The Richmond Register

July 9, 2013

First of two EKU Center candidates visits

By Bill Robinson
Register Editor

RICHMOND — The first of two finalists for executive director of the EKU Center for the Arts was in Richmond on Tuesday to interview with the search committee and meet community leaders.

Joel Aalberts of Normal, Ill., had breakfast with the center’s community operations board, toured the facility and had lunch with community leaders at Arlington House.

Aalberts has 19 years of experience in arts management, including work with performing arts centers associated with the University of Arizona, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan and Dartmouth College.

The EKU Center is an “amazing facility” with “so much promise,” he said.

The EKU Center’s success, as do all similar venues, depends upon building relationships and engaging with communities throughout the region as well as the local community, he said. In addition to its cultural contribution to the community, the EKU Center can and should be an asset for economic development, including tourism.

In his current job as director of the Bloomington Center for Performing Arts in central Illinois, Aalberts said ticket purchasers are surveyed to determine whether they dined or stayed overnight when attending shows. The surveys also gauge audience preferences to learn what kinds of entertainment interests them and would bring them back.

Although work in the arts often is associated with frequent moves, if selected, Aalberts said he would commit to staying in Richmond for at least 13 years.

That is because he would not want to uproot his 5-year-old daughter after she starts school, Aalberts said. He and his wife also have an 8-year-old son.

On Thursday, C. Bruce Marquis of Bloomington, Ill., will be in town for a similar visit.

The two candidates were selected from a field of 91, said Jan Tunnell, who chairs the search committee.

Bill Robinson can be reached at or at 624-6690.