Through scholarships, Chautauquans make opportunities for young artists

Laura Park, Judy and Hale Oliver.
Photo by Eric Shea.



Sydney Maltese | Staff Writer

Of all 293 students at Chautauqua, 222 receive the support of scholarships from people who see boundless potential in a young artist, who want the arts to continue providing viable careers for people for generations, and who thrive off of the heart they uncover in every art form. In total, that means Chautauqua awards $610,000 of scholarship money to talented young students this year.

Laura Park, a violin student sponsored by Hale and Judy Oliver of Pittsburgh, appreciates the Chautauqua community’s warm embrace.

“I feel that the scholarship that was sponsored by Hale and Judy is extremely important, because it gave me an opportunity to study here — an opportunity that I might not have been able to have,” Park said.

She considers her time at Chautauqua the most educational and enjoyable way to build her career. Park expressed sincere gratitude for the Olivers.

“We’ve been doing it for years, and it’s the best thing we do at Chautauqua, actually. We love the involvement with the students,” Judy Oliver said.

Each Sunday, the Olivers invite their scholarship students over for dinner. They love learning more about the students’ lives and watching them interact with one another. After dinner, the students usually provide the Olivers with music.

The Olivers keep in touch with the students they support. In the past, Hale and Judy have been invited to recitals and even weddings of former scholarship students.

Karin Johnson chose to support students in the fine arts for the past 10 years. Her husband, Melvin, was himself a visual artist. This year, the Karin A. and Melvin H. Johnson Scholarship supports Jason Farson, a painter; and Emmeline Yen, a sculptor.

“Attending the Chautauqua School of Art program has been an enlightening experience both for myself and my artwork,” said Yen, a student at the University of California, Davis. “The scholarship provided me with opportunity to learn from a faculty whose collective experience spans several lifetimes and to work alongside with other emerging artists.”

Farson agreed.

“The scholarship that I received has given the opportunity to focus my thoughts after my MFA from The New York Studio School,” Farson said. “Coming to Chautauqua, I can take the ideas that I was just beginning to explore in the final year of my MFA beyond what I had done during school. I am free to explore new ideas within a safe environment and engage in conversations with numerous people at different stages of development.”

Karin often keeps in touch with her scholarship students after they leave Chautauqua. She appreciates the enthusiasm of young artists.

“It’s a wonderful experience. I think everyone should do it, to share in this phase of their studies. They’re so enthusiastic, they’re so grateful for the scholarship fund. And then to keep in touch with them — which I have done with several of them — as they’ve progressed over the years is a very enriching experience,” she said.

Joe and Toni Goldfarb, of the New York City area, feel similarly about the students for whom they have provided scholarships. This year, they are supporting a voice student, tenor Alexander Lewis.

“I think that being an artist, whether it’s a vocal artist, or a dancer or a visual artist, is a difficult career; a career that, when you are young, is fraught with uncertainty,” Joe said. “Our feeling is that any way that we can support young artists, we would like to try to do it.”

The Goldfarbs believe the Chautauqua experience is especially valuable to young artists because of the opportunity it gives to meet other artists in a variety of disciplines. Like the Olivers, the Goldfarbs enjoy staying in touch with their students as they head into careers.

“We go to their recitals, and we go to performances. In fact, we met Alex — we didn’t know he was going to be our scholarship student — at a recital that he gave in Manhattan earlier this year,” Joe said.

Lewis, who grew up in a family of vocalists in Sydney, Australia, said he feels that the roles he is taking on at Chautauqua will help him build a career in opera.

“Having the opportunity to come here, to work with Marlena (Malas) and the coaches, is a tremendous thing for me, at this stage in my career,” he said.

Lewis worked for two seasons in the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera. He plans to return to the Met for another year.

“It’s such a safe environment here for us, which is really important, because we’re all here taking risks and trying to push ourselves,” Lewis said. “We’re in a very supportive environment with the staff that are here, but also these connections with people like the Goldfarbs. They’re willing to help out in whatever way they can — that’s incredibly important for all of us.”

Toni Goldfarb emphasized that anyone can help support young artists.

“We’re not wealthy people. A scholarship each year makes a huge difference in a young artist’s life. You do not have to be a super-wealthy person to do this,” Toni said.

“These are difficult careers, and young people who commit themselves to them, I think, are just deserving of all the support we can give them,” Joe said. “The students, to us, are really the heart of Chautauqua. It makes our summer.”