Chautauqua declaims, year in and year out, what an oasis of thinking and creativity it is about everything in the universe - except itself. Can you imagine a week in Chautauqua each season, or every second or third season, devoted to...Chautauqua?
Given the many changes on the Grounds, at a pace that seems to quicken with every passing season, it is high time the assembly had an opportunity to examine the fundamental question: Where is Chautauqua headed? Is Chautauqua by definition an "assembly" in the sense that it was originally intended, or have we modified "assembly" right out the window?
Someone gets in front of the podium at the Amphitheater and begins with: "It is true that this Institution holds a special place in the American blah blah"; then says, "but is it losing its soul?" Is it becoming more and more like the middle class spoiled life around it, inherently creating a collision between its ideals and its reality?
Are the demands of many of us for 'upgrades' made with no consideration of who is shut out of the Grounds because of the inexorable march of condomania? If Chautauqua is becoming a colony of condo owners, where does that leave the social intermingling that comes with eating at a Chautauqua dining establishment, or staying at a rooming house?
Components of "Self-Reflection Week" could include:
1. Lectures in the Amphitheatre;
2. Lectures at the Hall of Philosophy;
3. Open Forums at the stump in Miller Park; and
4. Chautauqua Daily: (a) Articles; (b) Discussion forums pro and con specific issues – written by Chautauquans; (c) Letters to the editor devoted to Chautauqua's future.
How, if at all, has the absence of Chautauqua programming about Chautauqua affected its development?
Has Chautauqua’s aggressive marketing of the past thirty years, without any forum for self-investigation, cost the Institution?
Would debate about Chautauqua be considered “bad for business”?
During the last couple seasons, alternating members of the Chautauqua Board of Trustees have been meeting weekly on the porch of the Holquist Center to discuss issues of concern to the Chautauqua community at-large. These casual face-to-face forums have enabled Chautauquans not only to meet various members of the Board but also to voice their opinions and concerns regarding aspects of the Institution ranging anywhere from the Department of Religion to the lecture platform to the Garden District and beyond. Each week's forum centers around a particular issue and features presentations by trustees as well as questions from an assembly that swells with passersby as the hour progresses.
Additionally members of the Architectural Review Board have held public forums in Smith Wilkes Hall. These forums are designed to give a public face to the ARB and, similar to the trustee meetings at Holquist, to facilitate an exchange of information and ideas between the ARB and Chautauquans who maintain an interest in architectural and development issues.
Chautauqua-Observed applauds the trustee and ARB forums and, as discussed at the head of this Self-Reflection page, strongly encourages these bodies and the Administration to expand such gatherings ever further in upcoming seasons.