Nathan Day Wilson is excited about taking the helm of Chautauqua Wawasee as its new director. He was first introduced to Chautauqua in 2005 when he was invited to lead a workshop on religion and politics at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y. The purpose of his workshop was to discuss how politics and religion are not in conflict with each other.
Prior to the workshop, Wilson took his oldest daughter, Clarissa, to girls club. At lunch time, she pleaded with him to allow her to go back unescorted. At the time, the Wilson family lived in Washington, D.C., and Clarissa had never asked to walk to a destination by herself before.
“The beauty of Chautauqua, the safety, the chance for people of all ages to explore,” are what drew Wilson to Chautauqua.
“Anything that adds value to life and lets us look at the future and present with new eyes is very much needed,” Wilson said. He believes Chautauqua is part of the life long learning movement. “We are yearning for fresh perspectives that do not put up walls,” he said, explaining more are interested in bridge building.
He sees Chautauqua Wawasee as part of that movement. He wants Chautauqua Wawasee to have an active, affective virtual presence, “and not because it’s trendy,” he said. He also wants it to be interactive.
To build the program he said was exciting while at the same time, going to take a “ton of work.” He also noted the success factor won’t happen overnight, but rather has to be strategic.
For example he wants to bring Kaye Lindauer, who teaches workshops at Chautauqua, N.Y., to Oakwood. But it has to be done right. Lindauer “is excellent, one of the foremost at bringing together spiritual traditions, great literature and Jungian psychology,” Wilson said. “I don’t know anyone who has gone to her workshop and not walked away saying ‘wow.’” Lindauer teaches the entire nine weeks of the summer season at Chautauqua, N.Y., and has one of the highest attended classes.
“We have to get the word out (about Lindauer’s workshop at Oakwood) and market that correctly,” Wilson said.
Chautauqua’s focus is on bringing back civil discourse and how engagement can lead to action. Wilson wants Chautauqua Wawasee to be a voice for wholeness in a fragmented world. He wants it to engage participants to be contributors to the community and society. And he wants that reflected in the programming that will be offered.
Some programming will address tricky issues that may not have mass appeal to everyone while others will. There will also be concerts. Wilson stressed there will be programming for all ages and he hopes to have programs where hundreds of people come.