Steven A. Hoffman, former director of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Calif., has been named the new executive director of the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College in Danville.
Hoffman succeeds George Foreman, who made the small-town, small-college arts center into a major player in Kentucky's performing arts scene in his 26 years as director. Foreman left at the end of 2009 to become the director of the performing arts center at the University of Georgia.
"The programming and the level of programming are amazing for a community of that size," Hoffman said Tuesday afternoon.
He said he had wanted to get back to a collegiate environment because "there's a special opportunity when you can connect with a student body and faculty and help grow their experience on campus."
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Search committee chair Richard Trollinger said Hoffman's "sense of vision for what we we can do in the future to keep the Norton Center's reputation strong and growing, and for the center to be more of a catalyst for creativity on campus, really stood out to us."
Hoffman was director of the Steinbeck Center before resigning in September in the midst of a financial crisis at the center. The Californian newspaper in Salinas and The Associated Press reported that the crisis was due to the national economic downturn, which hit California particularly hard.
"One of John Steinbeck's sons and his daughter-in-law were among Steve's references," Trollinger said of Hoffman's résumé. "I was satisfied that what was going on there had nothing to do with Steve. The Steinbecks said, 'This is not his fault.'"
Hoffman said he went to the center in 2007 with hopes of turning around 10 years of financial upheaval, but when the economic crisis set in, "it was obvious it was time to move on," Hoffman said.
Both Trollinger and Hoffman said it was his previous job that really prepared him for the Norton Center post.
Before the Steinbeck Center, Hoffman was director of the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he oversaw construction and management of the $33 million center, which includes a science museum, visual arts museum and performing arts venues.
Hoffman will become the director of the Norton Center on July 1.
The announcement comes on the heels of the Norton Center's announcement that it will present its biggest concert ever, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, on Sept. 27. The concert will be performed during this fall's Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.