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Search begins for new arts council director

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POTSDAM — The search is on for a new executive director for the St. Lawrence County Arts Council after Hilary M. Oak, the current director, announced that she will be stepping down as soon as a replacement is found.

“I feel like I’ve taken the organization pretty much as far as I can,” she said.

Ms. Oak joined the St. Lawrence County Arts Council as board president in December 2001, at a time when the council was almost non-existent, defunct in all but name.

Over the last decade, the board worked to build the council back up. Ms. Oak became the executive director in 2005. The council’s successes and challenges during this time can be summed up in one word: growth.

“The arts council has grown exponentially over these last 10 years,” Ms. Oak said. “Every year we’ve had new growing pains.”

The new executive director will be responsible for organizing the council’s various projects, including art education classes and the gallery and gift shop on 51 Market St.

They will also manage the council’s staff of eight employees, fund raise and look for grants to support future programs.

Her successor will also have to find a way to help the arts council thrive in the midst of a struggling economy.

“The effects of the recession are hitting us from all sides,” Ms. Oak said.

Most people are less likely to buy art than they once were. Financial resources from the government are not forthcoming.

“We want to make sure we find someone who not only has the right skills, but the right personality to do the job,” Ms. Oak said. “A sense of humor goes a long way.”

Several applications have already been received, and a selection likely will be made by October.

Local candidates are preferred, according to Ms. Oak, but anyone with the proper skills and experience will be considered.

Ms. Oak said she will stay with the council until her replacement is found and properly trained.

“It’s an important transition, so we want to make sure we handle it carefully and appropriately,” she said.

As for Ms. Oak, once she steps down she plans on starting a healing service in her home inspired by Thai meditation techniques.

“I’m interested in exploring a career that lets me not have to work on the computer, and that lets me work one-on-one with people,” she said.

She plans to continue volunteering with the arts council and teaching sewing classes.

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