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Heritage Lecture Series to present 1923 film marketing Chautauqua

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In the wake of a pandemic, American political turmoil and disturbed international relations, people turned to Chautauqua Institution — amidst an organizational metamorphasis — for a sense of reprieve. The year was 1923.

“There was a frustration amongst Chautauquans with the world. They didn’t lose faith in God, but they did lose faith in the world. The war that was never supposed to happen did happen. The peace it was supposed to produce did not happen. Prohibition came; it did not end all the social ills it was supposed to. (Women’s) suffrage came; it did not fix the political situation the way it was supposed to,” said Jon Schmitz, Institution historian and archivist. “So, these schemes of hope for the future had been frustrated. As a result, people were looking for things like a place to spend a good time with their family.”

It was a safe place for women to go and do things without having to worry about their kids. But, dad wasn’t always there. He was back in the city, or whatever,” Schmitz said. “(The Institution) wanted to stress that this was a wonderful place for the modern businessman to relax and spend time with his family. There was something for dad to do: the men’s club, golf, fishing, etc.”

At the time people were itching for normalcy, Chautauqua Institution underwent a marketing shift to target every member of the family — not just the mothers and children. The Institution used film as one way to accomplish this. 

Schmitz will present a 1923 Institution marketing film at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, July 17, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as the third presentation in the Heritage Lecture Series. Schmitz will address the then-new demographic of the 1920s. 

“It was a safe place for women to go and do things without having to worry about their kids. But, dad wasn’t always there. He was back in the city, or whatever,” Schmitz said. “(The Institution) wanted to stress that this was a wonderful place for the modern businessman to relax and spend time with his family. There was something for dad to do: the men’s club, golf, fishing, etc.”

By attracting the breadwinning businessman, the Institution hoped to secure bonds and gifts to fund programming. At the time, the Institution was facing financial uncertainty. 

“The hope was that people would buy bonds, and then when they mature they would roll them over so as to go on financing the Institution. The gate was no longer able to pay for the programming and the grounds,” Schmitz said. “There had to be other sources of income so there needed to be gifts, but they also were relying on bonds. They needed that commitment from a family, to actually go and purchase the bonds.”

Schmitz said that from a historian’s standpoint, films are a unique way to observe the past. Film can fill in gaps where artifacts, still pictures, and written documents may lack. 

“Photographs and films add a great deal to the texts and artifacts, because it captures a moment where you can see the various aspects of this captured moment.” Schmitz said. “With a film, you get a temporal dimension which completes what the photograph is telling us. Film completes what the elements are, what the elements existing at a certain time were doing, and interacting with.”

This series is made possible with a gift from Jeff Lutz and Cathy Nowosielski.

20-first CEO, Chautauqua favorite, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox to discuss career cycles in a changed world

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Challenges. Problems. Crises. From Avivah Wittenberg-Cox’s viewing point, all represent opportunities.

She is the founder and CEO of 20-first, a rapidly growing U.K.-based, global consulting firm that focuses on “capturing the competitive advantage” — the business opportunities of “21st century forms of leadership, customer connections and talent management” –— by building gender-, nationality- and generationally-balanced businesses.

20-first has chosen doing good, having fun, sharing love, and staying foolish as its core values. Wittenberg-Cox espouses all four with keen perceptiveness, kind optimism and panache.   

At 3:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 14, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, she will present a talk titled, “Four Phases of Women’s (and a Growing Number of Men’s) Career Cycles.” It is the second presentation in the 2020 Contemporary Issues Forum sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club, and will be followed by a Q-and-A session.

“Part of the answer to adjusting to a changed world requires understanding where you are in your life and your career,” Wittenberg-Cox said. “People don’t often think of their careers or their lives in phases. … ‘What should I do next?’ dominates the discussion. ‘Where am I headed?’ is a rarer question. But it’s precisely when crisis hits that an opportunity opens to revisit the path as well as the program.”

A regular contributor to The New York Times and Forbes, her April 13, 2020, article, “What Do Countries With the Best Coronavirus Responses Have in Common? Women Leaders,” was a Forbes “Editors Pick” and has had over 8 million views. Wittenberg-Cox’s work has also been featured in Le Monde, FT, and Der Spiegel, as well as on BBC and TEDx, for which she has given several talks. 

A graduate of the University of Toronto, INSEAD (where she earned her MBA), and the Women’s Leadership Program at Harvard, she is Canadian, French and Swiss by nationality.

Wittenberg-Cox is also the Chautauquan who established the CWC’s Professional Women’s Network, having previously launched the European Professional Women’s Network. PWN Global recently honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Gender Balanced Leadership. ELLE Magazine has recognized her as one of the Top 40 Women Leading Change.

During Chautauqua Institution’s 2018 season, Wittenberg-Cox was an Amphitheater speaker during Week Six, the theme for which was “The Changing Nature of Work.” Summer after summer she has spoken or led networking sessions as part of the CWC’s annual program of lecture series. Always, she has shared new research and insights.

Scholarly research forms the basis for Wittenberg-Cox’s gender balance and bilingualism consulting and advocacy. Her 2009 book, Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution, was awarded the MANPOWER Best Book of the Year Prize. Her sequel, How Women Mean Business, came out a year later. 

Clever graphics shape her short books, including Seven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business (2019), Three Ways of Engaging Men and Leaders in Gender Balance, and Four Phases of Women’s Careers: Becoming Gender Bilingual.  

“After more than a decade facilitating debates around gender issues with hundreds of leadership teams of large multinationals around the globe, I have not found men at all reticent about engaging with these issues, and their own accountability for it,” Wittenberg-Cox wrote in her 2018 guest column for The Chautauquan Daily.

“On the contrary, in the right context, with the right leadership, the words pour out,” she continued. “The most common feedback is gratitude, not grouchiness. The reality is that most executives have never had the time or the space to have a substantive dialogue with their peers about gender issues.” 

As she identifies and maps a career arc and planning horizon for women (as well as an increasing number of men), Wittenberg-Cox will also talk on Tuesday afternoon about how they can be more strategic and tactical in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s-plus, and  manage things more stably — even in a changed world.

Annual Buffalo Day Panel to welcome Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist, more

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Swan-Kilpatrick, Crockatt, Lin-Hill, Murphy, Zyglis

Eleven years ago, Dennis Galucki was struck by the idea of a city where the aesthetic values of Chautauqua Institution existed not just nine weeks a year, but all 52. Galucki attached this idea to his Western New York hometown, which he felt uniquely embodied these values when he established the Institution’s annual Buffalo Day. But as years have passed, Galucki has come to believe that Buffalo Day shouldn’t stop at Buffalo.

“I hope others do explore that connection (of bringing Institution values elsewhere). Why not have an Atlanta Day at Chautauqua? In a digital age, why not think that way?” Galucki said. “It’s not about everybody from Atlanta or San Francisco going to Chautauqua that day — it’s about highlighting a connection (of values), and nurturing it back in your hometown.”

Galucki hopes to inspire Chautauquans to consider these ideas at 12:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 14, on the Virtual Porch in a Buffalo Day panel discussion titled “The Sacred Nature of Art & Democracy: Exploring Life’s Aesthetic Values – Beauty, Truth, Goodness, & Justice.” The panel will be moderated by Galucki and Emily Morris, Institution vice president of marketing and communications.

The panel will feature Stephanie Crockatt, executive director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy; Joe Lin-Hill, deputy director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Michael G. Murphy, the president of Shea’s Performing Art Center; and Adam Zyglis, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist at The Buffalo News.

The week’s theme of “Art and Democracy” spoke to Galucki. He first started to recognize the similarities of Buffalo and Chautauqua through art and architecture in Buffalo. When looking at historical landmarks, Galucki found that they spoke of pillars and values that defined Buffalo at the time of their construction: art, architecture, history and nature

These four values reminded Galucki of the Institution’s four pillars: arts, education, religion, and recreation. Just like Chautauqua, he saw Buffalo’s potential to foster life-long learning, and this sparked what he called the Buffalo-Chautauqua idea. This idea is further exemplified with the Institution’s theme for Week Three. 

“I can connect Buffalo really legitimately with this theme: ‘Art and Democracy,’” Galucki said. “After 11 years it was, in my mind, the best theme that came along to go ahead and do this.”

Galucki believes that this discussion on “Art and Democracy” also comes at an interesting time in history, because current social justice movements have inspired powerful works of public art. 

“Perhaps the most significant art this year is the three words ‘Black Lives Matter,’” Galucki said. “I could argue that the painting of that (phrase) in front of municipal buildings, including the White House, may be the most profound work of art in a long time.”

Galucki said that the panel’s message of justice — along with truth, goodness and beauty — can be relatable across the country. He hopes that the audience can connect to this panel’s message and inspire similar work in their own regions.

“Hopefully people are entertained and find the experience worth wanting to know more about Chautauqua if they are first-timers, or reinforcing their support of Chautauqua if they are folks that have been around,” Galucki said. “That should be why anybody speaks. Yeah, educational, informative, fine. But I would argue that it better be entertaining.”

This program is made possible by the Buffalo-Chautauqua Idea and Connection: Galucki Family Endowment Fund.

No more sunburn: Chautauqua youth programs move online to keep the magic alive

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Each summer, more than 10 million kids in America spend their days at camps or youth programs exploring outside, making friendship bracelets and tie dye T-shirts, playing games with friends or learning new skills and hobbies. 

Typically, days like this might end around a campfire roasting marshmallows, or in a log cabin packed full of friends. Chautauqua Institution, has, for years provided traditional and engaging summer camp and youth programs for children and teenagers on Chautauqua’s grounds. A variety of activities and classes have been available for children for decades through the Children’s School for ages 3 to 5, Group One for students entering first grade and the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, which has programs for grades two through 10.

This season at Chautauqua is full of interesting and educational programs for children of all ages, just like seasons of the past. The only difference? Each of the programs is now online. 

Instead of bug spray and baseball caps, Chautauqua’s youth need an internet connection, an open mind and a sense of creativity. 

Director of Youth and Family Programs Alyssa Porter was adamant that this year’s experience will not be the same — and that it is not meant to be. 

“It was important to me as we started this process that we didn’t try to replicate our youth activity experiences as online programs, because there is the magic of being a young person on Chautauqua’s grounds that you just aren’t going to get through a screen,” Porter said. “However, now family members, siblings and parents can participate in a new way, and that is something I’m excited about.”

The programs themselves will not, for the most part, be broadcast live, but there will be opportunities for live meetings and collaborations. Each different program is hosted on the CHQ Assembly Online Classroom and will allow participants to tune in to a video to learn about the day’s activities or receive prompts, which they will then complete on their own or with family members before returning for a re-cap of the day with their counselors. 

One key concern for Porter and her coworkers is the mental health of children and young adults through the progression of the pandemic. News reports have shown an increase in anxiety levels in children and Porter realized that making connections with friends was now especially difficult. 

“We want our kids to have a sense of normalcy at a time when the world is so chaotic,” Porter said. “I want to make sure that the mental health and well being of our young people was first and foremost in our goals, which is what we are trying to accomplish here.”

In order to help facilitate the transition to online activities while retaining a sense of community, the youth and family programs have stretched into the world of social media, sometimes reposting content from the virtual classroom, and sometimes sharing something completely original via the video app TikTok or the social media site Instagram, both with the handle @chq_clubhouse. 

“This is an important element for me because the Online Classroom is so new for our families that I wanted to make sure that we were in a space that was familiar to young people as well,” Porter said. “We are using it as an additional tool to really connect and bring people together.”

Chautauqua offers an array of unique programming, from nature and art programs to literary classes and STEM camps, each led by counselors who have helped to design the programs. The counselors were given full creative freedom to construct the programs, something that Porter thinks has helped to keep the excitement alive. 

The new classes and programs will appear hand-in-hand with many Chautauqua traditions, such as making friendship bracelets or lanyards; The Boys’ and Girls’ Club tradition of tie-dye events has migrated onto social media, where there is a weekly “Tie-Dye Tuesday” livestream. 

“Beyond the traditions, it was really up to my counselors to decide what they were passionate about and what they thought would work well within this format,” Porter said. “None of us have the roadmap for how this works, so we can’t be afraid to make mistakes or share ideas because that is what helps keep this exciting and interesting.”

Porter hopes the experiences that children have in the youth programs will be ones that they carry with them throughout life, especially in uncertain times.

“Some of what we forget as adults is that those activities and arts and crafts that we learn as kids in youth programs can become great self-care tools and coping skills,” Porter said. “It’s especially important now to take care of yourself.”

A Week Three Message from Chautauqua’s President

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Welcome to Week Three of CHQ Assembly. Our first two weeks have certainly been an adventure for us all, and we’re deeply grateful that you’ve decided to be a part of our “beta test” this summer. Last week we looked at “Forces Unseen,” and we move from there to a topic that’s very visible, and very much in sync with our multidisciplinary approach at Chautauqua: “Art and Democracy.” 

Artist, advocate, activist, citizen. What is the role of art — and the artist — in an active democracy? This week, we will hear from artists raising the social consciousness, challenging the status quo and engaging communities large and small toward meaningful action. We consider how art and artmaking serve as catalysts for dissent and change and have the unique ability to bring community together to heal following trauma. And we ask: How are the arts uniquely positioned to move the conversation forward, when other attempts at dialogue fail? 

In many ways, this is a specialty for Chautauqua. We have been graced by our own professional artistic companies and ensembles for most of our history. Whether that be the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Chautauqua Theater Company, Chautauqua Opera Company, Chautauqua Visual Arts, or any of the countless numbers of artistic luminaries who have studied in our Schools of Performing and Visual Arts, we have long been an organization and community in which the arts flourish. This year, however, through the medium of CHQ Assembly, we take what we have known from our own artists and those from across the globe to probe further what the arts can teach us during times when we may not be able to grasp or hear important messages without them. 

Throughout our experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, artists have been giving voice to our frustrations and our hopes, and I know this week will do the same. I’m so excited to welcome Anna Deavere Smith, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker and my dear friend Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, among many others, to help us unpack this week. 

In our companion Interfaith Lecture Series, we look at the ways that art might provide a “Glimpse into the Divine.” Art inspires, art teaches, art speaks, art energizes, art soothes, art heals, art empowers. Art underlies and underlines the commonalities of human existence. In this week we look into the spiritual power of art to glimpse the divine, in all its forms, and change the world. In addition to an amazing lineup of interfaith speakers, we’re so excited to have Fr. Greg Boyle back with us as our chaplain of the week. 

I want to close this column by thanking all of you who are participating in this summer of beta testing for our new suite of CHQ Assembly online platforms. Most days it’s been a splendid adventure, but I know that there have also been days when our Week Two theme of “Forces Unseen” seemed to be taking over, as technology and other issues prevented us from staging certain programs as scheduled. I thought it might be useful to share some behind-the-scenes “numbers” with you as a sign of our gratitude for sticking with us when those moments occur. 

We launched the 2020 Summer Assembly Season just 11 days ago (at this writing), with five entirely new digital platforms, three new on-grounds television studios with multiple camera systems, and an entirely new crew that has never worked together or on a project of this particular nature, while also coordinating with more than a dozen remote studios and videographers around the country. We’ve learned a lot about how to tackle issues with our own equipment and processes, and we’ve also encountered some problems that are simply outside our control, like when the Google Cloud hosting platform experienced an East Coast crash, or when our video streaming platform has nationwide technical issues, or when our ISP has a massive service interruption. These “forces unseen” truly have made for an interesting summer so far! But because you’ve stuck with us, we also have some incredibly hopeful numbers to share. 

In just our first two weeks, we have produced: 

  •   33 lecture, worship, and performing arts programs that aired and are available on-demand at assembly.chq.org
  •   51 programs on the Virtual Porch, at porch.chq.org;
  •   three 3D virtual gallery tours on the Chautauqua Visual Arts platform, at art.chq.org; and  
  •   multiple master and enrichment classes on the Online Classroom platform, at learn.chq.org

And to characterize the audience for our offerings so far: 

  •   nearly 6,000 people have subscribed to our Video Platform, assembly.chq.org
  •   CHQ Assembly programs have been accessed 73,000 times, with some 40,000 of those viewing programs through to completion; and 
  •   participants in the CHQ Assembly represent 50 countries(!) in addition to the U.S. 

Comparatively, some of our larger festival partners who have four to five times the size of our budgets have shrunk weeks of programming into five hours of offerings. I mean that not as a dig on anyone else, but rather as an acknowledgment of and testimony to the resiliency of the Chautauqua spirit. Each day we learn more, and we continue to learn from you. Thank you for accepting our offer to beta test this season. It will make CHQ Assembly a powerhouse of convening for years to come.

What makes a tradition? Institution historian and archivist Jon Schmitz to answer in Heritage Lecture

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The Audience Raises Handkerchiefs For The Drooping Of The Lillies During The Old First Night Chautauqua Birthday Celebration, Tuesday, August 7, 2018, In The Amphitheater. BRIAN HAYES/DAILY FILE PHOTO

To Jon Schmitz, historian and archivist for Chautauqua Institution, a tradition cannot be spontaneous, it cannot be mandated, and it cannot be declared on a whim. 

“I don’t feel comfortable with the term ‘new traditions.’ I think that is trying to assume legitimacy that (a practice) hasn’t earned yet,” Schmitz said. “The key (to a tradition) is to be accepted by those practicing (it) as what should be done.”

Schmitz will further explore what constitutes a tradition at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, July 10, on CHQ Assembly in a lecture titled “Traditions of Chautauqua.” As part of the Heritage Lecture Series, Schmitz’s presentation will explore the archive’s most-inquired-about Institution traditions.

Notable traditions include Chautauqua Salutes, Recognition Day, and the Opening Three Taps of the Gavel. Schmitz said that this lecture topic was chosen to, in some way, continue acknowledging these traditions despite remote programming preventing them from being practiced in person. 

“I thought it would be a good idea to review some of the traditions to see what they are, how they came about, when did they start, (and) was there a reason for them,” Schmitz said.

Although the community cannot physically participate in some of these traditions, the Institution is working to keep them intact. Schmitz said he is aware of efforts to organize a virtual Recognition Day, an all-day annual celebration of Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle graduates. The Institution has worked to virtually maintain traditions by ushering in the 2020 season by premiering Three Taps on CHQ Assembly. 

(Our traditions) accumulate meaning over time for Chautauqua, and also for individual Chautauquans,” Schmitz said. “It’s a way of remembering the past. It’s also the way of bringing the past into the present, so that we can put things into the perspective of past, present, and future.”

In his opening Three Taps of the Gavel, Institution President Michael E. Hill formally launched the virtual season from the Amphitheater, where a traditional, in-person season would begin. In his Three Taps, Hill spoke about Chautauquan traditions as reflections of programming, values, and the Institution’s place in the world. 

“Tradition is important at Chautauqua. It’s the reason we’re here on this stage today. The same space which almost every assembly has been ushered in, and where we hold our principle worship service,” Hill said. “Our traditions are replete with important symbols that tell stories about our history and our present role in the world.”

For the Institution, Schmitz said that traditions allow the history to be passed down and kept alive through the years. Even as the Institution and its audience evolves, the history is still kept alive. 

“(Our traditions) accumulate meaning over time for Chautauqua, and also for individual Chautauquans,” Schmitz said. “It’s a way of remembering the past. It’s also the way of bringing the past into the present, so that we can put things into the perspective of past, present, and future.”

The Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series is made possible with a gift from Jeff Lutz and Cathy Nowosielski.

Weekly Conversation between Hill, Maxwell to cover updates on Chautauqua strategic plan

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Hill and Maxwell

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill and Board of Trustees Chair Candy Maxwell will host a discussion regarding updates to the strategic plan, 150 Forward, during the season’s second Weekly Conversation. 

This conversation will begin at 1 p.m. EDT, Thursday, July 9, on the Virtual Porch. Audience members can join in the conversation live by submitting their questions for Hill and Maxwell. The presentation will be made available on demand the same day. 

During Week One’s conversation, which provided general updates on the summer and CHQ Assembly, Hill and Maxwell said the weekly conversations were designed as a way for the audience to join into Institution conversations, despite geographic separation. Maxwell noted that this virtual conversation may be more efficient than traditional, in-person conversations. 

In the past, weekly conversations tended to cover similar subjects because the audience would vary from week-to-week, so Institution administration could not continue the thread from preceding topics. Maxwell said that now, since people across the country can tune in and watch conversations even after they are live-streamed, they can build upon topics previously covered. 

“Because we are able to conduct these sessions virtually this year, I think we have a unique opportunity to cover a lot of different topics,” Maxwell said. “You have access to this webinar at any point during the season. Whether or not you are physically on the grounds, you are participating via an online experience.”

Hill later said that not only will the overall CHQ Assembly platform allow more complex conversation, it will facilitate more diverse perspectives. The Institution can now draw in people who would normally be limited by finances, interest, and location. 

In an effort to attract this new audience, the Institution partnered with Mather, a not-for-profit organization that provides senior living residence and community-based programming for adults 55 and up. Mather provides CHQ Assembly access to its communities so that they can learn and engage with the Institution. 

“There’s some fairly significant racial diversity in some of the communities that Mather supports that allows us to hopefully expand the representation of folks participating from a different racial background than has (traditionally) been a homogenous Chautauqua audience,” Hill said. “We’re also hoping that because price is not a barrier that we break through some socioeconomic diversity issues.”

Hill said he hopes that by reaching these new audiences, new perspectives will help shape conversations at Chautauqua.

During the conversation, Hill and Maxwell also explained the technical aspects of transitioning the Institution online. When the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to suspend in-person programming this season in May, Institution leaders quickly worked to move nine weeks of programming online — an amount of planning that is typically done over the course of several months to a year. 

Financing this new endeavor was one of many obstacles they had to quickly maneuver through. Hill said that the Institution had about $10 million in cash reserves at the start of the pandemic, and spent about $7.5 million to shore up the Institution’s annual budget and make a virtual season possible. Community donations and Paycheck Protection Program funds have softened the blow. 

A 2019 donation from Ted and Betsy Merchant to equip the grounds with technology had already spurred major infrastructure, equipment and software improvements that continued through the CHQ Assembly planning. The investments made it possible for popular event spaces to be redeployed as studios, in some cases providing familiar backgrounds.

“That gift has paid off in spades. What you can’t see on CHQ Assembly is that Lenna Hall, the Hall of Christ, the Amphitheater, the Becker Room, sometimes the Amphitheater stage, and other areas have been linked together like television studios. That gift has allowed us to talk between those buildings,” Hill said. “And we have also hardwired in camera devices in places like the Hall of Philosophy, which was our intent to use this summer for better livestreaming.” Those Hall of Philosophy cameras are temporarily being used in the Hall of Christ studio space.

In upcoming years, Hill said, the Institution plans to utilize CHQ Assembly and other online platforms as an amplifier for its content, even as programming reverts back to its traditional, in-person format. 

Chautauquans can join the Weekly Conversation at 1 p.m. EDT every Thursday this season on the Virtual Porch. Upcoming topics will include diversifying revenue, Chautauqua Lake and more. 

Institution historian Schmitz to present “ChautauqWhat? A history of Chautauqua”

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Chautauqua Institution historian and archivist Jon Schmitz will commence the 2020 Heritage Lecture Series at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, July 3, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform with a presentation on the history of the Chautauqua movement.

In ChautauqWhat?: A historical overview of Chautauqua, Schmitz will share the 150-year history of the Chautauqua Movement and what makes the Institution unique. 

The movement began in 1874 with the establishment of the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly as an experiment in “vacation” learning that took place outside of school. It grew to the Chautauqua Institution that currently exists, fostering life-long learning, religion, art, and music. 

As the Institution grew, “Daughter Chautauquas” emerged across the country to replicate the western New York organization. At the peak of its popularity in 1915, an estimated 12,000 communities had hosted a Chautauqua. This practice died down in the following decades, but the Institution remained. 

Just as the Daughter Chautauquas brought programming into people’s communities across the country, the Institution is doing the same through its virtual 2020 season — a season that Schmitz called unprecedented.  

“(The pandemic) makes this the most exceptional season without question. There has never been a year before when the program was canceled,” Schmitz said. “It’s never been radically affected by wars, or pandemics or economic problems.”

When world events have interfered with programming in the past, it was small compared to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the 2020 season. For example, Schmitz said in years past the opera schedule may have been abbreviated, or the season cut short by a week. But, in-person programming has never been outright canceled.

Schmitz said he hopes that this historic year will allow the audience and community to reflect on what the Institution is and stands for. 

“The significance of it is that it will cause people to think more seriously about what Chautauqua is, what it is to them, what they want from it, and what they expect to have from it,” Schmitz said. “At what point is Chautauqua no longer Chautauqua?”

The season will see further programming from the Oliver Archives Center about Chautauqua’s traditions and history, with two films from 1923. Schmitz is welcoming three guests to the platform for lectures this season: author and public speaker Rick Swegan, Chautauqua Institution Archives Assistant Emálee Krulish, and North Carolina State University Professor Emeritus Gary Moore. 

Schmitz prides himself on the work of the Heritage Lecture Series, welcoming speakers who are truly passionate about speaking at the Institution. The speakers are not offered stipends, so there is no incentive other than a desire to speak at the Institution. 

“That tends to bring very good speakers. Speakers in the Heritage Lecture Series really make an effort to work up their presentations. They take it very seriously that they’re speaking,” Schmitz said.

One main draw for speakers is the audience they will be speaking to. Schmitz said that the Institution hosts “one of the best audiences in the world.” 

“Chautauqua audiences are attentive. They are patient. They are really very sophisticated,” Schmitz said. “It’s so strange to talk when you’re speaking to a Chautauquan audience. You’re speaking to people who are professors from well-established universities to people who are entirely new to the subject.”

The Heritage Lecture Series will premiere a new presentation at 3:30 p.m. EDT every Friday this season on CHQ Assembly.

A Vessel, Carrying Lanterns, Weathering the Storm

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For the first time in history, President Michael Hill gave his annual Three Taps of the Gavel address to an empty amphitheater Sunday, June 28. PHOTOS BY DAVE MUNCH/CHAUTAUQUA INSTITUTION

Editor’s note: These are the prepared remarks for Chautauqua Institution President
Michael E. Hill’s annual Three Taps of the Gavel address, delivered Sunday, June 28, 2020 in an empty Amphitheater as part of CHQ Assembly, prior to the beginning of the Service of Worship and Sermon.

“Good morning, and welcome home to Chautauqua.”

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These are the words I have ordinarily used to open our assembly in the first four years I have been fortunate enough to serve as Chautauqua’s president. But this year is anything but ordinary. What you can’t see beyond me is an empty Amphitheater, which can seat up to 4,500 people. Our grounds in Western New York are traditionally populated with between 7,500 to 10,000 people on a day like this. My best estimates are that we have approximately 1,000 people on the grounds for the start of this season. From coast to coast, we are joined by people who are or have been locked in their homes or quarantining in far-off places due to COVID-19. And our nation is in week four of coast-to-coast protests for racial equality, and is facing anew questions about unhealed wounds that date back to our founding.

And yet, today, my “ordinary” greeting of “welcome home to Chautauqua” is still the right one, as we are welcoming you home to what our co-founder Bishop John Heyl Vincent called “the Chautauqua of ideas and inspirations, (which) is not dependent upon the literal and local Chautauqua.”

Tradition is important at Chautauqua. It’s the reason we’re here on this stage today, the same space from which almost every Assembly has been ushered in, and where we hold our principal worship services. Our traditions are replete with important symbols that tell stories about our history and our present role in the world and the yet untapped promise of our future. And symbols have been very much on my mind during this pandemic.

Today, from the opening three taps of a historic gavel, we usher in Chautauqua’s 147th Assembly. So much has happened in our world since the last time this gavel met the aged wood of this lectern, creating that haunting echo that portends the playing of the Largo on the great Massey Organ. This ritual of signifying the passage of time, the mourning of what must come to an end and the promise of something new emerging is a powerful metaphor for today.

And it is this “something new emerging” that makes me tremendously excited to gavel in this Assembly, perhaps one of the most important gatherings we have ever convened.

Tradition is important at Chautauqua. It’s the reason we’re here on this stage today, the same space from which almost every Assembly has been ushered in, and where we hold our principal worship services. Our traditions are replete with important symbols that tell stories about our history and our present role in the world and the yet untapped promise of our future. And symbols have been very much on my mind during this pandemic.

I have three items on top of my desk in the President’s Office at the Colonnade. One is a replica of a sign that sat atop the Resolute Desk in President John F. Kennedy’s White House. It reads “O, God, Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.” The second is a stone square that former Chautauqua Vice President Marty Merkley gave me shortly after I began my tenure as the Institution’s 18th President. Inscribed in the rock is a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, who gave his famed “I Hate War” speech in this space. And the third is a 125-year-old rivet salvaged from a steel truss of the old Amphitheater, which was given to me when we opened up this revitalized Amphitheater at the start of my presidency in 2017. Each of these objects hold cues to the work that begins today and provides for us critical questions:

  • What kind of vessel can Chautauqua be in these times of raging waters?
  • Who are today’s prophetic voices that, like Roosevelt, serve as lanterns that light the way to the future we must create?
  • And what is going to hold us together during this time and beyond if we are not only going to come out the other side of this crazy moment in history but come out a society that is better because we weathered the storm and learned from it?

These are the central questions of our 147th Assembly, and this is the journey we begin today.

What kind of vessel can Chautauqua be?

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in Between the World and Me, “My mother and father were always pushing me away from secondhand answers — even the answers they themselves believed. I don’t know that I have ever found any satisfactory answers of my own. But every time I ask it, the question is refined. That is the best of what the old heads meant when they spoke of being ‘politically conscious’ — as much a series of actions as a state of being, a constant questioning, questioning as ritual, questioning as exploration rather than the search for certainty.”

Chautauqua is asking itself an important question: How do we best serve a nation hungry for meaning and answers to complex questions at a time that feels so chaotic? As now-emeritus Kent State University President Beverly Warren asked us at Chautauqua in 2018, how do we “use the wound” to do something that will make our tomorrow a better one?

Today, we officially launch CHQ Assembly, a multi-platform online digital collective that will allow us to share all nine theme weeks of this summer assembly season, our featured lecture speakers, our chaplains of the week, our interfaith speakers, performing arts events, an impressive set of online master and enrichment classes, and a space for Chautauqua Visual Arts that allows people to view exhibitions, explore artwork, and shop in our Gallery Store. And all of that is only hinting at the hundreds of young performing and visual artists who will be studying with us online.

But CHQ Assembly is not a response to COVID-19, and it’s not a one-time initiative meant to bridge us to the other side of this pandemic. While it is certainly helping us to convene this summer, its inspiration comes from our strategic plan, 150 Forward, which asks us to consider how Chautauqua might have an impact beyond our traditional grounds in Western New York and beyond the traditional calendar of our summer assembly season. That plan also asks us to consider how we might harness the power of our platform to do even greater good in the world.

With this launch, we intend to be a part of a year-round dialogue and to use the power of CHQ Assembly, in partnership with others, to amplify voices in a needed national dialogue. We also hope that it allows us, perhaps for the first time in a significant way, to expand the reach of Chautauqua’s programming to audiences that have been for far too long missing from the Chautauqua mix. We seek to realize greater socioeconomic reach, to increase racial diversity and to remove financial and geographic boundaries that have kept our audiences too homogenous for too long.

As a respondent said in one of our community surveys last year, “What stands out for me is a promise that is not yet realized, which is inclusivity and becoming a place that demonstrates the values it espouses.” Those values:

  • Passion for multigenerational and multidisciplinary engagement through the arts, education, recreation, and religion;
  • Belief in the dignity and contributions of all people;
  • Commitment to dialogue to achieve enhanced understanding that leads to positive action;
  • Respect for the serenity, tradition, safety, and ecology of Chautauqua’s historic Grounds and surroundings; and
  • Balance between Chautauqua’s heritage and the need to innovate.

… all come to rest in our new CHQ Assembly. We pledge today to provide a vessel for a more inclusive society to share what’s on its mind, to connect with one another and to remove the barriers that determine who gets to lead, or even be a part of, the conversation. It’s the opportunity to not only expand our programming reach, but more importantly to build a larger, more diverse community of fellow learners. When the community expands, the conversation changes, and the opportunity to learn grows. Chautauqua is the practice of humanity through forum, reflection and art, leading to thoughtful action, and this Assembly is inviting all — not some, but all — of the richness of humanity to play a part.

Who are today’s lanterns, lighting the way toward the future?

The murder of George Floyd on May 29 ignited worldwide protests against a racist and unjust system. Coming amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic, the world — and our country especially — has been flooded with renewed questions and calls for reform, for justice, for an end to some lives mattering while others seemingly do not. We enter this summer assembly, as Coates beckons us, needing “a constant questioning, questioning as ritual, questioning as exploration rather than the search for certainty.”

We need to explore:

  • Our global and local response to climate change;
  • Those unseen forces that are influencing the weaving and tearing of the fabric of our nation;
  • The way in which art informs and has the potential to save our democracy;
  • The ethical boundaries of our increasingly valuable and increasingly invasive technology;
  • What we still have to learn from the suffrage movement in our ongoing fights for equality as we mark the 100th anniversary of women being granted the right to vote in this nation;
  • How we rebuild our public education system and whether it can, as Horace Mann once noted, be “the great equalizer;”
  • How notions of “us” and “we” can break through tribalism and isolation to help us bridge our differences;
  • Whether the U.S. Constitution provides a pathway toward securing the “blessings of liberty” for us all and what may need to change to make that so; and
  • What will the world look like over the coming decades, and how we can work together to better prepare for the future.

If Roosevelt used Chautauqua’s platform to remind the nation that we should hate war, we have an obligation to use this platform to give voice to those of this time that can show us a way forward, and I’m grateful to Christiana Figueres, Rabbi David Wolpe, Anna Deavere Smith, Darren Walker, Valarie Kaur, Sir Ken Robinson, Martha Jones, Jon Meacham, Angélique Kidjo, and Rhiannon Giddens, among many others, for being today’s lanterns.

What’s going to hold us together?

Many have questioned how we hold society together when we can’t even be within six feet of one another. Certainly, as an organization, as we shifted toward using CHQ Assembly as our main form of convening this summer, we asked ourselves questions about how to engage authentically when we have historically used the in-person gathering as one of our main ingredients — some might even say it’s the secret sauce of Chautauqua.

So what does it mean that for many Chautauquans this summer they will engage without leaving their homes or home communities? What does it look like to explore these important questions from the confines of our living rooms or on a remote device far from this Amphitheater or any of the other dozens of public gathering spaces on these grounds in Western New York?

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PHOTO BY DAVE MUNCH/CHAUTAUQUA INSTITUTION

We often say when you come to Chautauqua that its power is not in the convening here, but in what you choose to do when you return home. Do you take all you’ve learned here and make a conscious choice to make your own corner of the planet a better place?

Coretta Scott King reminds us that “the greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Given all that’s happening in the world, given the need for questions that demand exploration, not for certainty’s sake, but because we can and must come together, as we begin this new season, how can we take all we’re about to learn and devote our energies to do the work when our communities need it, need us, most?

This isn’t a “lost” summer, but a summer when we’re called to do more. The way we embrace fellow Chautauquans on the Plaza is how we should embrace those wherever we find ourselves this summer. This summer we don’t come to Chautauqua, but carry the spirit of Chautauqua throughout a world that needs it. And that spirit means opening ourselves up to learning, to declaring that “I have more work to do.” This summer must unite the name Chautauqua with the synonym of “active citizenry.” Because, when the world needs it most, we’re reminded that Chautauqua can, and must always be, far more than a place.

As I stare out into the Amphitheater today, there’s something powerful about knowing that while the benches may be empty, I look out into an amplified community, the heart of Chautauqua that gathers today to learn together, to worship together, and that makes a commitment to make the world a better place because of it.

That’s what those objects on my desk remind me of as we begin this assembly.

Yes, the sea is so great right now. But our charge is not to despair, but to be a vessel of hope.

Yes, the world sometimes feels as if it is at war. But we have modern-day prophets to serve as lanterns, showing us a way to a better tomorrow.

Yes, this tumultuous time has many feeling disjointed and insecure. But like that rivet that held our Amphitheater together, this Chautauqua ideal that was birthed almost 150 years ago was forged in harsh conditions. It has survived financial crises, societal upheaval, natural disasters and acts of terrorism. It can sustain the winds of a pandemic. We are anchored securely in our convictions to deploy the best in human values into the world.

When the rain has subsided, when the clouds roll away and reveal the sunrise of a new day, the daylight will show that Chautauquans never retreated, that Chautauqua never went away, not for even a minute. We found new ways when we were told the old ones were off-limits. We asked unrelenting questions, not always to reach answers, but to get closer to them. And we did that from all over the world, bringing the questions and a call to action to wherever we call home.

It is that exploration of humanity — with all its accomplishments and all its wounds – that commences at Chautauqua in this 147th Assembly. A pandemic could not keep us from that. Weeks of protests against injustice remind us we have too much important work left to do. So let’s get to it.

I tap the gavel three times …

Chautauqua 2020 has begun.

A ‘Welcome Home’ Message From Chautauqua’s President

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Welcome home to Chautauqua! It’s a true joy to welcome you to the 147th Assembly, a season admittedly unlike any we have experienced before. 

Michael Hill

There is a cadence to a Chautauqua season that brings comfort, and I admit that writing my opening column to you for The Chautauquan Daily and CHQ Assembly Weekly is just one of many things breaking that cadence in 2020. I would normally be talking to you about how we’ve been preparing the grounds and how excited I am to see each of you as you join us for one — or many — of our nine weeks. As I looked back through these columns in my first three seasons, I also traditionally would acknowledge how sad I feel when you leave us to go back to your home communities. 

But this year, at least for our programming, you will join us on the new CHQ Assembly platform. I’m incredibly grateful to all my staff colleagues, our outside advisers and the many of you who contributed time, talent and treasure to allow us to continue the conversation amidst a global pandemic. A reading of Chautauqua history tells me that there has been nothing in our almost-150-year history that has kept us from gathering to explore the great conversations of the day, and this year is no different.  

We start our season this week with the exploration of climate change and the actions needed to curb the negative impacts to our planet. The Chautauqua Lecture Series will examine the latest science, but also ask questions about how we might prioritize our global and our local response. How we talk about climate change is rapidly shifting. But amid the ongoing political debates, how are we — and how should we be — responding? 

  • What does prioritizing a response to climate change mean, and how do we collectively determine the overall benefits and costs of such investments? 
  • How do we balance proactive work aimed at reversing climate change with strategies for adapting to the realities of its worst effects? 
  • We examine case studies of solutions being sought at a global and local scale, from the work of small U.S. towns to foreign countries, and from corporate investments to military strategies.  

We’ve assembled some of the world’s leading experts as your guides for this opening week. Bring an open mind and an appetite to learn, to be challenged and to challenge. 

In our companion Interfaith Lecture Series, we look at “Faith to Save the Earth.” Climate change is often called a scientific or political issue, but is there an imperative that comes from a position of faith? In this week, we explore what role various faith traditions play in response to the care of the earth and how those different world views might be harnessed to prioritize our global and local response. 

Many have asked me if we are going to change our nine-week exploration, given all that’s going on in the world. Pre-COVID-19, we were internally framing this summer’s assembly as a “citizen’s guide” to the upcoming election and beyond. As we look out across the nine weeks, we still feel that these topics are the right ones for us to contemplate as we collectively decide the future of our nation and our world. That’s not to say that you won’t see woven into the weeks discussions of the pandemic, or of the issues brought to the fore by the Black Lives Matter movement. The great thing about a Chautauqua summer is that topics don’t stay stagnant; they reflect what’s happening in the world, and I know these momentous times will be deeply reflected by our preachers, teachers, artists and speakers. 

There are so many exciting things happening through the new CHQ Assembly. I speak to that in my Three Taps address, and I hope you’ll consider a review of that as you start your journey with us. In addition to what you see online, what you can’t see is the scores of artists — those well into their careers and emerging student artists — who continue to study through the Chautauqua lens. I’m humbled by the entrepreneurial and “can-do” spirit of all who came together to present this 147th Assembly. And I’m deeply grateful to our Board of Trustees for their courage and investment that made this possible. 

One of the benefits of conducting this season through the CHQ Assembly portal is that distance need not be a deterrent to your participation. I hope you’ll join us all summer and share your thoughts about the experience. This is a “beta test” year for the CHQ Assembly, and your feedback will make it stronger and a more powerful tool for the future. 

Thank you for coming on the journey, and welcome home. 

CPOA eyes new communication platform, clarifies tax revenues

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The Chautauqua Property Owners Association will roll out a new interface and operating system to allow two-way communication between the CPOA and its members early next year.

The platform — dubbed the “CPOA Platform” — is expected to be unveiled in January 2020, and be fully functional by next season. The CPOA has been working with a third-party developer on the project for about five months; however, the concept has been in the works for over a year, according to CPOA Member-at-Large Paul Ritacco.

“We reviewed multiple, different types of platforms, and we’ve come up with one that we believe will truly meet the needs of the time, as we bring our membership into it, in terms of being able to communicate well, efficiently and timely with our membership,” Ritacco said. “This platform will allow us not only to communicate to them, but allow them to communicate back to us.”

The platform — which will be a mobile-friendly website — will allow users to access exclusive resources, including an updated property owner directory, message boards, newsletters and important internal links. The message boards will be narrowed to specific interests, like supporters of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra or the School of Dance, or region-specific chats.

“We are trying to create an online community,” said CPOA Secretary Erica Higbie.

Higbie said the CPOA is in a stable financial situation to pursue the large-scale project. The association does not yet know if it will have to increase CPOA member dues, which are currently $20 annually.

“We’re trying to increase benefits to our members, and this is a platform that’s going to enable us to do that,” said Richard Parlato, chair of the CPOA subgroup, Property Owners Who Rent. “We think that the benefit package that we present eventually will offset any conversation around costs and cost increases.”

The third-party developer employed by the CPOA adheres to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which protects citizens’ data and privacy, meaning the CPOA Platform will be highly secure, according to Ritacco.

Ultimately, the purpose of the new platform is to consolidate information and provide ease of access to its users. Ritacco said that, aside from being dues-paying CPOA members, users will only need an email address to access the site.

“Technology today is being designed to be easier, so we’re trying to capitalize on that,” he said. “We’re trying to keep it very simple.”

The CPOA recently clarified tax revenue streams, as well, following confusion at a Porch Chat on Aug. 7. Chautauqua Institution does not receive any tax revenue from property owners’ county and town taxes, according to data from the Town of Chautauqua.

“A number of property owners are under the mistaken belief that the Institution is the recipient of a lot of real estate taxes, and thus do not understand why the gate passes are so expensive,” said CPOA President Paul Perry.

Based on a property assessed at $300,000, home owners pay $6,196.27 in annual taxes — $0 of that goes to the Institution.

“As you can see from the distribution of the real estate taxes paid, the Institution receives none of those taxes,” Perry said.

However, some of that $6,196.27 does go to Institution subsidiaries: about 0.68% per $1,000 assessed value goes to the Chautauqua Fire District; about 1.27% per $1,000 assessed value goes to Chautauqua Utility District, which supplies water, sewer and lighting to the Institution. About $300 — based on a $300,000 property — goes to the Town of Chautauqua.

The largest tax — 9.31%, or $2,793 — is distributed to local schools. Medicaid makes up about 4.2%, and the county tax accounts for nearly 3.60%. The community college received 0.62%. These numbers are based on the tax rates as of February 2019.

Jennifer Stitely Joins Staff as Director of Gift Planning

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Jenny Stitely shown Tuesday July 30, 2019 in the Development Offices of the Collanade serves Chautauqua as the newly created position of the Director of Gift Planning. SARAH YENESEL/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

New development staff member Jennifer “Jenny” Stitely arrived at the Institution just two days before the 2019 summer season started, but that didn’t stop her from making major strides in her position.

Stitely serves as the director of gift planning, succeeding Dusty Nelson, who retired in May of this year. She has always known about Chautauqua but had never physically visited the grounds before June.

“I had known about Chautauqua from my college days,” Stitely said. “I was not unfamiliar with Chautauqua, I had just never been on the campus before.”

When Stitely first arrived, she said that it felt just like coming home. She was happy to be back in the arts environment. As a voice major in college, Stitely said she enjoyed the opera program and that the art form was important to her. She also loves attending the symphonies and lectures.

“It’s unbelievable, … the caliber of people who are coming in to present and and the level of intellectual discourse from the people who attend programs,” Stitely said. “This is just such a unique community of intellectuals, of people who want to make a difference, who are having hard conversations, who are tackling tough issues, and I love that. I love this whole idea of having a civil discussion about the things that are most pressing. It’s been amazing.”

Stitely has 18 years of experience in fundraising. She has served in a variety of capacities within the field and always had the intention of working in planned giving. Stitely first started out in health care fundraising, working for community hospitals. She most recently served as the divisional director of planned giving for the Salvation Army, and held that position for about four-and-a-half years until she saw the vacancy at the Foundation.

“When I saw this position become available — and having always had a passion for art, history, language, education in general — it was too good to pass up,” Stitely said. “Seeing that I could have the best of both worlds — I would be here for the summer to experience the season, then I would be back home the rest of the year — it was a perfect fit.”

Stitely lives in Westminster, Maryland, with her husband, Tim, and their four children. During the balance of the year, Stitely will work from Chautauqua’s Washington, D.C., office. She said that this position appealed to her because of the setting, as well as her love for planned giving and the role that it plays in fundraising.

“I got into this particular aspect of fundraising because I think it’s an opportunity for people to really tell their story and to share with future generations who they are and what is important to them,” she said. “If I can be a part of helping to write that story, that’s a huge reward.”

As far as her position, Stitely is excited to take Chautauqua to the next level through philanthropic programs and planned giving. She hopes to explore the new strategic plan and continue to lay a foundation that will help the Institution flourish.

“I’m looking forward to growing the planned giving program,” Stitely said. “I think the work that’s been done before now has been great and has laid a solid foundation. As we consider what the future holds for Chautauqua, it’s great that planned gifts can be a part of that whole concept of transformational philanthropy.”

Stitely said that she is thrilled to be serving in this position. Chautauqua’s intellectual environment inspires her and makes her even more excited for what’s to come.

“It’s been an incredible experience,” Stitely said. “You have so much talent collected in this little spot in Western New York, it’s really so unique. You just have to see it, there’s no way to describe it without being here.”

Incoming Board Chair Candy Maxwell Talks Hopes for Tenure and Strategic Plan Work

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Candy Maxwell, shown Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, is the incoming chair of the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Chautauqua Institution is opening a new chapter led by new faces, new initiatives and new plans. Helping to spearhead this new direction is incoming Board of Trustees Chair Candy Maxwell, who, in October of 2018, completed eight years of service on the board. 

Maxwell is a strategic adviser by trade, with more than 30 years of experience in business, leadership, governance, policy and strategy. Most recently, Maxwell served on the Strategic Planning Working Group, a 13-member committee who worked for 18 months to formulate the 150 Forward strategic plan.

Maxwell’s tenure marks the first female board chair in the Institution’s nearly 150-year history. Her term begins Oct. 1, when she’ll take over for outgoing, term-limited Chair Jim Pardo.


How did you discover Chautauqua Institution?

My husband and I started coming here in 2001, actually. He introduced me to the Institution — he actually worked here while he was in college. So we started coming here, and like many people, we came first for a week and then two weeks, and just kept on building up over time.

I just almost instantly grew to love the place for everything it has to offer. It’s really become a red thread that has been part of our life since that time. It was a place that, for me, gave me all the opportunity for lifelong learning, but also a place where I could really relax and unwind, reflect on and examine how I wanted to show up in the world.

It’s been a very important part of both of our lives for a number of years.


What’s your elevator pitch to people who have never been to Chautauqua?

Chautauqua is a unique place that brings together important conversations around essential issues of our day, but explores them in a way that engages all learning and experiences of the four pillars, taking a look at it through thought, leadership and debate and discussion through the arts, through recreation and even religious studies.

It’s a multidimensional, multifaceted way of thinking about the world, experiencing the world and, at the same time, a place in which you can connect with family and friends in a very meaningful way — just the environment itself lends itself to that kind of an experience. You slow down and can be with the people that really matter to you.


What does being board chair mean to you, and how would you describe your role?

I’m incredibly honored to be serving in this role. I, just last year, completed eight years of service on the board of trustees and have an enormous amount of respect for the work that we do and the importance that we play in the overall functioning of the organization and the strategy of the organization.

Coming in as board chair, for me, being able to continue much of that work and to do so in an expanded leadership position in a time that’s very important for the Institution, is deeply meaningful. We have a robust, dynamic strategic plan that is really future-looking and that really examines the role of the Institution as we move forward. I was fortunate enough to have a role in that work that led up to the final strategic plan.

I think as board chair, I think of there being two major responsibilities: to establish and to support an effective and well-working relationship with President Michael E. Hill and to make sure that there is that communication and partnership with the board and with senior leadership within the organization. I think also it’s to ensure that we exercise good governance with respect to our oversight function and that we fully leverage the talents — the extreme talents — around the board table with respect to the trustees, and that we really use all of that in a unique way of guiding the Institution forward, overseeing the strategy and strategy implementation and making sure that in the president, we have great leadership that’s going to bring the organization to that point where we see success as we’ve outlined in the plan.


How have you been involved with the strategic plan prior to your appointment to board chair, and how will you be involved with it during your tenure?

I was involved in a group that was put together by current Chair Jim Pardo to work in great detail on the strategic plan itself, so a lot of that was taking everything that we heard from the community last year from the forums and using that, as well as our own assessment of the environment and the unique attributions of Chautauqua, to come up with a strategic plan. So I was on the working group that was heavily involved with that and finally brought the plan to the board for approval back in May.

As I look forward, one of the things I’ve been doing this summer is chairing a working group that looks at the way in which we’re going to implement the strategic plan, specifically acting as advisers to the president’s team. Particularly, we’re working with Chief of Staff and Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Shannon Rozner, who will be closely involved in the implementation of the strategic plan to make sure that there will be appropriate mechanisms and overall approach in the way we’re going to identify strategic initiatives, evaluate them in their context of the plan and monitor and oversee their implementation.

That’s been a major effort of my own, as well as this group, during this summer. Our work will continue into the fall with respect to the way in which the board should oversee that implementation. Again, this is not to look at specific initiatives — it’s really to make sure that an infrastructure and an approach is in place in the organization that will yield effective initiatives as we move forward.

In the fall and into my first year, the implementation itself is obviously one of the highest priorities; and in that context, we’re really looking at how initiatives are going to be coming to the board for consideration, how we’re going to make decisions around those initiatives in terms of prioritization and sequencing and funding, and then how we’re going to actually monitor them and maintain oversight of them on an ongoing basis. That will be a major effort as we get into the fall and into early next year.

In addition to that, one of the areas that I’ve been focused on quite a bit is making sure that we have effective infrastructure and effective governance around the addition of the development function within the Institution. Specifically, we have a development council, which is, I think, a very important group on the board — it’s made up of trustees, as well as Foundation directors; and then myself and Tim Renjilian, (incoming chair of the Foundation board of directors), who I very much look forward to working with, will also be part of that group.

I foresee a lot of effort going into this first year of really working through the steps that are necessary to establish good governance, good oversight of the development function and also the fact that it’s such an important objective within our overall plan. I see that as really being a major area of emphasis in this first year as well.


What are your hopes and goals for your first year?

I think, for me, what’s important is that we have a board that fully leverages the talents of the board members, that people are able to contribute in ways that are meaningful for them, but also really important and essential for the Institution. That includes empowering committees to do the work of the board, establishing good relationships between the board and the staff and establishing good mechanisms for overseeing the work of the Institution and practicing our role as trustees in that. That includes what we need to see as a board to believe we’re practicing good oversight. How do we function as committees, how do we preserve and build upon the successes we’ve had in the past several years and the financial stability we’ve been able to achieve?

That means that the board as a whole, and then each individual trustee, is going to need to be attentive to those dynamics, particularly as we move into the implementation phase of the strategic plan. That’s really my hope — that we are able to build on, what I think is, a highly effective board and continue to strengthen our contribution to the Institution through our oversight and governance.


How do you hope to see the Institution evolve over your tenure?

It really is reflected in the strategic plan; I really do hope that we can continue to improve upon the summer assembly experience — through the guest experience, through the programming, through the offering of our other pillars — to be the best we can be and, of course, to look at ways we can share the experiences of Chautauqua as a convener out in the broader world. I think if we can become known, in no uncertain terms, as that convener, as that party that can bring together diverse views and have a conversation, … I will consider us to have made increasing significant mark in the nation.

I think that at the same time, I would love to see increased diversity in terms of intergenerational diversity, as well as racial, ethnic and other types of diversity — that’s such an important element of who we are and something that’s obviously very important for us. As we move forward,  I think (we need) to be able to reflect upon on the sustainability of this place, the ability to be able to find our support — not only from our own revenue from the summer assembly season — through increased philanthropy of all sorts, as well as other earned revenue sources that we have only begun to pursue and to look at. My hopes are really not different from those outlined in the strategic plan. I think we have a very aggressive set of goals by 2024, and so we have a lot of work to do and we need to get to work in order to make that a reality.


What does being the first woman board chair mean to you?

I really appreciate and honor this role I’m playing as the first woman chair of the (board of trustees) and I have also been so grateful for the excitement that’s been expressed by the community in terms of my election. The support I’ve received already, before I’ve come into this role, has oftentimes been overwhelming for me, in a very positive way. I take this role as the first woman very seriously and also feel that I am prepared to take on this work. I celebrate with the community. I think this is a really important development, and of course, I fully intend to live up to those expectations.


What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I think for me — obviously, like many people —  making a difference, but in a way that I can experience it largely through other people and through place and through working with and through others. I really enjoy that — that’s one of the things I really enjoy about coming into this position, is that the work that is to be done, is to be done through the expertise of others. For me, it’s about a constant zeal for learning and also a desire that I have to do that in community, through and in partnership with other people.

As far as this new role that I have, the ability to engage and to create and to dream and to make things happen with and through others is really what motivates me.

Jamestown Wegmans Food Markets Funds Beach Boys Concert

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Wegmans Food Markets’ Jamestown location opened 24 years ago. Every year since its opening, the Jamestown Wegmans has supported annual concerts at Chautauqua Institution, including recent performances by artists such as Sheryl Crow and Alison Krauss. This year, Wegmans is sponsoring the Beach Boys concert at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, August 21 in the Amphitheater.

“We want to make community investments where we have stores,” said Ryan Salvo, manager of the Jamestown Wegmans. “We’ve had a long-standing relationship with the Institution, and recognize the importance of having a place where people from around the world can gather, learn and be entertained by some of the most respected people of their craft.”

Many loyal Wegmans customers are fellow Chautauquans, and that has inspired the store to continuously support the Institution.

“We have so many loyal customers from Chautauqua that support our store every day, so this is a great way for us to say ‘thanks’ and give back,” Salvo said.

The Beach Boys, a Chautauqua favorite, will be returning to the Institution for an evening of summer fun. The iconic band has created a torrent of hit singles and has sold tens of millions of albums. Their music has influenced countless artists and has made a major impact in the world of popular music. They’ve launched a series of chart-topping songs including: “Surfer Girl,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around,” “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Good Vibrations,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and more.

For more information on sponsorship opportunities at Chautauqua, contact Tina Downey, director of the Chautauqua Fund, at 716-357-6406 or tdowney@chq.org.

Institution Administrators Wrap Up Talks of Strategic Plan; Look Toward Implementation

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As the season winds down, Institution administrators are wrapping up the 150 Forward strategic plan weekly information and listening sessions.

The 150 Forward strategic plan is a series of four key objectives and cross-cutting imperatives to “position Chautauqua as a stronger, more sustainable institution,” according to Laura Currie, chair of the Strategic Planning Working Group. Currie, along with Institution President Michael E. Hill and board Chair Jim Pardo, led the eighth Strategic Plan Information Session on Thursday afternoon in the Hall of Christ.

“Strategic planning has morphed … into a new type, which is much more visionary, much more (big picture) and has the opportunity for periodic reassessment and tweaks, as you go along through the passage of time,” Pardo said.

The four key objectives hit at the Institution’s areas of opportunity: optimize the summer season; expand Chautauqua’s year-round convening authority; diversify revenue and drive a comprehensive; science-based solution to Chautauqua Lake’s declining health.

Underscoring these objectives are cross-cutting imperatives: strategic partnerships; mobilization of technology; talent and labor solutions and IDEA.

Shannon Rozner, chief of staff and vice president of strategic initiatives, and Parker Suddeth, a consultant hired by the Institution, have spearheaded the weekly IDEA  — inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility — Listening Sessions this season.

Per the input of Chautauquans, Rozner and Suddeth further defined IDEA at the meeting last Monday afternoon in the Hall of Christ: “Accessibility is being invited to the table; diversity is having a seat at the table; inclusion is having a voice; and equity is having your voice heard at the table,” Suddeth said.

At the listening session — where Rozner posed questions designed to facilitate discussion — Chautauquans honed in on elitism and suggested the Institution host a mentorship or orientation program for newcomers. 

Currently, Rozner is working with a strategic plan implementation group and the board of trustees to set metrics for 2024 — the Institution’s 150th birthday — and to define trustees and community members’ roles in enacting the plan. Additionally, Rozner said the Institution is actively planning to hire full-time IDEA personnel to build on the work from this season.

The next IDEA Listening Session will be at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 20 in the Hall of Christ; the next Strategic Plan Information Session will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Hall of Christ. The final Master Plan Information Session will be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 21 in the Hall of Christ. Additionally, Chautauquans can voice concerns, leave comments or ask questions about the plan through the online forum at 150FWDFeedback.chq.org.

Retired Surgeon Sidney Holec and Volunteers Lead Weekly ‘Stop the Bleed’ Courses at Chautauqua Fire Hall

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Saving a life is as simple as A.B.C. — alert 911, identify bleeding and apply compression — according to retired general surgeon Sidney Holec.

At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 20 as he has every Tuesday this season, in the Chautauqua Fire Hall, Holec — along with Chautauqua Institution volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians — leads “Stop the Bleed,” a national awareness and education campaign, training bystanders to help in bleeding emergencies.

Stop the Bleed is a 2015 initiative of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the American College of Surgeons. As of 2017, over 30,000 people nationwide have taken the course; more than 125 Chautauquans have taken Holec’s course so far this season, he said.

“Dying from a stoppable bleed is a common cause of death,” Holec said. “If you’re on the scene, you can stop the bleeding and stop (someone) from going into shock. There’s a point after losing so much blood, even if (they) make it to the hospital, you can’t bring them back.”

This training is extremely timely as the United States is experiencing a pandemic of mass shootings, Holec said. In just the last month, more than 30 people were killed in mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio; dozens more were injured.

In the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, Holec said several people died from stoppable bleeds; scores of lives were saved using compression during the 2017 Las Vegas shooting when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concert-goers, killing 59 people and wounding over 500. 

“It’s sad that we’re at this point,” Holec said.

Compression requires applying intense pressure to cut off blood circulation to a wound. Holec’s class teaches two techniques: packing a wound and using a tourniquet. A tourniquet is fastened 2 to 3 inches above a wound — avoiding joints — and tightened and twisted until the bleeding ceases.

The same effect of a tourniquet can be replicated with a number of common household objects, according to Chautauqua Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jessie Briggs, including a shoelace, the band of a bra, a belt, lanyard or shirt. The objective is just to wrap it tight enough around the injured limb to reduce or cut off circulation.

“If they’re not screaming and yelling because it hurts, it’s not tight enough,” he said.

If it’s a deep wound or gash, Holec said to pack it down to the artery against the bone with gauze, coated in a clotting agent, or any available material, and apply direct pressure.

According to the American College of Surgeons, hemorrhage is the most common cause of preventable deaths in trauma and accounts for approximately 40% of trauma-related deaths worldwide.

“We’re all potentially exposed to major trauma,” Holec said. “And not everybody can be saved — they may have lost so much blood that even if you get a tourniquet on, it’s not enough. But at least they have a chance.”

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