Institution Board Approves Approach for In-person 2021 Season
Authorizes Staff to Plan for Limited Programs, Capacity Pending Government Go-ahead, Regulations
Chautauqua Institution this week announced the outline of a plan to present programming for in-person audiences during its 2021 summer assembly season, pending evolving guidance and regulations from state, federal and local government officials. The approach was approved by the Institution’s Board of Trustees at its Dec. 9 meeting, and was shared with members of the community via a series of webinars (included below).
“This working plan is the result of our team having spent the entire fall consulting experts, learning from the experience of industry colleagues, and observing and analyzing government regulations concerning entities with operations similar to Chautauqua’s. We took those learnings alongside the evolving news but promise of vaccines, and crafted a series of informed assumptions about what we might encounter in June,” said Michael E. Hill, president of Chautauqua Institution. “We come to this decision with clear eyes regarding the current heightened state of the pandemic, and I hope this news can provide our patrons hope and something to look forward to. I know it has for our team. We pray in the meantime for rapid vaccine uptake and, always, for the health and safety of all members of our greater Chautauqua and regional communities.”
Hill noted all Institution operations will meet, and in many cases exceed, federal, state and local regulations. Details of how these mandated policies and procedures will affect the patron experience will be shared as the season approaches, following more firm guidance from authorities.
The Institution plans to use its open-air Amphitheater as its primary programming venue for all major programs, though it is anticipated patron capacity would need to be reduced to comply with guidelines. A modified gate pass structure will help Chautauqua manage access to its venues, including the introduction of a long-term pass that does not include Amphitheater programming, at a substantially reduced price. Holders of the new pass will be able to curate their own Chautauqua experience via purchase of single event tickets for any programs they wish to attend.
Ticket sales for long-term passes will begin in January. Day passes and single-event ticket sales are expected to begin in February and March. On-sale dates for classes, theater, opera and family and youth programs are to be determined. The 2021 fee structure is available at chq.org/rates.
“The limits of our programming and venue capacity give us an opportunity to experiment with various aspects of our operations and procedures in a way that Chautauqua rarely has capacity to do,” said Emily Morris, senior vice president and chief brand officer. “Many of these changes will be exclusive to 2021, but we plan to approach all changes with an experimental disposition, so we can track key learnings to inform future planning.”
Chautauqua’s 2020 program plans include its major in-house programs, pending health and safety regulations, and accommodating changes to conform to a reconfigured daily and weekly schedule. This includes daily ecumenical services, the two primary lecture series daily from the departments of Education and Religion, popular shows, theater and opera productions, Massey Organ concerts, master classes and enrichment courses, and performances by the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and students of the Music School Festival Orchestra. Other traditional Chautauqua programs may appear primarily on the digital platforms of CHQ Assembly, including some Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author discussions. Chautauqua’s Schools of Performing and Visual Arts will convene abridged and appropriately distanced training programs in dance, music and the visual arts.
“While we’re tempering our expectations in terms of what we will be able to stage per health regulations, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities and sheer joy of sharing ideas and art and creating memories together again,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts, and interim senior vice president and chief program officer. “We look forward to building back our programmatic base thoughtfully and with the safety of our speakers, performers, students, audience members and staff as the highest priority.”
Also among Chautauqua’s planned offerings include increased and enhanced outdoor dining and recreational activities, following successful operations during the 2020 summer. Private on-grounds businesses will be able to operate in accordance with regulations, at the owners’ discretion, just as in 2021.
Chautauqua’s 2021 planning approach leaves room for adjustments based on evolving regulations and regional and national circumstances, including scaling up, if possible. For those unable or unwilling to visit Chautauqua in 2021, the Institution plans to broadcast as many programs as is feasible via livestream on CHQ Assembly, pending speaker and artist contracts.
Updates on 2021 Chautauqua planning will be shared at 2021.chq.org.
2021 Chautauqua Community Update Webinar
Script for President Hill’s presentation:
Good afternoon, and thanks for being here with us as we report on the December meeting of the Board of Trustees which focused on our plans for the 2021 Summer Assembly Season. We know these conversations and deliberations have been of significant interest to many Chautauquans, and we thank you for your attention, engagement and feedback over the past month that have been extremely helpful to our planning.
I am very happy and encouraged to report that the Board has approved the administration’s proposal to return to an in-person Summer Assembly in 2021. We introduced the framework of the proposal last month and, based on continued analysis and community feedback, we have modified it, which is what we are here to present today.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic greatly influences the context of our proposal and our ongoing planning for summer 2021. We expect resulting state and federal regulations will impact the way we convene people, the ways we use our venues, and the cost of doing business. Based on our experiences and success in keeping our community safe since March, we are confident in our ability to work within these regulations, adapt as necessary, and continue to keep our community safe while also returning to a more normal mode of operations.
We are planning for a summer assembly that welcomes patrons to our sacred grounds in Southwestern New York, where core programs will be presented in the Chautauqua Amphitheater, and other activities and programs presented and hosted in venues and open-air spaces as much as possible.
While safety and mission remain our top priorities, our vision is to create and offer a Chautauqua experience that is as close to our traditional experience as possible. Alongside the traditional experience, we will experiment with some new kinds of ticketing and activities as supplements to the traditions you cherish.
There will be three primary pathways to the Chautauqua experience in 2021:
- The first pathway is the Traditional Chautauqua Gate Pass. This pass provides access to the grounds and all programming in the Chautauqua Amphitheater except up to two programs each week that would require purchasing an extra ticket. Traditional Gate Pass purchasers will be given the first opportunity to purchase tickets to the popular entertainment events they wish to attend.
- The second pathway is the Chautauqua No-Amp Gate Pass. It provides access to the grounds and amenities, with the option to purchase tickets to the Amphitheater events of interest, in an a la carte fashion.
- Both Traditional and the No Amp Gate Pass come with a CHQ Assembly subscription for the duration of the gate pass.
- The third pathway to a Chautauqua Experience is the Chautauqua Day Pass. Patrons will be welcome to purchase day or partial day passes, just as in the past.
We anticipate this three-pathway approach will accommodate all who wish to attend and help us to understand more about the differing priorities and desires of our “community of communities.” At the same time, it will enable us to manage attendance in our venues, which will be an important part of our COVID-19 safety plan.
The core Amphitheater program will look like this:
- Each weekday will start with morning worship at 9 a.m.
- The Chautauqua Lecture Series will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. On Fridays each week, one of the speakers of the week will offer a master class, available for purchase through our Special Studies/Master and Enrichment Class program.
- The Interfaith Lecture Series will be offered at 1 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday each week.
- Evening entertainment will feature up to four Chautauqua performing arts programs and up to two popular entertainment (or external artist) events each week.
- Sundays: Free Sundays will feature morning worship and the evening Sacred Song Service. Sunday afternoon programs will be offered when possible, but there will be some Sunday afternoons when no programs are staged at the Amphitheater.
In addition to this core program, we hope to offer chamber music at the Hall of Philosophy and outdoor movies on selected evenings. Student performances and master classes at the Hall of Philosophy and McKnight Hall. And, our new organist, Joshua Stafford, plans to offer organ concerts each week.
We are hopeful to welcome back favorite events such as Art in the Park, the Fire Department’s Sunday BBQ, and the juried Arts and Crafts festival. Our normal food service options will be supplemented by special events and food trucks as well as a new way to experience our beautiful lakefront at the Pier Building.
Chautauqua Literary Arts and the CLSC will be featured either as part of the morning lecture series or online via CHQ Assembly. Other programs we hope to offer on CHQ Assembly include the African American Heritage Lecture Series and the Chautauqua Women’s Club Contemporary Issues Forum.
CHQ Assembly will also present live and on-demand as many of the Amphitheatre programs as our speaker and artist agreements permit.
Special Studies Master and Enrichment Classes will be offered both face-to-face and online at learn.chq.org.
And our Schools of Performing and Visual Arts will be in session, but on a staged schedule across the season, so we can house students all in private rooms.
In short, we have a Herculean series of tasks and plans ahead of us, but we are up to the challenge — encouraged by your advice and support.
In the event that forces outside of our control prevent us from pursuing this plan for 2021, we do have a fallback plan that the Board has approved that will enable us to operate the grounds and CHQ Assembly in a way similar to 2020. But this would come into play only if necessary. In all cases, we would protect our patrons’ investments in tickets and gate fees with very generous refund policies.
Philanthropy always plays a major role at Chautauqua in subsidizing programs and making the overall experience possible. We remain grateful to the many Chautauquans who increased their giving in 2020 including by donating or deferring their 2020 gate pass and ticketing purchases. This generosity was humbling and we do not take it for granted.
In 2021, philanthropy will play an even more important role as we recover from the impact of the pandemic. A special and targeted initiative is creating a bridge to the future, and the Chautauqua Fund will remain an important priority to achieving our goals in 2021 and beyond. Thank you for keeping Chautauqua among your philanthropic priorities at a time when we know many of the organizations you care about are also expressing unique and additional needs.
I also wish to acknowledge that Chautauquans give in many ways. For example, in 2020, many of our property owners who rent made great sacrifices related to rental deposit refunds and deferrals. We are grateful to you for the flexibility you demonstrated in the interest of our patrons and in our community.
Before I ask my colleagues to offer some additional detail and then move onto the Q-and-A portion of our time together, I wish to share a video that paints the picture of what we hope to achieve in 2021. Of course, our venues may not be able to be as full as some of the images from the past reflect, but we will be together again, we will find enrichment, we will experience joy, and we will create hope at Chautauqua in 2021.
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