(Note: The following is a submitted Media Release from Chautauqua Institution)
CHAUTAUQUA – The Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees voted Saturday to let design plans for a renewal of its Amphitheater go out to bid. Board Chairman Jim Pardo called the decision “the best guarantee for the sustainability and growth of Chautauqua Institution’s mission and its reputation as a place where ideas are shaped, audiences are inspired and a community is engaged. It is a vote that positions our entire Institution for the next 100 years.”
The decision follows an eight month intensive process that included a review of the study group work and findings begun in 2010, the addition of information from outside historic preservation experts, and opinions and ideas heard from the community during this past season’s weekly public forums.
Pardo said he understood the sensitivity around any structure with the history and tradition of the Amp. “The feedback during the past eight months included critics and equally emphatic supporters of change. We listened and learned from all we heard,” Pardo said.
Board Chairman Pardo said today’s action involved three key steps:
- Reaffirming goals for the Amp, including guaranteeing safety and accessibility, respecting audiences and performers and honoring the Amp’s history of place and purpose.
- Authorizing the Chautauqua staff to put the project out to bid to learn the actual cost. The Board still must vote on accepting bids and moving forward with the construction. The vote is expected at the Board’s November 7 meeting.
- Instructing Chautauqua’s administrative team to seek the necessary permits for the project from the town of Chautauqua.
Pardo said private donors have stepped up in dramatic fashion, pledging more than $33 million for the Amp project, nearly meeting fundraising goals. Pardo said he is confident those goals will be met.
Chautauqua Institution President Tom Becker put the Amp project on hold in January, asking the board for time to consult with preservation experts, re-engage and gain additional input and ideas from the Chautauqua community and review the project’s design and timeline.
During this period, the Institution engaged the National Park Service Office of Preservation Assistance and was guided by their recommendations. The Institution named an independent panel of historic preservation experts; redoubled its efforts to seek preservation-specific engineering counsel; produced regular written updates; created web access to previous reports and information; released to the public the reports and studies additionally commissioned; further explored the feasibility for retaining parts of the current structure; and led 27 community engagement sessions during the just completed 2015 summer season.
“We have actively sought input from our stakeholders from the inception of the project in 2010, and we continue to listen carefully,” Becker said. “Renewing the Amp is the most definitive statement the Chautauqua Institution can make to support our vision, to honor our cultural tradition, and to preserve Chautauqua Institution’s legacy as a place of community and assembly.”
Becker said that he believed the renewed amphitheater will enhance Chautauqua’s ability to attract global opinion leaders and thought leaders for the lectures that make the Amp famous and a facility that will allow the classical arts, endangered in so many places, to thrive at Chautauqua.
“Today we have been given the opportunity to design a place that is also safe, accessible, and respectful of audiences, artists, speakers and clergy, a place that recognizes and can respond to the constant evolution of its content. It is a design intended to give Chautauqua what it needs and does not have today–the flexibility to create and respond to ideas and opportunities not yet imagined, but sure to be a part of the coming century,” according to Becker.
“It’s about the work. The Amp is more than a building,” said Becker. “It is the programs that take place there and the experiences audience members have when they attend those programs. The true Amp brand is the history, the traditions and the cultural contributions it has made and will continue to makeas the heart and soul of Chautauqua Institution. That is the legacy we’re preserving with this project.”