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How NOW Generation is shaping the future of Chautauqua

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Every summer, thousands of people visit Chautauqua Institution to dive into thoughtful discussions about timely issues, enjoy world-class art programs and appreciate the natural surroundings. Chautauquans of all ages come together in the pursuit of knowledge about the changing world around them through politics, religion, the arts and recreational learning opportunities.

“The whole (Chautauqua) experience stretches the gamut from family to friends, it stretches the gamut from fun to education,” said Russell Bermel, incoming advisory council chair of NOW Generation. “It kind of brings all of that together. The people that come here all seek that same potion.”

NOW Generation is a group of Chautauquans, like Bermel, between the ages of 21 and 40 who strive to continue the Chautauqua experience today and ensure its lasting legacy. Members are led by an advisory council that seeks to bring this generation of Chautauquans together by planning and hosting free events, promoting civic engagement and establishing connections with one another inside the grounds as well as throughout the nation.

The Chautauqua experience resonates with people who come from varying backgrounds and stretches across the world. NOW Generation hopes to do its part in continuing its legacy for present and future Chautauquans.

“It’s a really important time and an exciting time for the younger generation to step up and help shape the future of Chautauqua,” said NOW Generation Advisory Council Vice Chair Amy Schiller.

One way NOW Generation continues to shape the future of Chautauqua is by connecting with others outside of the grounds.

In the 2016-2017 off-season, the council started “CHQ Near You,” in which volunteers hosted different events in major cities throughout the United States to bring Chautauquans together. Efforts to connect Chautauquans during the off-season continued this past year with the second annual celebration of “CHQ Near You.”

“We had massive participation across the U.S.,” Bermel said. “It was shocking because I’m out in Seattle and I found one other person here, and there’s three people from Portland. It was publicized,and we actually had a few other people join that I didn’t even know lived in the Pacific Northwest. It just goes to show there are Chautauquans all over.”

In addition to “CHQ Near You,” NOW Generation gathered for a New Year’s 2018 welcome reception at the Institution, scheduling a quarterly video conference or in-person meeting in New York City or Washington, D.C., to plan these activities and others. Other off-season events and gatherings are in the works, with the hope of including a weekend assembly on the grounds in the fall.

With the 2018 season here, NOW Generation will sponsor a number of events for Chautauquans and their families visiting the Institution for a day,week or all summer.

“There’s family events for young kids and their parents. There’s cultural events where we can see people from different arts programs at Chautauqua,” Schiller said.

Some other events include: At 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays during Weeks One through Seven, NOW Generation volunteers are hosting meetups at Timothy’s Playground near the Miller Bell Tower for families with babies or toddlers.

“Wednesdays at the Water” take place from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. at Children’s Beach, led by volunteers during Weeks One and Three through Six. The event welcomes families with children up to 10 years of age.

This coming week, the NOW Generation’s annual President’s Reception will take place at 5:30 p.m. Sunday July 1 at the Girls’ Club. Then, at 4:30 p.m. July 5, members of the NOW Generation are invited to a mixer hosted in partnership with the Chautauqua Women’s Club, where there will be representatives in attendance from various organizations mingling and sharing different volunteer or leadership opportunities available on the grounds for young adults.

Toward the end of the season, NOW Generation will hold its fifth-annual “Summerfest,” on Aug. 4, welcoming guests of all ages for food and various activities at the Youth Activities Center following the Old First Night run.

In addition to support from a robust council of young adults,the Institution administration has been open to listening to NOW Generation regarding new projects at the Institution. As the chair of the council, Bermel has been invited to represent the group at the Chautauqua Foundation’s board of director meetings, following in the footsteps of the outgoing chair, Katie Prechtl Cooke. “Michael Hill and other members of the (Chautauqua Foundation Board of Directors) have been really open to our thoughts as a group,” Schiller said. “Things like the new business center – that was a major suggestion of ours that was already underway when we talked about it.”

Since 2012, NOW Generation has grown as an organization of young Chautauquans who want to do their part in continuing the longevity of the Chautauqua experience, and members of the council are optimistic about the 2018 season.

“What you’ll see in 2018, even more than previous years, is NOW Gen really coming into its own,” Schiller said.

For more information about the NOW Generation or to RSVP for upcoming events, visit the Facebook page (facebook.com/ NOWGenCHQ) or contact Megan Sorenson, staff liaison, at 716-357-6243 or msorenson@chq.org to sign up for the e-newsletter.

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The author Matthew Steinberg

Matthew Steinberg is a rising junior at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, studying communication arts, journalism and Spanish studies. He will be reporting for the development section of The Chautauquan Daily, but during his free time, he may be longboarding down NY 394, spending hard-earned money at TJ Maxx or even rewatching every film in the Marvel Universe. Feel free to chat with him sometime.