Stage & Dance

EKU Center for the Arts no longer lists Debra Hoskins as director

Debra Hoskins, photographed at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond in September 2011.
Debra Hoskins, photographed at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond in September 2011.

Debra Hoskins, whose hiring as executive director of the new Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts was hailed as a coup, is no longer listed on the center's staff directory. But it is not clear what her status is with the Richmond school.

"We're not putting anyone off," EKU's vice president for public relations, Marc Whitt, wrote in a text message. "I simply can't release information that has not yet been confirmed by either party."

Hoskins initially said she would be available to talk Monday afternoon, but she did not return several phone messages during that time.

Hoskins' hiring came after several decades at the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College in Danville, where she worked under longtime director George Foreman in various posts culminating in assistant director. During Foreman's and Hoskins' tenures, the Norton Center developed a reputation for bringing in big-name acts such as the Boston Pops and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra that normally would not play a town of 15,000.

Foreman left to direct the performing arts centers at the University of Georgia at the end of 2009. Hoskins applied for his job but it went to Steven A. Hoffman, who has directed the facility since July 2010.

Hoskins left the Norton Center in December 2010 and was hired at EKU, her alma mater, in February 2011. Some Richmond and EKU officials took the occasion of Hoskins' hiring to chide Centre for letting her go. Her annual salary was about $108,000 as of September, according to data supplied by EKU.

Hoskins quickly pulled together an inaugural season for the $30 million-plus center that included an opening concert by Wynonna Judd in September and performances through the ensuing months by Willie Nelson, Wynton Marsalis and Jerry Seinfeld, among others.

But there were hitches. Ticketing problems marred an opening-night gala that initially was billed as invitation-only but was opened to the public at the last minute. The center also made a very public appeal for the vice presidential debate in October but lost out to Hoskins' former employer, the Norton Center, which will host the candidates Oct. 11.

More recently, a scheduling mix-up became public when the EKU Center booked Bruce Hornsby for the same night as a charity ball; presenter Troubadour Concerts had to scramble for another venue for the Hornsby show, which took place Saturday at The Kentucky Theatre in Lexington.

According to an EKU news release last month, the center saw more than 50,500 patrons during its just-finished inaugural season. A study by the university's Division of Financial Affairs said the center has generated $3.2 million in new sales and $900,000 in new earnings in Madison County in its first year of operation.

The EKU Center for the Arts has not announced a 2012-13 season. All other major performing arts centers in the Lexington area, including the Norton Center, have.

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