Lynn Arts director Halter leaving job

April 16, 2012
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

A pot of tulips sat on a desk Friday in Lynn Arts Director Susan Halter's office while a vase of spring flowers perched atop a filing cabinet. They came with farewell notes and good luck wishes on what was to be Halter's last day at the helm of the local art organization she'd run for eight years.

"It was supposed to be my last day but my board gave me so much work Tuesday that I'll still be here next week," Halter said with a laugh.

Susan Halter poses for a photo at Lynn Arts last Friday
Susan Halter poses for a photo at Lynn Arts last Friday. (Item Photo / Angela Owens)

State Rep. Steven Walsh, D-Lynn, chairman of Lynn Arts Board of Directors, called Halter's move a big loss to both the organization and the community at large. But Walsh said part of the board's goal is to hire people who grow and he is happy that she has found an opportunity that is best for her.

When people think of Lynn Arts, most think of the building in Central Square that houses two galleries, the black box theater and holds cool art classes for kids. But, under Halter, the program's reach traveled much further than the square. That reach now includes a whole community.

In September, October, November and December, Lynn Arts embraces the community with its Fall Festival on the waterfront, Central Scare event, holiday sale opening and Holiday in the Square event.

"And the rest of the year we're quiet accept for four weeks of camp in the summer and art classes during February and April vacations," Halter said.

There are also adult art classes, shows and theater events and even projects with the schools.

Of all the programs she has started or built upon, Halter said she is most proud of the mural that has been slowly taking shape on the outside wall of the building and includes the entire city.

The project is the work of a several local artists as well as dozens of school children in four schools that created panels that will be added to the project in the spring. When it's done, Halter said the mural will be a representation of the city and what it means to people.

"It was $90,000 to fix the roof, $20,000 to fix the wall, $25,000 to go into the schools," she said. "It was a huge amount money to raise and a lot of not-noticeable prep work to get the project started."

When asked if there was any project or program that didn't work out or that she is sorry she never got to, Halter laughed and said "a million."

She said she would like to see the black box theater grow and that "Everyone still talks about a First Night Lynn, that's the dream."

Halter also laughed when asked about her legacy.

"It's not a personal one," she said. "The legacy is so many people working together."

Halter said she heard someone say at a recent conference that it only takes one person to start a change but she disagreed. She said it takes a community, it takes a group of people coming together to affect real change and she has seen that happen in downtown Lynn during her tenure.

"There has been a quantum shift over the last couple of years," she said.

Halter attributes a great part of the shift to the rezoning of the downtown. Economical Development and Industrial Corporation Executive Director James Cowdell spearheaded a drive when he was still on the City Council to rezone the area from strictly industrial use to mixed use. It opened the door for residents and retail to come into the downtown to live and work.

"The zoning change brought more people downtown and more people became invested in the area like Seth (Albaum) and Corey (Jackson)," she said. "Sometimes you need new energy. You need people to see the city in new way."

Halter will now be that new energy in Lowell. She leaves Lynn to become the Executive Director of Cultural Council and Director of Cultural Affairs for the city.

"It's very exciting," she said. "It's a great community and it's astounding the number of square footage of artist space up there and they're building out two new spaces."

Walsh said that Lowell's art community is one that Lynn aspires to replicate.

"Lowell is doing some of the things we hope will happen in Lynn in the near future," he said. "And the foundation that Susan has laid at Lynn Arts is a big part of that."

Longtime volunteer Dottie Thibodeau said she will miss her friend tremendously.

"When someone has been here as long as she has they become part of the community," she said. "I was shocked when I heard the news but I'm happy for her. It's a great opportunity and Lynn's loss is Lowell's gain."

While she looks forward to starting her new job in a few weeks Halter said she will miss the people here.

"There are so many great connections," she said. "What a pleasure and an honor it has been to work in Lynn. I've learned so much about community relationships and dedication to community and I hope to take that with me to Lowell."

Chris Stevens can be reached at

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