Amanda Mainguy | Staff Photographer
NOW Generation Advisory Council members John Haskell (chair), Amy Schiller, Mhoire Murphy and Russell Bermel gather at the Chautauqua Golf Club on July 2 for a reception for members of Chautauqua’s NOW Generation.
Last Wednesday, the NOW Generation hosted a reception at the Chautauqua Golf Club. The event served as a platform for Chautauqua leaders, members of the NOW Gen Advisory Council and other NOW Gen members to gather and discuss upcoming events and efforts made on behalf of the group
The NOW Generation is a group of young adults, ages 21 to 40, who value the Chautauqua experience and are dedicated to ensuring its longevity and continued relevancy.
“It’s just a good time to bring everyone together, see old friends, meet some new friends and really try to coalesce the group around what the NOW Gen has accomplished in the last year and then think about our priorities for the next couple of years,” said John Haskell, Advisory Council chair.
The NOW Generation Advisory Council, which is about one year old, is committed to engaging a younger generation of Chautauquans by offering social, networking, volunteer and philanthropic opportunities.
“Really, the first step is engagement … expanding our membership, putting on creative events and getting people excited about coming to Chautauqua,” Haskell said.
Although it may be difficult for many young adults to commit being at Chautauqua for the whole nine-week season, NOW Gen has been making strides toward ensuring engagement for members on a year-round basis, both on and off the grounds. As Haskell mentioned, there is an increasing emphasis on the “virtualization” of Chautauqua during the off-season.
One of their main goals, Haskell said, is “making sure that when people are here, we can engage them more deeply.”
“When they’re outside the gates and they’re back home in the off-season, we have events and other ways for them to have a Chautauqua experience,” he said.
According to Haskell, thinking about philanthropic participation is also vital, especially in light of The Promise Campaign.
While membership in the NOW Generation is open to everyone of the appropriate age, regardless of whether one has donated to Chautauqua, there are ways that members can contribute financially.
“We’ve started something called the Lewis Miller Circle, which is a giving tier exclusively for 21- to 40-year-olds,” Haskell said. “And that will go to the general Chautauqua Fund and contribute towards the campaign.”
Lewis Miller Circle membership is offered to those donating gifts of $250 or more annually to the Chautauqua Fund, and includes special invitations and discounts to some NOW Gen events, such as regional gatherings. For young adults and families coming to Chautauqua from across the country, being engaged also means staying connected with each other once back at home.
“Sometimes, Chautauqua feels like you’re meeting new and interesting people from all over the world, but many times those people are not necessarily within the same age group. So this is interesting that there’s an under-40 crowd that is interested in being invested in Chautauqua,” said Diego Villada, who recently became a member of the NOW Gen. “It’s good to meet people who are doing exciting things in their own field, but our one commonality is that we come here during the summer.”
Following a time of socialization, complete with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, Haskell and fellow council members Mhoire Murphy, Russell Bermel and Amy Schiller took the floor to answer questions and discuss recent developments within the group. Schiller also shared a new volunteer opportunity for members of the NOW Generation that underscores the importance of connecting year-round: a regional captain role that has been developed by the Council and launched in three initial cities, with plans to expand to other areas.
Matt Ewalt, associate director of education and youth services at Chautauqua, was also in attendance and shared a few words about the value of the NOW Gen and the voices of its members to the Institution.
“I wanted to thank all of you for the ideas that you’re bringing to the table,” Ewalt said. “They’re meaningful and they’re challenging us in very good ways.”
Chautauqua President Tom Becker took to the microphone next to discuss recent progress and current reports concerning the Amphitheater project and environmental initiatives on the grounds.
“It takes people who believe in effort,” Becker said as he discussed the plans for the Amphitheater project and the work being done to ensure environmental sustainability.
Chautauqua is an unusual place, he added, and it “requires an unusual response.”
“And fortunately, you’re all unusual people,” Becker joked. “But the benefit is way beyond all of us. It starts demonstrating back in other communities that things are possible and creativity can happen and that these solutions can be approached.”
For more information about the NOW Generation or upcoming events, please visit the Facebook group NOW Generation – Chautauqua Institution or contact Megan Sorenson, staff liaison, at 716-357-6243 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.