Campaign promises to sustain the arts at Chautauqua

The pulse of art beats through Chautauqua’s veins.

Whether it is listening to the sounds of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in the Amphitheater, seeing a row of young ballerinas in line for lunch, or attending a Friday night performance in Bratton Theater, there are myriad ways for Chautauquans engage with one art form or another.

And sustaining that creative atmosphere is at the heart of The Promise Campaign.

One of the main steps in the path to sustainability concerning the performing arts at Chautauqua is the rehabilitation of the Amphitheater.

“The renovation of the Amphitheater means a great deal to every organization that performs there — from the symphony to the orchestra, to the ballet to the opera,” said Marty Merkley, vice president and director of programming. “It will be an amazing change for the way we are able to rehearse and present programming.”

Renovating the Amphitheater is an investment in hospitality as well as in presentation.

“We have world-class artists coming here,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, associate director of programming. “For us, there’s the aspect of being able to welcome these artists and guests and conductors so that we can be as hospitable as possible, but it’s also about opportunity. Once the Amphitheater is renovated, there are a lot of types of different events here that will have higher artistic quality.”

The Promise Campaign also seeks to ensure quality leadership for the years to come.

“To me, the Promise Campaign is most exciting when we talk about it in terms of leadership and experience. When we talk about the experience, we’re really talking about the program and when we talk about leadership, we’re talking about people,” Moore said. “I think these positions are worthy of major support, and it’s not just about that particular person that’s in the position right now. It’s about all of the people who make the arts happen, and any of these positions could be endowed on a variety of levels.”

In addition to the highest-level leadership, programming and environment for the performing arts, The Promise Campaign is committed to ensuring that the best possible talent is able to practice, perform and study their craft on the grounds.

“Over 88 percent of the students receive scholarship to come to Chautauqua each summer. That’s the reality of the summer festival market,” Merkley said. “That’s very important for us to be able to attract the quality students that we would like to be here.”

Moore said The Promise Campaign is “about sustaining the future of performing arts and making sure that we have what we need to keep moving forward with our vision.”

She said that the vision for the arts will continue to be engaging and innovative, and go broader and deeper artistically.

“By broader I mean that we’re reaching out and joining hands on more collaborations, and a perfect example of that is the inter-arts project. We had The Romeo & Juliet Project last year, we have Go West! this year, and we want to make sure that we have artistic leadership that is syncing creatively so we can do something that is uniquely Chautauqua and do something that really relies on all the creative capacity that we have here under one roof, under one sky,” Moore said. “I also see our arts going deeper. It doesn’t do any good to do multi-disciplinary performances if each art form is not rich and excellent on its own.”

And securing the type of artistic excellence that many Chautauquans have come to expect requires more than just emotional support.

“I think all of the art forms are very strong,” Merkley said. “We continually try to improve where we can and a lot of that improvement has to do with our financial capabilities. We’re always trying to give [the programs] more resources to do better jobs. It’s ongoing. The arts are expensive. They’re complex and they’re expensive because you’re dealing with human beings and you’re allowing human beings to create things.”

But for the Chautauqua community, Merkley said the price is definitely worthy paying.

“The community has the opportunity to watch this creative process and perhaps be involved in it. Everybody benefits,” he said. “Anything that happens here benefits across the board because it helps the Institution to be able to subsidize and support all of these art forms.”