Lifelong and returning Chautauquans are ready to foster meaningful connections with the next generation of Chautauqua Institution learners as people of all ages come together to participate in classes, gather around the lake and attend lectures and events this season.
Within this community, members of the NOW Generation are connecting young adults, ages 21 to 40, and young families with fellow Chautauquans.
“They have either grown up at Chautauqua, come with their families for the first time or are students involved with some of the schools,” said Kate Groninger, incoming vice-chair of the NOW Generation advisory council, a group that seeks to bring together the next generation of Chautauquans by holding a variety of events, volunteer opportunities and more. “NOW Generation works to connect people of that age with people around the grounds.”
NOW Generation takes the initiative to host year-round events that allow members to stay connected during the off-season.
“I find CHQ Near You to be particularly exciting,” Groninger said.
CHQ Near You is an annual event held in multiple cities each spring that brings Chautauquans together, in person, during the off-season. The event can include a variety of host-designed activities, such as brewery tours, film festivals or evenings at the ballpark. Members particularly enjoy the off-season events because of their ability to connect with fellow Chautauquans all over the country, with many sharing photos via social media with the hashtag #CHQNearYou, from their respective city.
“I live in Chicago and for the past couple years we’ve had a group of 10 to 15 folks come around for a gathering, so I enjoy it,” Groninger said. “It’s equally fun to get to know folks from different parts of the country and folks who have different Chautauqua experiences who all enjoy Chautauqua.”
Groninger finds the organization to be unique because of its commitment to the Institution. In addition to members of NOW Generation serving as volunteers for a number of activities, many are also giving back by joining the Lewis Miller Circle, which is made of up NOW Generation members who annually donate $250 or more to the Chautauqua Fund.
“It encourages philanthropy across this age bracket,” Groninger said, “which I think makes it stand out.”
Through their giving to the Chautauqua Fund, the Lewis Miller Circle provides an immediate impact on innovations to the annual experience at Chautauqua, supporting the full range of programming for families and patrons of all ages, as well as scholarships for the majority of students enrolled at the Schools of Performing and Visual Arts.
NOW Generation hosts events during the season that are tailored toward either engaging young families or providing a gathering space for young adults. These events can vary from volunteer-led weekly pub chats and playdates each Tuesday, to receptions and gatherings that offer access to different program or leadership areas at Chautauqua.
“On the grounds, we have events so that young Chautauquans can meet one another and bond,” said Amy Schiller, outgoing vice-chair. “We have a lot of events that really touch on all facets of Chautauqua.”
Some of the events that NOW Generation has planned for this summer include:
Annual NOW Generation’s Welcome Reception at 4 p.m. Sunday at Boys’ and Girls’ Club. This is an adults-only event.
NOW Generation’s “Meet & Greet” at 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 2, at Chautauqua Women’s Club to hear from representatives from various volunteer organizations on the grounds.
NOW Generation’s sixth annual Summerfest at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Youth Activities Center.
Led by the advisory council, the NOW Generation also provides the younger demographic of Chautauquans with the ability to have a voice in the community. They are able to contribute to the Chautauqua experience and prepare to lead the next generation of Chautauquans.
“Now that NOW Generation has this voice, it has allowed this fostering of allowing folks to come together because they realize it’s not just a club,” said Russell Bermel, NOW Generation’s advisory council chair. “We are able to keep people connected through events and community activities that are not subject or limited to the NOW Generation population. Ninety percent of our events are open to the public.”
Bermel describes NOW Generation as a “real living and breathing organization” that has the ability to make changes that will better the Institution.
“These are the ‘change makers’ of Chautauqua,” Bermel said, “what we want Chautauqua to look like when we are there and of old age. We have this unique lens and unique balcony to see how things are evolving.”
Since 2012, NOW Generation has continued to grow as an organization. Young Chautauquans continue to do their part in advancing the Chautauqua experience.
“They are young leaders and participants who are taking ownership of what Chautauqua is going to become,” Schiller said.
For more information about the NOW Generation or to RSVP for the upcoming events, please visit the Facebook page (facebook.com/NOWGenCHQ) or contact Megan Sorenson, staff liaison, at 716-357-6243 or email@example.com to sign up for the NOW Gen e-newsletter.