Delray Magazine March/April 2020

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WRITTEN BY RICH POLLACK

Shannon Eadon The new CEO of Old School Square has big plans for Delray’s iconic cultural center

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hen she graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in marketing and communications, Shannon Eadon was just one credit short of earning another degree in fine arts. She said she’s always “loved to draw” which may come in handy at her new job as president and CEO of Old School Square, where she’ll be drawing up plans to rebrand and revitalize the cultural epicenter of Delray Beach. Hired after an intensive five-month search that included more than 100 applicants, Eadon joined the Old School Square staff in October, filling a void that had been open for almost a year and a half following the sudden resignation of former president and CEO Rob Steele. Since coming onboard, she has been taking a wider approach to running the organization—never losing focus of the importance of programming as well as providing arts outreach to the community. Fundraising is also a big part of her role as she ensures Old School Square stays on strong financial footing. She believes by rebranding the organization—with an emphasis on its not-for-profit status—she can have measurable success. “There’s a huge opportunity here for growth,” she says. A strong believer in arts education, Eadon hopes to bring the arts into the community with after-school offerings as well as programs at hospitals and other facilities. She also wants to bring more children into Old School Square. “When you teach through the arts, you teach through both sides of the brain,” she says. Eadon also sees opportunities to enhance programming at the Crest Theatre and the outdoor pavilion, and she’s made plans to bring back Old School Square’s popular lecture series. She wants to start an afternoon classic movie series and maintain the well-liked cabaret series. Another of Eadon’s goals is to diversify the Old School Square audience and make sure programming is inclusive. Eadon doesn’t have a background in the arts per se—she didn’t direct plays or sing on stage or draw or paint commercially. Instead, she

comes from the business world, and her introduction to the arts and cultural profession came almost by accident. Which may have been a plus for board members who were looking for someone with a strong background in fundraising. “Shannon brings the much needed structure and professionalism to Old School Square necessary to facilitate its further growth,” says Scott Porten, who led the search committee. “Her key strengths are in development, which has always been our organization’s weakness.” Eadon had an impressive career in advertising, served on several boards in the Monmouth, N.J., area and eventually started her own events company, planning weddings, private parties and charitable events. Her first exposure to the cultural arts profession came in 2011 when she served as the director of development for Count Basie Theater foundation in Red Bank, N.J. During her tenure there, Eadon helped triple the development budget from $1 million to $3 million while also developing a corporate sponsorship program and growing a membership program by 40 percent. In 2017, she moved to the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, N.J. as director of development, and helped the center grow annual revenue by 60 percent. After almost three years of a two-hour commute each way, Eadon decided it was time for a change. “I decided to start looking for other opportunities,” she says. “I had never been to Delray Beach. My idea of Florida was hospital and medical rehab centers. Then I came here and was blown away by the beauty and the vibrancy.” Eadon, who now lives here with her husband of 37 years while her two adult children remain up north, says she was also impressed with Delray Beach’s sense of community, with the team at Old School Square and with the board. “This team is amazing,” she says, adding that the group of 21 full-time employees and hundreds of part-time staff and volunteers host more than 3,600 events a year, including the classes. “And the board is so passionate about this organization,” she said. “I’ve never seen a board like this.”

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AARON BRISTOL

I had never been to Delray Beach. My idea of Florida was hospital and medical rehab centers. Then I came here and was blown away by the beauty and the vibrancy.

march/april 2020

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