What is Chautauqua?

“Chautauqua is an idea, embracing the ‘all things’ of life – art, science, society, religion, patriotism, education – whatsoever tends to enlarge, refine, and ennoble the individual.” …. the aim of Chautauqua is “to take people on all sides of their natures and make them new, more intelligent and thoughtful in a world of ideas.”

                        (Chautauqua co-founder Bishop John Vincent, 1874)

John Vincent co-founder of Chautauqua Institution

Chautauqua Institution rests on four pillars: Religion, Education, Arts and Recreation. At its heart, Chautauqua is a sabbatical – a place where people can come and rest, renew and recreate. Chautauqua is a place and a program just east of Lake Erie and west of Jamestown, New York. It is where the oldest book club in America was formed (in 1878).  It welcomes presenters who are poets, scientists, artists, historians, explorers, musicians, elected officials (FDR’s “I Hate War” speech was delivered from Chautauqua), entrepreneurs, deep sea researchers, astrophysicists and a wide range of religious and spiritual leaders. It offers classes from yoga to cooking, glass fusing to a foreign language. There are day camps for the 3-16 years-old crowd, golf and tennis courts, beaches for swimming and sand play, and a lake for rowing a boat, learning to kayak or quiet meditation.  At Chautauqua, you might take walks on the many car-free streets or ride a bicycle, you might sit on a bench under a tree and read, or you might spend hours engaged in the lectures, arts performances, religious/spiritual offerings and discussions of current issues.

Chautauqua becomes a home to each person who comes. There are guest houses and ‘denominational’ houses providing simple housing, and there are small and large private houses to rent with families or friends. It is a summer community designed for pedestrian life, with parks and porches that welcome an active public space and where children feel safe to explore on bicycle or on foot -a rare freedom in today’s world. At its best, Chautauqua encourages each person present to learn about and give voice to the best in human values.

Bestor Plaza is the center of Chautauqua Institution