We recently talked to Shaun about his love for the park, and he also caught us up on some of the highlights.
As a Pennsylvania native, Shaun’s been a resident of Hamilton for more than 30 years. He and his wife, Lori have raised four children (Patrick, Michael Anne, Sydney and Ryan).
In addition to his time at Pyramid Hill, he has spent time in radio, on air and in sales in Hamilton, Middletown, Dayton and Cincinnati. He has also coached several small businesses, worked with community development professionals as well as in training and curriculum for nonprofits. Under the direction of the park’s founder Harry T. Wilks, Higgins first started working at the park as assistant director in 2001, and he served in that role for four years. Currently, since 2015, Higgins and Jeni Barton, director of Arts Administration, act as the park’s co-directors.
“I enjoy being involved in the community, and I believe in service. That’s something that I feel strongly about. I want to help out in the community, and I feel like it’s important,” Higgins said.
Q: It takes the Pyramid Hill crew about two months to prepare for Holiday Lights on the Hill. Can you tell us about it, and when did you get started?
A: We started decorating right after the Pyramid Hill Art Fair at the end of September. Holiday Lights on the Hill is a little different each year. We decorate with our environment and we take advantage of the sculpture, gardens and trees. So, we are creating those lighting effects and we want to offer a different kind of an experience.
In the drive-through, two-mile round trip, visitors can expect to see light displays close to the road with gardens of light as well as those that go further and deeper into the park’s background and surrounding lakes. Our design team of about six staff, uses different kinds of lights, including LED lighting, to highlight the park’s various features. We will be open this year on Friday, Nov. 17, and remain open through Sunday, Dec. 31.
We are always improving and changing what we’re doing, so it’s not the same show every year. This year, we’ve created more motion with lights. It is also a benefit to keep the park going, so we can take care of the environment, the sculpture, and we can continue with our mission of bringing people to art in nature. We are an independent nonprofit. We don’t get any tax dollars, so this is how we survive, doing various events like Holiday Lights on the Hill.
This is a fun, enjoyable and magical experience for the holidays, but it also gives the community an opportunity to support Pyramid Hill.
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Q: Can you reflect on Pyramid Hill’s 20th anniversary this year?
A: We've had a fantastic year. It's been exciting to celebrate the fact that we've been around for 20 years. We've had some tremendous events centered around our anniversary. One example is the recent "Intrude" exhibition. That was a major accomplishment, and a major exhibit for us. This is an exhibit that's been touring the world, and it's one that's internationally known. We were able to bring that to Pyramid Hill to share it with not only the area, but the region. Those are the kinds of things that we're going to keep doing in the future.
We’ve also had a change with our branding. We have a new logo this year. We worked with Thommy Long of LemonGrenade Creative to move us into where we are now, and we reflected on the fact that we’re an art park with our new logo … . We’ve had some phenomenal events, including a fundraising concert with the Butler Philharmonic, and we were also able to bring in some performers from the Cincinnati Opera. We had a wonderful evening, celebrating our 20th Anniversary with a concert at pARTy in the Park back in July. We also heard the premier of “Vision on the Hill,” a musical composition and tribute by Paul Stanbery, which honored our founder, Harry T. Wilks.
With “Intrude,” we had a number of fun events, ranging from hat-making workshops to a hip-hop party. So, moving forward, the park is alive, and there is life happening here.
We are an independent nonprofit. We survive on memberships, admissions, events and grants, so that’s where the challenge and the excitement is.
The 20th anniversary this year was a big milestone for us, and a great celebration. But, it also shows that we’re still building and growing. With the celebration, there were a lot of guests that came in who said, “I didn’t realize you’ve been here 20 years,” so there’s opportunity for growth, and the potential here is incredible.
When we talk about accomplishments, I think about stages or levels, and next phases, because there is so much potential here. We want to keep moving forward with what we’re doing, and with what we’ve added. I like to look forward, concentrating on “What makes us better?” “What makes it stand out?” and “What is it that we can do that will take this park to the next level?”
Q: What do you enjoy the most about your role?
A: I love the park. This is where I want to be. I fell in love with this park, and what I most enjoy about the park is being able to share it. I still enjoy giving tours, whether it's school field trips that come in, or other groups. I love to give tours, because I can look at the park with fresh eyes, fall in love with the park all over again, and share that, because it is such a unique facility. What Harry (T. Wilks) created is such a gift. I consider myself to be a steward of what he created, and my position is to build on what he created. To build the programming, the substance, and I try to build up the financial part of it, and then to share that, and carry that on to the next generation. Every time I get to do a tour, or to talk with someone, I get to see the park with fresh eyes and I share that excitement.
Q: What’s one thing you appreciate about the park?
A: What's really fun is bringing my dog here and running in the park. My dog and I run the roads and get our exercise in at the end of the day. We run these hills. It wears me out, and he's ready to keep going. Again, it helps me to look at the park with fresh eyes.
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