Chautauqua Institution Celebrates 150 Years

Submitted Photo The Amphitheater during an evening concert event.

CHAUTAUQUA – You listen to a morning lecture.

You get a bite to eat.

You attend a concert or another event.

All on the same day – at Chautauqua Institution.

If you have walked the grounds, then you know how inviting the atmosphere is.

OBSERVER File Photo The Amphitheater during a morning lecture.

And the institution is set to usher in summer and begin its 150th Anniversary with its season opening today.

“Anyone can make any day they want. Two people could come here together and have two completely different experiences and build their day,” said Jill McCormick, director of communications and special projects. “And there’s a reason why it’s worked for 150 years. …You can come here, and make this experience the same every day (or) make it different every day, and make it whatever you want, and leave with a completely different experience than someone who you arrived with. And I think that’s the beauty of Chautauqua Institution.”

Organized around the theme “The Seasons and Stories of Chautauqua,” the anniversary calendar celebrates the dream of founders, Lewis Miller and Bishop John Heyl Vincent, who together understood the importance of education across a lifetime, according to a press statement. Their vision for Chautauqua called for Americans to make their leisure time matter by intentionally engaging in interdisciplinary and intergenerational learning and personal growth experiences. That vision has framed the main idea of Chautauqua’s story and enduring legacy for 150 years.

Chautauqua’s sesquicentennial calendar invites patrons to learn about and experience the history of Chautauqua and the Chautauqua Movement, to capture their own Chautauqua story, to contribute to the future of the organization, and to take part in one-of-a-kind activities curated especially for the 150th Anniversary, the statement said.

“Chautauqua was imagined by our founders as place where people could make purposeful use of leisure time though immersive experiences with education, religion, recreation and the arts,” said Michael Hill, president of Chautauqua Institution,

Submitted Photo The Miller Bell Tower at Chautauqua Institution.

“Our 150th Anniversary season is designed as a tribute to this vision that is the centerpiece of our mission today. Few things in this world stand the test of time, but our role as pioneers in the lifelong learning movement is as relevant today as it was in 1874.”

The anniversary officially was launched in January with the announcement of a $150 million capital campaign, Boundless. The campaign is composed of capital projects and strategic initiatives that will elevate the traditional Summer Assembly experience; expand Chautauqua’s role as a convener; ensure a thriving Chautauqua Lake; and endow a vibrant future for the institution through the Chautauqua Foundation, the statement said.

Boundless will provide support for the first phase of a rehabilitation initiative for the historic Athenaeum Hotel and a complete renovation of Bellinger Hall, which serves as both the summer home for students enrolled in Chautauqua’s Schools of Performing and Visual Arts and as a conference center the rest of the year. Among the other campaign objectives are a new on-grounds, year-round home for the resident Chautauqua Theater Company, a state-of-the-art facility for the Institution’s Buildings and Grounds operations, and housing for the hundreds of seasonal staff and faculty members that allow Chautauqua’s programming to thrive. For more information, visit boundless.chq.org.

A unique partnership with StoryCorps was begun in May. Through StoryCorps, patrons are invited to record and preserve their Chautauqua story in conversation with a friend or family member.

Selected conversations will be featured on StoryCorps Mondays at Chautauqua, when edited versions of conversations will be presented in advance of lecture or performing arts programs. StoryCorps CEO Sandra M. Clark will speak on the Chautauqua Lecture Series on Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 10:45 a.m. at the Amphitheater. Chautauqua’s 150th Anniversary StoryCorps Archive will be housed in perpetuity at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where the StoryCorps archive is the largest collection of recorded conversations in the world, the statement said.

Other events include on July 10, Young Chautauquans crafting a vision for Chautauqua’s future through facilitated conversations captured live by graphic recorder Jo (Johnine) Byrne. The Chautauqua Heritage Lecture Series, and the “Pillar Talks” series will examine the institution’s history. Chautauqua Opera Company will hold four outdoor performances. The Chautauqua Theater Company also will stage a world premiere of Kate Hamill’s The Light and the Dark.

The Anniversary Summer Assembly concludes with a week in partnership with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) on the theme Rising Together.

“This series of events and opportunities alongside our core program of events is our invitation to Chautauquans around the world to come back to Chautauqua — or visit us for the first time — in 2024. It’s an opportunity to be part of a legacy that Teddy Roosevelt described as ‘typical of America at its best’ — a standard to which we aspire every day,” Hill added.

For more information, visit chi.org/150.


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