Meet Snug Harbor's new CEO: Aileen Chumard Fuchs introduced at Neptune Ball
June 10, 2017
By Rob Bailey
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The borough's bona fide culture hub has an announcement to make: Aileen Chumard Fuchs is a Snug fit.
After an intensive six-month search, the new president and CEO of Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden was announced Friday at the 34th annual Neptune Ball.
She is set to take the reins of the Livingston campus in mid-July.
"Having recently moved to Staten Island -- less than one mile from Snug -- it is a dream opportunity to contribute to the cultural vibrancy of this incredible community where I am raising my children," said Chumard Fuchs, who's served since 2014 as executive director of programs and exhibits for the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.
The Neptune Ball -- co-chaired for the third time by Dr. Gracelyn Santos and Brian J. Laline, executive editor of the Advance -- served as an elaborate welcome party of sorts.
Chumard Fuchs was met with a festive "Carnevale dell'Arte" theme courtesy of Westerleigh's Gustavo Galvan, a young man who's worked his way from former Snug intern to full-fledged event designer with a citywide clientele.
But don't think gaudy Baroque golds and plastic Mardi Gras beads -- this Neptune was all about understated elegance with pops of color: An array of strolling human topiary, an ivy-draped stilt walker and one energetic guy who looked like a Marcel Marceau reincarnated.
Oh, and there were (no kidding) hot air balloons rides on the lawn.
But make no mistake, this was a very tasteful affair. Galvan centered the opening action to never pull focus from the beautifully groomed Tuscan Garden.
Passed hors d'oeuvres paired with delicate string music before Snug's new leader was announced on the outdoor stage.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AILEEN
At the Navy Yard's BLDG 92, its gallery and visitor center, Chumard Fuchs gained a hands-on understanding of tenant-landlord relationships on a cultural site -- something that certainly falls into the purview of her new gig.
"Snug Harbor is one of the most unique cultural destinations in NYC and I am truly excited to connect with local residents and attract new audiences to this beautiful, culturally rich and historically significant site," Chumard Fuchs said.
Chumard Fuchs replaces Lynn B. Kelly, who left Snug in October 2016after six years spent stabilizing the institution -- once on the brink of closing -- financially.
"Aileen is an experienced arts professional with a deep understanding of how to breathe life into historically significant, off-the-beaten-path, iconic NYC places as evidenced by her work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard," said Kelly, who now serves as executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, which works to ensure parks and open spaces are equitably distributed and maintained citywide.
"She has equal parts energy and vision and I am confident that under her leadership, Snug Harbor will realize its full potential as a citywide cultural destination and resource for Staten Island," Kelly added. "I couldn't think of a better person to pick up where I left off. We should all welcome Aileen with open arms."
THE SEARCH COMMITTEE'S FINDINGS
Mark Lauria, chairman of Snug's board of directors, said the search committee was impressed by Chumard Fuchs' creative vision, a track record of "dramatic" program growth and a proven ability to build relationships to support fundraising goals.
"The search committee worked long and hard to select the candidate. It was a difficult decision. The talent pool was impressive," Lauria said. "Aileen is a very talented and impressive individual who will brand Snug on Staten Island and in the region. She is enthusiastic and very bright with a can-do attitude."
Her background includes considerable work in establishing community partnerships: She developed specialized tours and programs for certain industries on the site and launched "sector socials" to help foster cross-sector business collaborations.
While growing public tours from a few dozen per year to several hundred annually, Chumard Fuchs also served as an internal marketing resource to the 300-plus businesses that make up the Yard's industrial tenants.
Prior to that, Chumard Fuchs worked for the American History Workshop as a curatorial associate on exhibits mounted in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. She holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts & English from Muhlenberg College, and an M.A. in Public History from New York University.
BUT BACK TO THE WELCOME PARTY
After a playful performance by the Tarantella Dance Troupe (owners of the most developed calf muscles this grown man has ever seen), Neptune emcee Joe "Brooklyn's Own" Causi took the stage for the announcement of the 2017 Neptune Visionary Award honorees:
Dr. William Fritz, President, College of Staten Island; Dr. Richard Guarasci, President, Wagner College; and Dr. James O'Keefe, Vice Provost, Staten Island Campus, St. John's University were recognized for their leadership on the borough's 30,000 Degrees program, which aims to build and support a college-going culture at the high school level.
Afterward, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver stepped to the podium to declare himself "blown away by the garden, by the entertainment. This is one of the most amazing gardens in all of New York City. So, hats off to you."
Next up: Snug's board presented the Community Anchor Award to a charmingly modest chef Vittorio Asoli, owner of Trattoria Romana in Dongan Hills. The Neptune Award for the Arts when to Adam and Tanya Glassman, the young creative duo behind In the Wings Productions.
Board Chairman Lauria and interim Snug CEO Jeffrey Manzer (i.e. the chief financial officer of Snug) then touched briefly upon renovation projects in store with Snug's $30 million in capital monies.
Lauria also praised the ongoing/invaluable contributions of donors in attendance, the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs, and, full disclosure, my fearless leader: Brian J. Laline, Snug board member and executive editor of the Staten Island Advance.
As night fell, co-chairs Laline and Santos brought Lauria back to the stage to surprise the garden crowd with the announcement of a new leader with "vision."
"I can tell you that this young lady will take us to the next level," Lauria said, before his new president and CEO took the mic to greet her new public.
Chumard Fuchs' welcome party then segued into the Great Hall for cocktails and gourmet farm-to-table fare from the new RELISH catering team at Snug Harbor. BTW: The backdrop of the carving station was a suspended aerial hoop performer.
Well played, Gustavo, well played.