Esmonde is way off base in attack on Chautauqua
Donn Esmonde is known for his columns that recognize the work of individuals who are challenging the “establishment.” However, his recent column, which trashed Chautauqua’s decision on replacing its amphitheater as violating the institution’s “spiritual and moral underpinnings,” was over the top. His accusations that Chautauqua Institution President Tom Becker was an “anti-preservationist” and somehow “out of touch” and lacking “enlightened sensitivity” are totally without foundation.
Esmonde is welcome to his opinion but, in this case, his view of things is off base. There are 23 members of Chautauqua’s board of directors. They have, in good faith, worked diligently to make a very difficult decision that embraces Chautauqua’s mission while recognizing the importance of historic preservation in the context of everything else that Chautauqua has done over the past 140 years. They also had to deal with a structure that is falling apart, is slowly sinking/sliding with age and is non-compliant on many fronts with code and accessibility issues.
As a citizen who lives near Chautauqua and has benefitted from its programming and presence over many years, I am pleased that this decision has been made by such a large and diverse board of directors. They support a president who is known and respected nationally for his work in culture and the arts. On this issue, Esmonde is an “out-of-touch” critic who doesn’t realize the hard work that has gone into balancing historic preservation issues with continuing the program excellence that is at the heart of Chautauqua Institution.