Over the course of Chautauqua Institution’s nine-week season, 100,000 guests will visit the grounds. Chautauquans will attend 10:45 a.m. lectures in the Amphitheater, 2 p.m. interfaith lectures in the Hall of Philosophy and enjoy theater, dance and music performances put on by talented, world-class artists and educators during the evening performances.
While the grounds are busy and buzzing with guests every day, the Amp is a source for much of the events the Institution has to offer. Seating up to 4,400 patrons at once, the Amp was rehabilitated in the 2016- 2017 off-season as a part of the Promise Campaign. $39.8 million was donated to make the project possible, and now the Chautauqua Foundation is seeking to keep the facility in state-of-the-art condition.
In order to preserve the Amp for future Chautauquans, the foundation is looking to secure $1.5 million in philanthropic donations for future maintenance and capital costs. The initiative has been dubbed “Stand Up and Be Seated.”
An anonymous donor has agreed to match this $1.5 million goal, adding a total of $3 million to the Amp endowment for the first 100 families or individuals who participate in “Stand up and Be Seated” by making a minimum gift of $15,000, payable over three years. Chautauquans who will also be recognized with a custom engraved plaque installed on an Amphitheater bench.
This will add to the current $1.8 million that has been raised, amounting to $4.8 million toward the facility’s endowment. The end goal is to build a $5 million Amphitheater endowment, established through an analysis of the facility by John Shedd, vice president of campus planning and operations, and Sebby Baggiano, executive vice president and chief financial officer.
“What we want is to assure that there’s never deferred maintenance at the Amphitheater,” said Geof Follansbee, vice president of development and CEO of the Chautauqua Foundation. “The endowment is not about the electric bill for this year, it’s not regular operating expenses. It’s about taking care of the facility (into the future).”
Chautauqua Institution relies on philanthropic, donor and volunteer support to ensure facilities like the Amp are taken care of, and do not end up in “a state that (the Institution) is not proud of,” according to Follansbee.
Recently, the Amp underwent various final upgrades for the 2018 season, thanks largely to donor support. Some of the work included completely new benches, new lighting in the aisles, a repaired Massey Memorial Organ keyboard and improvements in acoustics, according Shedd.
“We have equipment in there that we never fathomed having in the former Amphitheater,” Follansbee said.
Even with these renovations, Follansbee said he knows the new systems will have to be replaced in time.
“When you buy a house, you know you’re going to have to replace the roof,” Follansbee said. “Every once in a while, you’re going to have to paint it….What you need to have are resources set aside to cover those major costs that come along occasionally (because) you know they’re going to happen.”
Weekly guided Amphitheater tours continue this summer, staring at 8 a.m. every Monday in Odland Plaza.