Chautauqua Institution Moves Forward With $98.2 Million Campaign  

CHAUTAUQUA - Chautauqua Institution looks to engage the public and move forward with a campaign to improve its buildings and programming.

The trustees of the institution, in a joint effort with the directors of the Chautauqua Foundation, endorsed the public phase of the Promise Campaign in 2010. Focused on making investments into all aspects of the Institution's programs, visitors and facilities, the campaign looks to raise $98.2 million - twice the amount raised by any previous fundraising endeavor at the Institution - by 2016.

Since the public phase of the fundraising began, nearly $60 million has been raised to date.

Article Photos

Chautauqua Lake Real Estate 1

Bellinger Hall is one of the various buildings that will be updated through funds raised by the Promise Campaign, endorsed by the Chautauqua Foundation and the trustees of Chautauqua Institution.
P-J photo by Daniel Swanson

Geof Follansbee, CEO of Chautauqua Foundation, said that all money raised through the campaign will be reinvested into programs and Chautauqua's grounds.

"Our hope is that overall, the campaign will lift the experience that people have when they come to the institution," he said. "What the campaign represents is an investment into the priorities identified by the board members."

In a recent article by The Chautauquan Daily, Promise Campaign co-chair and former institution board chair George Snyder explained the campaign's vision.

"Put simply, fulfilling the promise of Chautauqua means delivering an even better experience and inviting in more participants and program partners. To maintain our recent improvements and to strategically enhance the intellectual, spiritual, recreational and artistic experience of Chautauqua as we envision it will require additional resources," he said. "It also means continuing to get the word out about Chautauqua and what we offer."

The campaign is seeking to raise funds for various projects around the institution, including rehabilitating the Amphitheater, a $33.5 million project, and updating Bellinger Hall, a $5.5 million project.

"The Amphitheater rehabilitation project is the centerpiece of the efforts - it affects everyone," Follansbee noted. "Since the Amphitheater was built in 1893, the range of programming has significantly expanded."

Including modernizing the technology of the Ampitheater, the campaign looks to efficiently and effectively improve accessibility and reduce water runoff into Chautauqua Lake. In the Amphitheater, there will be a 10 percent increase in seating capacity - all seating will be under cover - and there are plans for a flat-floor symphony pit.

Backstage, the campaign is looking to improve dressing rooms and bring the Amphitheater up to the standards of a national institution - something Chautauqua will be proud of, according to Follansbee.

According to Follansbee, Bellinger Hall is a community resource for housing students - an invaluable asset to the Chautauqua community - and in the ninth week of the season, it serves as an affordable residence for seniors visiting the grounds. During the off-season, Bellinger serves as a location for retreats and a place local groups can meet for overnights.

The Bellinger Hall project will focus on updating the infrastructure and revitalizing the building.

The local community, including foundations, businesses and independent donors, have been generous to Chautauqua Institution, according to Follansbee.

"Growing the Chautauqua Fund is as important as anything we do," he said.

Along with the current fundraising goals, the Chautauqua Foundation is also looking to secure $3 million to $4 million in endowments to cover any future projects and facility upkeep - funds not counted in the campaign total but a necessary component to keeping the projects on the horizon sustainable.

The campaign is for anyone who believes in the vitality of Chautauqua Institution, according to Follansbee. The goal is to have the Amphitheater funding in place by late 2014, so that preparations can be made to begin the project in 2016.

The Chautauqua board of trustees adopted a strategic plan in 2010 that embodied five concepts the Institution represents: civil, sustainable, innovative, inclusive and engaged. The strategic plan is outlined through 2018.

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