Chautauqua Institution

News and Noteworthy

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!

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.

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.

Chautauqua Institution and LECOM have set the stage for dynamic discussion and debate on solutions to our nation’s health care challenges. Providers, clinicians, insurers and CEOs will share Chautauqua’s renowned platforms for discourse and deliberation.

Attendees also will have access to Chautauqua Institution’s diverse artistic, educational and recreational offerings, including evening performances, golf, tennis and sailing.


 Yamamoto Keith 1045pm 081814  Weinberger Daniel 1045am 081913  Giberson Scott 1045am 082014  Hill Martha 1045am 082114  Lumpkin John 1045am 082114
Keith Yamamoto
August 18
Daniel R. Weinberger
August 19
Scott F. Giberson
August 20
Martha N. Hill
August 21
John R. Lumpkin
August 22

TbensinksmallVisitors to Chautauqua can now enjoy a new dining experience with a new chef at the Athenaeum Hotel this summer. The space that’s been known simply as the dining room has transformed into Heirloom Restaurant at the Athenaeum Hotel, with executive chef Travis Bensink.

KarenwilliamssmallChautauqua Institution enters the 2014 season with a renewed emphasis on improving the customer experience on the grounds, led by a new customer experience manager who will devise and implement an overall, long-term roadmap.
“We do a great job as a staff in putting together top-notch programming, but it hasn’t been clear once that’s all in place whose responsibility it is to make sure the guest experience lives up to the programming,” said George Murphy, vice president and chief marketing officer. “This isn’t just ticketing or a marketing issue — this cuts to the heart of the overall experience. To put a process in place to drive this kind of institutional change, you need to have someone with the right background.”

Smithsonian magazine has named Chautauqua, N.Y., as the No. 1 "Best Small Town to Visit in 2014" in the cover story of its April 2014 issue. The feature, by former New York Times "Frugal Traveler" columnist Susan Spano, cites Chautauqua Institution's mix of lectures, classes, recreational activities and fine, performing and literary arts programs as the basis for the distinction.

June 28 – July 20/ Review submission requirements and apply online.

The Chautauqua Annual Exhibition is one of the oldest continuously running juried shows in the country.

The following are remarks made by the Rev. Robert M. Franklin during a service at Hurlbut Memorial Church honoring Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday Jan. 20, 2014.


"Dream No Small Dreams"
Robert M. Franklin, Director, The Department of Religion

Chautauqua Institution, January 20, 2014

Thank you to all who are responsible for this service.
Pastor Paul, Juanita, Tom, John, Maureen, Sandy, Sadie and the Tribute Choir for your gifts and inspiration.  

We come to this hour to honor a man who embodied the highest values that we cherish as Chautauquans - community, enlightenment, inquiry, justice, service and friendship. Could it be that Dr. King was an anonymous Chautauquan?

Today, we celebrate and remember an American dreamer. His most famous words included a reference to a large dream of what America could become. But, I think that George Bernard Shaw offered an insight that animated both King, the Kennedy brothers and a lot of the people who are in the church now. He said: "some men (our inclusive instincts would say 'people' today) see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not." Dream things that never were and ask, why not?

Today, we remember a dreamer who asked, 'why not?' 

This holiday should also be a day for examining our progress in the three areas that were central to King's life: alleviating poverty, eradicating prejudice, and stopping senseless violence. How are we doing in these three areas? What more could you do to move the needle in a positive direction - poverty, prejudice, violence. Our moral exemplars: King, Shaw, Kennedy, Susan B. Anthony, John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller believed that each of us could make a difference, for as King said, 'everyone can be great because everyone can serve.' 

Chautauqua was part of the dream of creating a better nation back in the 19th century. In contrast to the elite universities that educated the few, Chautauqua was also part of a movement, a popular education movement to empower everyday grassroots people. And, dream we must if we are to thrive amidst the rise of new competitors and the changing nature of traditional forms of vacationing and personal development.

Making the 'why not' a reality involves service and imagination. It includes giving when we do not have to. We can move dreams closer to reality by our daily actions, many of them against the grain of local practice and common custom. 

Yes, this is a day for evaluating our progress. But, it should also be a day for evaluating the dimensions of our own dreams. If earlier dreams have been fulfilled or are near the finish line, shouldn't you be working on a new set of bigger dreams?

King would have celebrated his 85th birthday last week. He entered college at the age of 15. He seemed to be living in the fast lane. Ten years later, he began his ministry (1954 - 1960) at the Dexter Avenue

Baptist Church at the tender age of 25. He was there for one year as a newlywed, a new father and a newly minted Ph.D. recipient.  His plate was full when history tracked him down and challenged him to bring large dreams to an unfolding movement.  Having other responsibilities was no excuse for harboring small dreams. 

Just a year later, in 1955, King was asked to lead the movement after Rosa Parks refused to comply with a disrespectful Jim Crow policy, King was simply expected to be the custodian of other people's parochial dreams of enjoying fairness in seating on Montgomery's buses. But, King followed the logic of justice and moral imagination. Einstein said that logic will take you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere."

God seems to invite busy people to carry the burden of big dreams. 

These dreams of unrealized potential expanded King and in turn, King expanded the dreams of his own neighbors. King asked why should

we stop with the equal rights to ride the bus or enjoy a meal at Woolworths? What about the full menu of civil rights, privileges and responsibilities of other American citizens. Why not? Why not aim for those? 

What about stopping wars that send innocent young people far away to kill other young people over the ideas of old men. Is there really no alternative to this? 

What about enabling people living and working in poverty to live with dignity by providing a living wage? Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman reports that since the 1970s, the real wages for half of the workforce have fallen while the income of the top 1% has quadrupled. (One wonders if philanthropy to Chautauqua has quadrupled accordingly.)

What about eliminating the barriers to creating a diverse and inclusive community in places that have not experienced it in the past? 

Dreaming is the art of moral imagination. Practicing that art led King far beyond a local civil rights movement to a global human rights campaign. And today, he asks you and me to keep that momentum alive. 

And so, what of our dreams? 

Goethe gave us the gift of the phrase, 'dream no small dreams'. His full quote was, "dream no small dreams, for they have no power to stir the hearts of men."

Dreams are projections of imagination. Our nightly dreams are involuntary. But the daily ones that order our footsteps are in our control. We can expand, maybe supersize them, even as we recognize that our most productive dreams are always connected to, and grounded in, reality. 

Alas, there is a danger to allowing your dreams to go unpursued.

In one of the great poems of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes asked and answered a rhetorical question: 

"What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up 

like a raisin in the sun? 

Or fester like a sore-- 

And then run? 

Does it stink like rotten meat? 

Or crust and sugar over-- 

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags 

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?"

Today, we are dreamers. Every one of you has a dream. Be sure that is large, large enough to make you a little uncomfortable. Maybe even large enough to make others around you uncomfortable. The call today is to nurture those large dreams. Have a long and audacious bucket list.

Chautauqua is a place for dreamers. That's why King would have loved this place. Dreamers gather here to listen, to learn, to imagine and to commit to action. Little do our summer visitors realize that this staff and its leadership and the permanent community are animated year-round by relentless, hopeful dreamers. 

So, let us draw strength from the wisdom of Dr. King's wonderful sermon titled "transformed nonconformists.' He said:

"This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists. The saving of our world from pending doom will come not from the action of a conforming majority, but from the creative maladjustment of a transformed minority."

Hear the words of another transformed nonconformist, words that were much beloved by Mother Theresa titled, “Do It Anyway.”

“People are often unreasonable irrational and self-centered forgive them anyway.

If you are kind people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives be kind anyway.

If you are successful you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you were honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

We are transformed nonconformists. We are dreamers. We are Chautauqua.


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