Spearheading Change

Pat Snyder is a master of the transition. She was an art teacher in the Bridgehampton School District when she posed a simple question. The answer led to a new career and the expansion of the East End Arts Council. Inc. in Riverhead. The question was this: “Do you want to offer art classes?”

At the time, the non-profit organization was poised to morph after absorbing the Eastern Suffolk School of Music, which had just closed. Art wasn’t on their minds but it was on Snyder’s. She began teaching art and quickly became Education Director. Five years later, she became the Executive Director and never looked back.

Fast forward 10 years. The education department has a full slate of adult and children’s art classes. There are music classes, music ensembles, an artist-in-residency program and judged art exhibits. There’s an on-site gallery spanning three rooms. Art shows are also held in three satellite locations. Classes and lectures take place in two locations—Riverhead and Greenport. Forty five students blossomed into around 500. Membership has doubled.

“We change lives through the arts,” Snyder said. “We understand the value of the arts to enrich lives and strengthen communities. We develop innovative programs that reach across demographic lines. We utilize the arts to provide support to individuals and communities.”

EEAC is on another cusp and Snyder is ready to shepherd in the changes. A major award is being extended this month. A new website is on the horizon. A new name and logo was recently unveiled to reflect the organization’s new attitude, Snyder said. Now named East End Arts, the change reflects EEA’s commitment to bringing arts and culture to communities beyond their Riverhead headquarters. The expansion coincides with the organization’s 40th anniversary, Snyder pointed out.

“I believe there is no limit to what the East End Arts can accomplish,” Snyder said. “We have a strong presence in Riverhead, a growing presence in Greenport and a goal for more visibility on the South Fork… We offer broad education programs, community development and cultural tourism. We’re moving incrementally but we’re moving forward.”

Successes include the Winterfest (Jazz on the Vine) concert series, the Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival, Renaissance Kids Camp and The Teeny Awards (high school drama award program), Snyder said. She initiated all of these programs. Another success is the Harvest Gospel concerts series are celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“I get joy from developing innovative programs and I’m provided the freedom to do so,” Snyder said.

When she can break away from her executive director duties, Snyder enjoys picking up a paint brush or pencil. Taking the occasional drawing or painting class allows her to reconnect and rejuvenate. But it’s her start as an art teacher that provides an intimate understanding of the role the arts play in learning and in life, she said. Watching students and adults benefit from learning art or music brings personal fulfillment.

“My satisfaction comes from seeing the successes of the students and artists we serve,” she said. “The scholarship students who are now professional musicians or are attending college in the area of arts. Musicians that gained visibility through Winterfest and benefited with a full schedule of new gigs. Visual artists that began their career in a gallery exhibit and now have broad visibility. The list goes on and on.” eastendarts.org.

pat rogers

Pat Rogers is a freelance writer specializing in arts and culture on Long Island. When not going to art openings or interviewing actors or musicians, she’s looking for the next interesting story.