In President’s Address, Becker thanks Bestor Society, honors the arts

Art drives Chautauqua in ways other communities and organizations only dream of, and early Sunday evening, the Institution thanked those who help make the full range of artistic and programmatic offerings found on the grounds possible.

Members of the Bestor Society, along with artistic leadership and representatives of the administration, gathered under a tent downhill from the Arts Quad for the annual President’s Address.

Guests mingled with one another, enjoying an assortment of food and drink before finding their seats. Jim Pardo, chair of the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees, welcomed them to the reception and expressed his gratitude to all those who give their time, resources and effort to Chautauqua.

“Today’s gathering gives me the opportunity to say thank you,” Pardo said. “To say thank you personally and to say thank you on behalf of the board of trustees — for all that each of you do for this very special place that we all love so much.”

Their contributions of time, talents and philanthropy enable what he and his fellow trustees refer to as “the Chautauqua Mix,” Pardo said. That mix sets Chautauqua apart from all other institutions in the world, he said.

Pardo then introduced Cathy Nowosielski and Jeff Lutz, serving in their first year as co-chairs of the Chautauqua Fund. They recognized the newest 33 members of the Bestor Society, compromising those who have contributed $3,500 or more to the Chautauqua Fund in the past year.

Among the new members were Mary Kay “Sam” Elsen and Mike Naimoli.

The two have been longtime renters, visiting a few weeks every season for 12 years, but decided to pledge more for the fund.

“Now, when we realized what the Bestor level was, we were happy to give at that level,” Naimoli said. “To be honest, we never really stopped to think about the different groups.”

Elsen and her family now have “a deeper understanding of what giving at this level really means to the Institution,” she said.

Pardo then introduced Rossen Milanov, music director of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, who had conducted the special Audience Choice Matinee earlier that afternoon. Next, Jolyon Pegis, principal cello of the CSO and assistant principal of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, performed solo two movements of Bach.

Following the applause, Becker gave his address. He first acknowledged the passing that morning of Jessica Trapasso, the wife of Children’s School Director Kit Trapasso and a beloved member of the community.

Becker then spoke on the challenge artists face — the moment in their lives where they have to decide whether to create art for expression, or to make a living. In Chautauqua, Becker said, artists have that chance because of the community of people who appreciate and contribute to their work.

“The artists who are drawn here, drawn to this place to study, to teach, to perform, are looking for that kind of experience,” Becker said. “Not some ticket to ride a profitable climb or descent into celebrity. We are here to pursue meaning. This is serious work, done by serious people with something to say.”

Becker gave many examples of “artistic, spiritual and intellectual expression” from this season that convey “the power and the radiance of the moral voice. And this work is but an offering, an opportunity that awaits your engagement, your effort.”

Becker referred to the School of Art, housed in the Arts Quad just outside the tent. The art in that building doesn’t only lay on the canvases and other vehicles used by the artist, he said. Art also can find itself in the hearts and minds of the people who witness it.

Becker said art is not created here with one’s “comfort or affirmation” as the objective, but rather for the enlightenment and growth of those involved in producing or beholding it. It’s not a common or commercial formula, he said, but a quality one.

“Our expressive capacity is driven by our commitment to ideas and ideals and our willingness to find new methods for expression,” he said. “Chautauqua matters. You matter. Thank you for your selfless investment in this important, noble work.”