Chautauqua Institution

News and Noteworthy

Borba and Benesch to serve as co-artistic directors for 2016

Chautauqua Institution today announced that following the completion of its 2016 season, Andrew Borba will succeed Vivienne Benesch as artistic director of Chautauqua Theater Company. Benesch and Borba will be co-artistic directors for the 2016 season.


“In life, we are all faced with the opportunity to serve. It is at times a hard choice to make but those hard choices yield great rewards. Those rewards are mostly for others and not for ourselves. That’s what service is all about.”
Clementa Pinckney, Pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Charleston, SC

A response to Charleston Church Violence and Moral Leadership

Friday, June 19, 2015

As we mourn the massacre of Pastor and South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (and my fraternity brother) along with his fellow worshippers, this is a good time to reflect on the role of moral leadership during times of community violence and social crisis.

Moral leaders are women and men who live and lead with integrity and imagination to serve the common good while inviting others to join them. Examples of such moral leadership include Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malala Yousafzai and Pope Francis. They are humans who have devoted themselves to the noble call of doing good. They don't have to be saints, although no saint will be rejected. They can be fully fleshed, flawed, and ordinary people who behave in extraordinary ways during times of crisis.
In times of violence and deep and shocking pain, moral leaders initiate acts of healing and reconciliation with justice to repair distressed communities. Such leaders facilitate healing by allowing people to grieve and to grieve in the context of a community of caring neighbors. Moral leaders listen carefully to grief narratives and create the time and space for people to put pain into words. And, amidst their listening, they find opportunities to help grieving communities to conceptualize action that may become constructive responses to the violence and their anguish. And, as we learned from South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Process grief must include and lead to truth telling, and reform of public norms, behavior, law and policy. Another moral leader, Desmond Tutu often said,"Without forgiveness, there is no future."
While the shooting suspect was sitting in a Charleston, SC black church with a pastor and parishioners before unleashing his calculated and ruthless terror, I was also seated in a black church in San Francisco (Third Baptist Church) co-leading a community forum on violence. In Charleston, the city lost a moral leader in Pastor Pinckney. In San Francisco, another moral leader, Pastor Amos Brown who was an associate of Dr. King and a prominent civil rights activist, was engaged in leading a community forum on stopping violence and transforming working-class and poor communities. He is someone we intend to bring to Chautauqua in the future.

Under the guidance of this moral leader, a mother whose son was killed along with three friends spoke of her grief and determination to stop gun violence. But, during  the course of the evening Pastor Brown broadened the understanding of violence. The forum began by confronting directly the irrationality of black on black violence. Young former perpetrators, some fresh out of jail, were on hand to apologize and pledge their commitment to rehabilitated living. Community members also talked about the need to stop police violence and incompetence which is a national conversation underway now. Here is where moral leadership worked. Pastor Brown placed these examples of violence into a larger frame and guided people to consider institutional and systemic violence such as policies and corporate action to disrespect and destroy longstanding communities by displacing poor families without constructing adequate affordable housing. The friendships social capital that were nurtured over decades and generations were now being fragmented leading to another form of grief.

As the Charleston community grieves, it will need to reckon honestly with its history of racism and prejudice. And, it should learn about the moral leadership of the Emmanuel AME Church's history of courageous moral leaders including Pastor Clementa Pinckney. Moral leaders from every community, every ethnic and economic enclave, should now come forth to serve the common good and ensure a redemptive conclusion to the narrative of this sickening tragedy. It would be a surprising and refreshing consequence  to see Charleston's moral leaders gather citizens from suburban and inner city communities – white and black, Latino and Asian, business, government, civic and interfaith sectors – to commit to long term inclusive community building while mobilizing the resources to make it happen. Charleston could provide the hopeful, self-reforming model that America desperately needs now. Pastor Pinckney reminds us that these hard choices can yield great rewards.

Rev. Robert Franklin
Chautauqua Institution
New York

Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. 

CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. — Chautauqua Institution today released a set of federal agency recommendations that will support the Institution’s ongoing commitment to the historical vibrancy of its Amphitheater’s place and purpose.

The internationally known center for artistic and cultural expression also announced the creation of a panel of experts who will recommend ways to implement one of the key recommendations put forth by the National Park Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, regarding the Amphitheater project.

Chautauqua Institution President Thomas M. Becker called both the National Park Service recommendations and the panel’s creation “significant next steps in the Institution’s ongoing commitment to historic preservation and adaptation.”

“Since January, when I announced a delay in decision-making about the plans for the Chautauqua Amphitheater, we have maintained a steady, low-key course of consultation and evaluation,” Becker said. “We are assiduously charting a path to preserve the Amphitheater’s historic place in the community.”

NPS commends Chautauqua Institution

Download The National Park Service Letter to Chautauqua

In January, Chautauqua Institution requested the National Park Service’s assessment and technical assistance in reviewing current project plans for the Chautauqua Amphitheater. The NPS review of the project was made in context to Chautauqua’s long-held federal designation as a National Historic Landmark District — a designation conferred by the Department of the Interior.

Bonnie Halda, Northeast Regional Chief of Preservation Assistance for the National Park Service, conducted a two-day, on-site inspection of the Institution’s grounds. The visit included a hands-on review of the Amphitheater structure and its context within the landmark district. She was accompanied by Kathryn Schlegel, a historical landscape architect.

NPS officials said they were pleased with the Institution’s ongoing preservation efforts.

Halda wrote in an April 14 letter to Becker: “Overall, we are impressed with the extensive work that the Chautauqua Institution has accomplished over the years to preserve the District while adapting to changing needs.”

NPS officials complimented the Institution on the plans, studies and reports produced over the last five years, as well as the Institution’s oversight and policies for the overall preservation and adaptation of the historic District.

Halda lauded Chautauqua Institution, stating, “We wish to commend you for developing a strategic vision that will improve Chautauqua’s current programming and that acknowledges that you are the stewards of a National Historic Landmark.”

NPS recommendations

In its report, the National Park Service made a series of recommendations regarding historic preservation at Chautauqua.

“The Department of the Interior is America’s steward of natural and historic treasures,” Becker said. “They demonstrated a deep commitment to historic preservation, arrived informed about our District, and were exacting in their on-site tour requests and detailed questioning.”

He added, “We were honored by their commitment to Chautauqua Institution’s history, and we will take their recommendations very, very seriously — starting with a panel of experts who will recommend ways to implement one of the key recommendations.”

NPS’s findings and recommendations include:

  • Finding that the Amphitheater is a “prominent” structure within the Chautauqua National Historic Landmark District, “but is also one of many buildings that comprise the District.”
  • Acknowledging the existing history of substantial changes to the Amphitheater, along with the difficult choices inherent in renovating a structure that has significant structural challenges.
  • Affirming that the Massey Organ and house, which will undergo historic preservation in the current plan, is a significant historic feature of the Amphitheater.
  • Recommending the following steps:
    • Compilation of the structural and architectural changes to the Amphitheater over the course of its history;
    • Retention of an independent structural engineer to fully examine and clearly identify the Amphitheater’s structural challenges, to understand its current status, if the plan was not undertaken;
    • Continued identification of the Amphitheater’s “character-defining qualities,” along with a determination of how those qualities might be preserved.
    • Consideration of the back-of-house structure as an addition to the historic structure and refinement of its design for better compatibility with surrounding buildings; and
    • Assessment of the Amphitheater’s landscaping plan, which is “part of its significance.”
    • The preservation office also recommended that the Institution ultimately adopt an overall master plan for the historic District. While the creation of such a master plan is a long-term process, implementation of some of the components of the suggested master plan named in the letter — tree management and stormwater management — are already underway.

In addition, Chautauqua Institution has contacted an independent structural engineering firm. That firm, which has expertise in historic buildings, is scheduled to begin its on-site work shortly.

Implementation of advisory panel

Chautauqua Institution also created a new advisory panel to specifically assist it in continuing to identify the Amphitheater’s significant character-defining qualities and offer recommendations to support the Institution’s intention for the Amphitheater project design to retain the historical vibrancy and significant character-defining qualities of the Amphitheater’s place and purpose.

Invitations to serve on this advisory panel for the Amphitheater project were extended to key professionals with strong backgrounds in architecture and historic preservation, including leaders from regional preservation organizations. Panelists include: Jay DiLorenzo, president of the Preservation League of New York State; Caleb Pifer, executive director of the Historical Society of Erie County; Ted Lownie, founding partner of HHL Architects; Peter Flynn, co-chair of the board of trustees of Preservation Buffalo Niagara; and Kathleen LaFrank and Julian Adams, coordinator of the National Register Unit and director of the Community Preservation Services Bureau, respectively, within the New York State Historic Preservation Office. The project’s lead architect, Marty Serena of Serena Sturm Architects, will also participate to assure direct communication and comprehension of the recommendations.

Elliot Fishman, an experienced facilitator from Ricochet Group, LLC, will be present to facilitate and document the panel’s meetings and discussions. It is expected that this panel’s recommendations will be made public when they complete their review, with occasional updates on the progress of their deliberations throughout the process. It is also hoped the panel members will reconvene in July for a community discussion and question-and-answer session around their recommendations and the process that generated them.

Chautauqua Institution also expressed its commitment to a clear and informed process.

 “We have heard loud and clear Chautauquans’ desire for clarity about our decision-making, fairness in considering the ideas and opinions of others, and inclusiveness in a robust discussion about the Amphitheater and the Institution’s future,” Becker said. “With these next steps, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to these principles.”

The pre‑eminent expression of lifelong learning in the United States, Chautauqua Institution comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. Over the course of nine weeks, more than 100,000 people visit Chautauqua and participate in programs, classes and community events for all ages — all within the beautiful setting of a historic lakeside village. Smithsonian magazine named Chautauqua the No. 1 “Best Small Town to Visit in 2014” in the cover story of its April 2014 issue.


Jack and Yvonne McCredie, co-chairs of the 2014 Chautauqua Fund, are pleased to announce the successful results of the 2014 Chautauqua Fund and wish to express their appreciation to the many community supporters who generously contributed $3,765,894 in total to the Fund—a new record!

For many, Chautauqua is home in the most profound sense—a place to learn, to grow, to live securely, to revel in an environment of physical beauty. By supporting the Chautauqua Fund you are helping to provide a place where issues of the day are explored and the arts continue to flourish. There are exciting, new ways to maximize your generosity during the giving season.

In keeping with eighteen years of outreach in the Chautauqua Lake Central School District, Chautauqua Institution has recently launched several school residency  programs in Chautauqua County classrooms.

In the final week of Chautauqua’s 2015 season, we will explore how to create communities that can in turn help us live healthier, more fulfilling lives in more beautiful and sustainable places.
Our speakers are all actively working to create, transform or sustain purposely designed neighbourhoods, communities and cities.

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2016 Season Information


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