Debra Hoskins Named Executive Director of EKU Center for the Arts

Photo of Debra Hoskins

The new executive director of The EKU Center for the Arts brings 20 years of experience of helping to bring leading entertainment acts to central Kentucky.

Debra Hoskins, assistant managing director and director of programs and public relations at the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College in Danville from 1991 until December 2010, was introduced today in ceremonies at EKU’s Center, which is expected to open this fall. The selection of Hoskins followed a national search.

For Hoskins, who earned two degrees at EKU and just last year was honored with a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the EKU Department of Communication, the new position marks a homecoming.

“In embracing this challenge, I feel that I have returned home,” Hoskins said. “I owe a great debt to the University for what it has contributed to my life both professionally and personally. Now, I look forward to the opportunity to give something back.

“Eastern Kentucky University has a long and treasured tradition of enhancing the lives of its students and the citizens of Kentucky,” Hoskins added. “EKU’s Center for the Performing Arts will mark a new chapter in that heritage. EKU is not an institution that is satisfied to just do enough and stop. Rather, it constantly strives to do better and more, and that will set the tone as we develop the ongoing goals for the new Center. We will work to make the EKU Center a model of achievement not only for the region but on the national scene as well.”

Working alongside former Norton Center Director George Foreman, Hoskins certainly did just that in her former position. After Foreman left for a similar position in Georgia a year ago, Hoskins was the key person in attracting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Gustavo Dudamel to the Norton Center last fall. “There’s no question that without Debbie, it wouldn’t have happened,” Centre Vice President for College Relations Richard Trollinger told the Lexington Herald-Leader in December.

Hoskins earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from EKU in 1990 and in 2007 added a master’s degree in public administration. Last year, she served as keynote speaker at the EKU Department of Communication Career Day, one of many times she has spoken to Eastern students.

“We’re very pleased that Debra has returned home to Eastern,” EKU President Doug Whitlock said. “We have noted with great interest and pride the progress of her career, and we are delighted that she is joining us at this pivotal time in the life of our Center for the Arts. We are confident that under her leadership we’ll be able to develop the kind of programs that have been envisioned for this outstanding facility.”

Whitlock has often said the new EKU Center will be the finest such facility in the Commonwealth. It will house a 2,012-seat “Broadway-capable, Broadway-quality” theater (the second largest performing arts theater in Kentucky) with a “fly system” and a 60-foot-wide stage. The center stage depth with the orchestra lift in place (at stage level) is 58 feet, and the height of the proscenium arch from the stage to the top of the arch is 24 feet. The height from the stage to the walking surface of the grid above the stage is 62 feet.

The facility also features a configurable “black-box” theater with seating up to 250. EKU’s Center for the Performing Arts is located adjacent to the University’s Business & Technology Center, on the south side of the Eastern By-Pass between Lancaster Road and Kit Carson Drive.

The funding strategy for the Center was unique because it joined state, county and University resources. A 13-member Board of Directors consisting of representatives of EKU, the City of Richmond, City of Berea and Madison County, was established to oversee design, construction and operations.

Dr. Bob Rogow, dean of EKU’s College of Business & Technology and chair of the Center’s Board of Directors, said Hoskins “knows the regional audience better than anyone and … has the contacts and reputation locally, regionally, nationally and internationally that will bring immediate credibility to The Center for the Performing Arts at Eastern Kentucky University.”

At the Norton Center, Hoskins participated in the management of performance series, exhibitions and special events. She was responsible for contract and booking negotiations, as well as all public relations, advertising sales and marketing for season performances and special events, and had primary responsibility for coordination of on-site arrangements. She also supervised approximately 100 student employees, who served as ushers and valets and in other venue positions.

During her tenure, the Norton Center attracted leading performers in classical, pop, rock, country and jazz music, including the Boston Pops Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Vienna Boys Choir, The Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, B.B. King, Wynton Marsalis, Mark O’Connor, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and Dolly Parton, among many other notables. In addition, the Norton Center presented theater productions of Camelot, CATS, A Chorus Line, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, Show Boat, South Pacific and The Sound of Music, as well as more contemporary favorites such as Blue Man Group and Stomp, among many others.

In addition, Hoskins is assisting Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in producing the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass May 28-29, with artists from the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center in New York City.

Published on January 31, 2011