Chautauqua Institution is making progress with its strategic plan, Forward 150, optimizing summer assembly programming, improving the health of Chautauqua Lake, expanding year-round programming and increasing the institution’s financial resilience.
President Michael Hill reported on progress in his annual progress report, which outlines the institution’s efforts over the past year.
Hill discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the institution, as well as progress on the strategic plan.
“Just as 2020 has called on all of us to change and adapt to a fully online experience, 2021 has also called on us to be flexible and adaptable,” Hill said in his report. “At so many times at the right time, we felt that we finally had a real understanding of the shape of our situation, the regulations would change or the erratic economy would throw us a curve ball, or the viral spread would change drastically in both positive and negative directions. The gratitude I feel for all of you – my fellow staff, our Board of Directors, and all of the community members who have joined us on this journey – knows no bounds.
During the first three to five years, the plan focuses on progress with four broad goals, including:
¯ optimize the summer assembly on the Chautauqua grounds to provide a first-class experience around the arts, education, religion and recreation;
¯ extending Chautauqua’s convening authority throughout the year to broaden its impact beyond the summer assembly;
¯ lead the implementation of a comprehensive science-based approach to improve the health and sustainability of Chautauqua Lake and make its conservation the centerpiece of the region’s economic prosperity;
¯ increase and diversify revenues to meet critical needs, increase financial resilience and fund Chautauqua’s future.
“By design, the key objectives and their corresponding strategies must be implemented across the organization and require the involvement and investment of all stakeholders”, said Hill. “Cross-Cutting Imperatives, on the other hand, enable institution-wide action on important organizational capabilities needed to achieve Chautauqua’s mission. All require sustained attention throughout the duration of the plan. We have identified the following four imperatives to receive our attention in the first three years of 150 Forward: Strategic Partnerships, Technology Mobilization, Workforce and Talent Solutions and Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) .
Hill said the institution had succeeded in “Hold an in-person Summer Assembly in 2021.”
“Operating in relative normality is a basic requirement for real progress here,” said Hill. “That said, the unique circumstances of 2021 have given us the opportunity to experiment with our model and operations, and gauge customer sentiment about those experiences. Some have been smash hits and others have landed with a thud, but all offered important learning opportunities.
Hill said a new pass has been introduced, the Grounds Access Pass, which allows patrons access to accommodations and other areas on the grounds without the programming aspect. The institution has also introduced reserved places for certain events, which was not “Well received by all” said Hill.
The institution has also extended the reach and reach of the Chautauqua Lecture Series and the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle with content on the CHQ Assembly platform. Hill added that the online classroom allows students to experience year-round programs, courses and workshops.
Hill said the Chautauqua institution had also focused on building its capacity to “serving our neighbors in Chautauqua County and Western New York.”
“The work of Chautauqua Arts Education has continued apace, providing schoolchildren and local teachers with developmental lessons and workshops in in-person, fully remote and hybrid environments,” he said. “We also completed the first phase of the publicly accessible CHQ trail at Chautauqua Golf Club, thanks to a grant awarded through the Play Everywhere Design Challenge supported by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. Over the next year, the CHQ Trail will be further developed to build our permanent mud running course, available for cyclists as well as walkers in the spring, summer and fall.
As for the lake, Hill said Chautauqua has been active on that front as well.
“The Chautauqua Institution continues to play a fundamental role in regional efforts to improve the condition of our beloved Chautauqua Lake,” he said. “In June, we announced a $1 million investment in research initiatives to support the continued development of scientific knowledge of lake ecology. This investment includes funding for a dedicated full-time position to support our operations staff – under the auspices of the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative – to oversee the institution’s work on lake issues. I am pleased to note that Toby Shepherd started in early 2022 as the new Chautauqua Lake Project Manager. »
Hill said that over the past year, attendance numbers for the summer had returned to almost 2019 levels. With the new ticketing model, he said attendance generated about 75% of this year, which was higher than the projections that had been made.
“Our traditional corporate businesses such as the Athenaeum Hotel and its associated dining venues, the Chautauqua Bookstore and our leisure offerings also all recorded revenues well above what we had anticipated,” he said. “Staff in all of these areas deserve kudos for holding the line, creatively and through adversity – their efforts have enabled us to budget for 2022 from a position of considerable strength.”