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Chautauqua Institution

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The tourism industry is thriving in the tri-state region, with numerous events and attractions drawing visitors from near and far. Here, Emily Morris, chief brand officer for Chautauqua Institution, one of the country’s premier, nonprofit education centers and summer destinations, located in Chautauqua, New York, discusses some of the dynamic programs and events happening this year.

Chautauqua Institution is one of the country’s most fascinating educational destinations. Tell us about its founding and its mission.

Chautauqua was founded in 1874 by a Methodist minister, John Heyl Vincent, and an industrialist and inventor, Lewis Miller, as an educational experiment in vacation learning. From its founding, Chautauqua has been a place and a movement dedicated to the exploration of the best in human values and the enrichment of life through a program that explores the important religious, social and political issues of our time; stimulates provocative, thoughtful involvement of individuals and families in creative response to such issues; and promotes excellence and creativity in the appreciation, performance and teaching of the arts.

How has Chautauqua evolved over the years in terms of its programming and events?

Chautauqua is often thought of as a place where history stands still, but in truth, we are an incredibly modern institution and organization that has always evolved to meet the moment. We wouldn’t still be here, nearly 150 years later, if that wasn’t the case. In some ways, Chautauqua is very much the same as it was in 1874 — we still offer engaging programs in the arts, education, recreation and religion. The content of those programs, and the intergenerational engagement with it, is what has constantly been reimagined and renewed to keep Chautauqua relevant and thriving. A
perfect example from last season is the week of programs we staged on “Russia and the West,” which coincided exactly with the Trump-Putin Helsinki summit. If you wanted to immerse yourself in the issue dominating the news that week, Chautauqua was the place to do it.

We’re also evolving and experimenting with programming outside our traditional summer assembly season and our physical lakeside grounds, including opening a satellite office in Washington, D.C. With that foothold in our nation’s capital, we hope to increase our national leadership role in shaping the issues and conversations of the day, to increase our exposure to potential Chautauqua lecturers and program partners, and to gain access to outside funding sources, in particular national foundations.

Since its founding, the Institution has been visited by four sitting U.S. presidents and countless political figures, celebrities, artists, musicians and scientists. What special appearances can we expect in 2019?

There are so many! Every day there are opportunities to see and hear from the people who shape our world — many will be household names, others, we expect, may soon be. We’re pleased to present concerts by such celebrated musicians as Judy Collins on June 22, Diana Ross on July 5, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn on July 26, Wynton Marsalis on multiple occasions from Aug. 19 to 23, and Pat Benatar with Neil Giraldo and Melissa Etheridge on Aug. 24. On our lecture platforms, our audiences will hear from political commentator Hugh Hewitt on June 27, former Ohio governor John Kasich on July 1, former astronaut Scott Kelly on July 19, film director, actor and Muppet performer (not to mention the man behind Yoda in “Star Wars”) Frank Oz on July 30, and world affairs expert Robin Wright on Aug. 12; plus, we’ll be joined for extended stays by The Atlantic correspondent James Fallows from July 1 to 4, NPR host Krista Tippett from Aug. 5 to 9, and legendary journalist Bill Moyers from Aug. 12 to 15.

What are some other exciting events, lectures and/or programs planned for this year?

Special for 2019 are our partnerships on entire weeks of lectures and programs with other renowned cultural institutions such as the National Geographic Society from July 6 to 12, the National Comedy Center from July 27 to Aug. 2, and Jazz at Lincoln Center from Aug. 17 to 25. We’re also thrilled to be a stop on New York’s statewide celebration of WorldPride 2019, marking the Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, with special programs on July 2. Our resident Chautauqua Opera Company and Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra are each celebrating their 90th anniversary seasons — in fact, we will present the three Figaro operas (“the Beaumarchais Trilogy”) on consecutive days on July 25, 26 and 27.

What is the best way to truly experience Chautauqua and all it has to offer?

Spend a few days or a week with us during our summer assembly season, so you can really settle in and learn the rhythm of this place. The best place to start would be to call 716/357-6250 or to visit https://chq.org/plan-your-visit.