(TOMS RIVER, NJ) -- The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts and the Robert J. Novins Planetarium at Ocean County College have announced that Shannon Mayers has been hired as Executive and Artistic Director after a national executive search guided by Arts Consulting Group.
Mayers began her new position at OCC on July 12 and will be responsible for all activities of the two centers. She has more than 25 years’ experience in the arts, with extensive management and curatorial experience in professional and academic settings, including at the Arts Brookfield in New York City, the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, and, most recently, the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College in New Hampshire. Throughout her career, Shannon Mayers has produced and presented more than 1,000 performances, working with artists from 100 nations, ranging from celebrities like Bruce Springsteen to South African artists Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
She earned her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin and her BS in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and has been a guest lecturer at Theatre for a New Audience, Actors Theater of Louisville, Connecticut College, Queens College, College of Staten Island and Georgia Southern University.
Mayers is originally from New York City and was raised in an artistic family with a mother who was an actress. “I grew up within the arts and was lucky to have it all around me,” she says. “I loved to go to shows and museums and was always hanging out at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center.”
Over time, Mayers discovered that she loved the big picture — the totality of an event — and went into arts administration, after many years working in directing, teaching and event production. She sees her long career in the arts as a series of building blocks of areas that were of interest to her.
She loves working in higher education, “where the arts can become an incubator for new ideas and research, and where experiences are expanded. It’s a great place to take risks and work with a variety of students and faculty on different projects that are connected to their learning and teaching,” she says. “Making the arts happen, is one of my passions. I want people to know — and it’s important for everyone to know — that the arts can happen anywhere.”
“One of my strategic priorities is to increase our visibility and our audience to new groups that may not have considered participating or supporting the arts here in the past,” she says. “My passion is to entertain and engage audiences, inspire and enlighten the next generation of art enthusiasts, and to champion the arts as vital to the soul of every community.”
Another one of Mayers’ goals is to institute what she calls “Creative Connections,” a new arts series that will offer a variety of free public programming for the campus as well as the wider community.
Mayer also is excited to oversee the Novins Planetarium and plans to continue to integrate the sciences into the arts, which have a scientific component that people may not realize. To this end, the two centers (Grunin and Novins) may offer more integrated events in the future.
“An arts center within a college or university setting exposes a wide variety of people to what the whole college has to offer. The arts should be as accessible as possible. It’s clear how OCC values the arts — giving students the chance to learn by doing, and sharing what they learn. Sharing the arts is a holistic, integrated experience. The arts allow a safe place for dialog about challenging topics and it’s wonderful to see the College embracing that. I’m very committed to this,” she adds.
The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts is located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey.