Shannon Mayers, director of the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College, contributes to the community by promoting all art and performances in and around the KSC campus.
Mayers’ goal is to help build relationships and creativity with both the Keene community and KSC students. Mayers said she became the director of the Redfern Arts Center in the fall of 2011.
Since her hire, Mayers’ focus has been to bring the Redfern to a new level. Mayers has brought a variety of artists to the Redfern Arts Center to perform for students and the Keene community. Mayers said she is working on a project called Creative Collections, which is a guide to outreach and engagement for the performances she brings to the campus. Her goal is to create workshops and involvement with Redfern productions so the performances don’t just disappear.
“It was important to me to not just have ‘here’s a show’ and it just goes away. And maybe there’s one workshop attached to it and there’s no connection to the community or other departments,” Mayers said.
Hannah Scheck, box office manager at the Redfern, said, “She’s [Mayers] very passionate about what she does. She really loves bringing different shows to the Redfern. She tries to educate people and bring things that the college is going to benefit from and possibly tie in with different classes and majors.”
Mayers said that audience members and students can actually talk to and be involved with the artists. Creative Collections lists all of the events that the Redfern does with all of their events and different departments that work with the Redfern in putting the event together. This is to show that the programming of events goes beyond just a show.
“The goal is to make the artists very accessible to our community. It makes a difference,” Mayers stated.
Mayers said she strives to create events students can participate in and be a part of. She has brought performing artists to different classrooms so students can receive a one-on-one experience with the performers.
Mayers said that her support staff for Redfern events are all students at KSC. She hires students for crews, ushers, marketing assistants and the box office, among other positions. Mayers has worked with different programs on campus for events, including Residential Life. In the past, she’s also worked with Holloway Hall’s Appreciating the Arts parliament. She gave the residents free tickets to a show called “Spanish Harlem,” so the students could experience the art for themselves. Communication and Information Officer of the Redfern Sharon Fantl said, “She’s [Mayers] recognized the ability that not just the performance in making people feel connected to what we do and how some of that is possible through other programs. So I think she’s really focused on engagement as a tool.”
Along with her position as director of the Redfern Arts Center, Mayers said she is also the building manager for the Redfern. She provides upgrades for the Redfern building and works to market the arts of the Redfern. Mayers is in charge of keeping equipment such as musical instruments in good shape for students who study in the Redfern, along with the building, as much as possible. Mayers explained that the technology for theater changes constantly, but she does the best she can so students who study theater and dance get the best learning experience possible.
A student commented on how the Redfern provides students with services. “The Redfern has a lot of great practice rooms and they all have grand pianos and stands, so you can pretty much get music anywhere in there. Everything is really available to you,” Lauren Lecraw, KSC junior and music major, said. Mayers is also a member of the board for Arts Alive, which advocates art in the Monadnock region.
Mayers has been in performing arts since she was 17-years-old, performing in high school plays and being a part of theater camp from an early age. Mayers attended college at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, where she received her undergrad in performance studies. Mayers started in theater, but later found her passion in performing arts.
After graduating from Northwestern, she toured across the country in a van through New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Texas, Georgia and Massachusetts for guest directing summer stock, which are real theater performances every week during the summer season that showcase a variety of performing arts including professional theater, musicals and light opera.
In 1992, Mayers pursued her graduate studies in directing at the University of Texas in Austin. Mayers stayed in Texas for six years, working in the performing arts center as event stage manager and event coordinator for the college. In 1988, Mayers received a job offer at Hunter College in New York as a production manager in Hunter College’s performing arts center.
Mayers began teaching across New York City in middle and high schools about Shakespeare including Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. “I was getting a taste of everything and really getting interested in arts administration, still very much wanted to direct, still very much wanted to teach, so I had all these balls juggling in the air,” Mayers explained.
Mayers worked in children’s theater where she directed “Children of a Lesser God,” a play about a hearing teacher falling in love with a deaf woman, three times. Mayers became interested in deaf theater and learned sign language as an intern at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, one of only a few colleges that offer an institute for the deaf.
In 2002, Mayers got a job at the World Financial Center in their free arts program. This was across the street from where the World Trade Center was. “It was intense in the beginning because they were still rebuilding when I got hired in March of 2002. They were still rebuilding the World Financial Center while I was there. I still have my hard hat from that,” Mayers said. After working in the World Financial Center, Mayers went to work at Queens College in New York in arts administration and stage management where she created art programs for the college.
In 2008, Mayers went to John Jay College in New York where she started a presenting series for the criminal justice department. Mayers said that she loved working in universities because of the students. The series she created was called Art of Justice that involved programming events dealing with criminal and social justice.
Mayers saw the job listing for director of the Redfern Arts Center at KSC and applied in March of 2011. Mayers said that she was very interested in the programming offered at KSC and felt like the campus was inviting and would be a nice place to work. Mayers received the job and continues to bring art to the Redfern and the community.
Jacod Knehr can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org