Joel Michael Aalberts, performing arts director for the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts in Bloomington, Ill., has been named the new director of the Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts.
"He has great presence, he's very personable, he's very up-to-date on Facebook and other types of social media, and we feel like he will interact well with people of this community and this region," said Harry Moberly, chairman of the EKU Center's community operations board. "We think he has the ability to build audience in the region, particularly in Fayette County. He has good experience in programming and raising money, which is something we need to do."
Aalberts has been at the Bloomington Center since 2006. He was its marketing and public relations director before taking his current position in 2009. His previous posts have included marketing and PR jobs at Dartmouth College, the University of Arizona and the University of Michigan.
Aalberts' hiring is pending the approval of EKU President Doug Whitlock, who was in Washington on Wednesday.
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Moberly said he expects Aalberts to start in the middle of August, just in time to get acclimated before the season starts Sept. 13 with Spencer's Theatre of Illusion. Other acts scheduled for the 2013-14 season at the theater include country stars Dwight Yoakam and LeAnn Rimes, classical star James Gallway and regional premieres of the musicals Rock of Ages and Flashdance.
"It's a beautiful facility and an amazing community resource, and that it is a regional destination is very appealing," Aalberts, 43, said of the center, which boasts a 2,100-seat theater and a smaller black box theater.
The center is a joint venture among the university, Madison County and the cities of Richmond and Berea. Aalberts said his experience in municipal and university theaters will help him working with all parties involved.
Aalberts' biggest previous experience in Kentucky was winning a marathon in Louisville in 1998. He has run in 43 marathons.
His appointment comes after a turbulent couple of years for the center, which will launch its third season in September.
The director who opened the center in September 2011, Debra Hoskins, was fired by the university in June 2012 after internal investigations revealed widespread mismanagement and personnel problems.
Her dismissal was blocked by the center's community operations board, which contended that only it had the authority to hire and fire the director. Hoskins resigned a week later and is now the director of The Grand Theatre in Lancaster.
For the past year, Jill Price, EKU director of conferencing and events, has been the center's interim director.
Aalberts said he was not concerned with the center's recent travails, because "it seems to me the problems were outside the organization. What has been missing is consistent leadership."
Moberly said he thinks Aalberts' hiring will end the rocky period in the young center's history.
"Part of those difficulties were we had two directors in a short period of time," Moberly said.
Hoskins succeeded Katherine Eckstrand, who left the center before it opened, citing family needs.