Power of Maroon: Leadership Spotlight
Debra Hoskins, executive director of the EKU Center for the Arts, is pictured in Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts, where she was assistant managing director and director of programs and public relations for 20 years. (Photo by Kirk Schlea)
Debra Hoskins, newly named executive director of the EKU Center for the Arts, is featured in this ongoing series designed to allow EKU leaders and others in prominent positions to discuss their roles as well as campus issues. Hoskins, who joined the EKU staff in February, 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 and was awarded a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Department.
As a two-time EKU grad, what does it mean to you to have this opportunity to return “home” and give something back to your alma mater and this community?
There is no greater honor than having the opportunity to return to my alma mater and this wonderful community – I feel that I have returned home. As I mentioned at the press conference, I was a “non-traditional student” – returning to finish college and taking night classes after leaving my full-time day job. My two sons were also very young then, so you can imagine that my days and nights were filled! Did I mention that my husband obtained his degrees at EKU? EKU has surely been wonderful to my entire family! I appreciate that this University makes such a positive difference in the lives of so many. And now I get to play a role in adding the joy that comes with a premier performing arts center. What an opportunity!
What is occupying most of your time these first few weeks and months on the job?
My first and foremost concern, of course, must be programming – ensuring that our initial season offering is a success. I’m on the phone constantly since agents and artists aren’t yet familiar with the "EKU Center." I am also very involved in Physical Plant issues as construction is ongoing. Plus I am involved in assembling a team of top-notch professionals. I’ve also have met with many community business people and leaders in the community and I’m certainly looking forward to meeting many more. There is a lot to do – but it is also an exciting and challenging time, and I am enjoying it very much!
How are you working to position the Center as a regional and national player?
There is no doubt but that the EKU Center will be a major regional and national player. To become a beacon of excellence that will attract national attention, the EKU Center must present a significant quality of programming and this is a reality that will emerge as a result of consistent planning and outreach, season following season. That is my goal – we will always strive for excellence! Let’s review this question in five years – and i feel confident that we will all be pleased with what we see at that time.
What mix of programming do you envision to attract the broadest possible range of interests and make full use of the facility?
Our doors will be open to all kinds of people because of the multifaceted programs that will be offered – from pop to rock to country. You will find that the EKU Center will offer it all – I believe that i can guarantee you that the full gamut from chamber music to country western, from Broadway to ballet, will be offered.
Given the fact that the auditorium seats 2,012, second in Kentucky by a slight margin only to the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville, what will the size of the facility specifically enable EKU to attract?
The very first item of business with an agent is for them to ask how many seats the theatre has....that will determine if certain artists will even consider performing in a hall. Fortunately for us, our Center is the finest in all areas including sound and lights, stage size, and number of seats.
What will agents find the most appealing about the EKU Center?
First off, the old saying of “location, location, location” certainly holds true. The EKU Center has, without a doubt, the best access route of any performing arts center in this state – and perhaps the nation! The artists and performers represented by these agents are like anyone else – no one likes getting lost in a maze of streets and turns – or getting stuck in traffic! I can't say enough good things about our location! And our local geography is second to none in attractiveness. Everyone enjoys working in a beautiful locale.
Certainly, too, agents will be very glad to be able to relate to their artists the dimensions and layout of our wonderful facility. The auditorium is a dream.
For what uses do you envision the 250-seat black box theater?
I am so excited about the potential provided by the black box theatre! Basically speaking, the black box allows for flexible staging techniques while allowing patrons intimate focus on the story, writing and performance. Such a broad range of productions are possible – everything from highly experimental theatre to Shakespeare. The bottom line is creativity – so I anticipate utilization of this space for monologues, solo shows, plays, bands – you name it!
What roles do you hope to facilitate for Eastern students at the Center?
Eastern students will be an essential component in Center operation and will be utilized in a variety of roles in patron “front of house” services. Valet parking will be offered at events, and students will perform that function. There will be ushers, restroom attendants, concession, coat check, security and general set-up student employees. For me, it is more than just providing a paycheck, however. I am very proud of the fact that many student employees who worked in these positions at my former place of employment used the experience and employment service skills gained from their interactions with the public to position themselves professionally upon graduation.
How are you working to make sure the Madison County and Lexington arts communities are involved?
I anticipate meeting regularly with representatives of both the Madison County and Lexington arts communities. I served as a consultant on several of the huge outdoor Fourth of July and other concerts in Washington, D.C. Those experiences demonstrated to me that it is essential to “think big” and involve as many area stakeholders as possible in productions.
On a more personal scale, when entertainer Tony Bennett came to Danville for a performance, I was approached by a resident involved in the local arts community inquiring if Mr. Bennett could attend a glass blowing event. Mr. Bennett now has a piece of that local artists' glass exhibited in his home. I envision this type of interaction occurring at EKU on a regular basis.I have always been a strong and vocal advocate of the importance of the arts in contributing to a vital and healthy collegiate and area community. If anything, my efforts in involving area arts communities will increase.
After five years, what do you hope can be said about the EKU Center for the Arts?
I expect that after three to five years, it will be generally acknowledged that the EKU Center for the Arts is the premier facility of its kind in the Commonwealth – and a force on the national scene as well!