for adults and children, as well as year-round private and group instruction in music. Students who gained scholarships through the school have gone on to have professional arts and music careers.

Snyder said she hopes the town can integrate more artists into town activities and that East End Arts can collaborate with other local groups and town officials to promote the arts in Riverhead. Those who’ve worked with her praised her time with the organization.

“During her tenure at East End Arts, Pat Snyder led a tremendous expansion in membership and enrollment at our school, and created signature events and programming that set a strong foundation for our future,” said John McLane, president of the board of directors at East End Arts. “We will miss her creativity and enthusiasm, and wish her well in her future activities.”

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