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Chautauqua Institution is a not-for-profit, 750-acre community on Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State, where approximately 7,500 persons are in residence on any day during a nine-week season, and a total of more than 100,000 attend scheduled public events.


profile shot HillDear Friends,

Welcome to Chautauqua!

We are excited to share this website, a resource designed to introduce you to the remarkable array of experiences and opportunities available on our historic campus in western New York state and to keep you abreast of how the Chautauqua movement is playing out throughout the world. 

We also hope you’ll visit our digital experience at online.chq.org, where we have chronicled some of the most exciting and thought-provoking programs of our recent summer seasons.  This new effort, a digital version of our grounds, is not only meant to give you a glimpse of our traditional season during nine weeks each summer but also to inspire year-round conversations about how we might engage as a global community in pursuit of the best in human values and the enrichment of life.

Chautauqua was founded in 1874 to serve as a resource for lifelong learning. Responding to the great need for information in the lives of Americans — who at that time were largely finished with schooling at a young age — Chautauqua hosted a gathering of people of all ages from throughout the United States and Canada.

Today this institution — while reflective of its history in much of the architecture and many of its rituals — responds to a modern need to sift through the flood of information in our lives and to place it in a context that sparks an imaginative understanding of our place in the world around us. This is a critical undertaking at a time of information overload. At Chautauqua, we invite you to probe deeply the great issues of the day, to engage in a high form of civil dialogue, and to put what you’ve experienced to work in your home communities with a profound mandate: to change the world for the better.

The Chautauqua experience invites all who visit this special place, or who engage with us online or in special forums around the globe, to blend the intellectual, creative and spiritual aspects of life with moments of relaxation and reflection.

Bring an open mind, a hungry soul and a willingness to wonder. Your rewards will be outstanding.

Welcome to Chautauqua Institution.


MichaelEHill signature

Michael E. Hill


About Michael E. Hill

Michael E. Hill was selected as the 18th President of Chautauqua Institution on Nov. 4, 2016. He began his work at Chautauqua on Jan. 1, 2017, and immediately set about ushering in a fresh, expanded vision for the Institution as it approaches its sesquicentennial in 2024, with emphasis on building its brand and thought leadership with a focus on expanding civil dialogue in the nation, an evolution to year-round programming, and engagement beyond Chautauqua's physical grounds. During his tenure as President, Hill has overseen the approval and implementation of a new strategic plan, 150 Forward, that will see Chautauqua through and beyond its 150th birthday in 2024; the successful completion of the $41.5 million Chautauqua Amphitheater project; the appointments of a new generation of Institution leaders in key strategic areas; and an expansion of the Institution’s engagement efforts within the Chautauqua community, with its regional neighbors and partners, and with national partners.  

Prior to his appointment at Chautauqua, Hill served as President & Chief Executive Officer of Youth For Understanding USA, where he dramatically expanded and diversified programs. He co-led a historic civil rights trip to Cuba with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., at the invitation of Mariela Castro, two weeks before diplomatic relations were restored between the U.S. and the island nation. An international educator, he has served as a panelist and speaker on issues surrounding international education and exchange.

Prior to joining YFU, Hill served as Senior Vice President of External Affairs for United Cerebral Palsy. In that role, he led international public education, fundraising, communications, marketing and branding efforts for one of the world’s largest health care charities. He previously led national development, communications and volunteer efforts for Washington National Cathedral as Executive Director for External Relations and held a similar role at The Washington Ballet. Earlier in his career, Hill directed a $125 million effort to expand the historic Arena Stage, securing the largest single gift ever made to a theater in the United States, and served as Executive Director of St. Bonaventure University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, where he oversaw the construction of a new museum complex, the renovation of a historic theater, the addition of an artist residency center and the quadrupling of programming at the multi-venue arts complex. He began his career as a journalist, serving as a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Fellow and as a Staff Correspondent for the Courier-Observer.

Hill holds a B.A. in journalism from St. Bonaventure and an M.A. in arts and cultural management from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. He is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in Vanderbilt University’s program in Leadership and Learning in Organizations. He was a founding faculty member of the Master of Arts Management program at George Mason University, where, in 2011, he was named faculty member of the year. He has also given lectures on the non-profit sector to groups from France and China in his work with GMU and as a visiting lecturer for Georgetown University. In 2016, he was chosen as a leadership fellow in the American Express – Aspen Institute Academy, and in 2012, was selected as one 12 American Express NGen Leadership Fellows in the United States. He is a member and Secretary of St. Bonaventure University’s Board of Trustees. Hill first came to the Institution in 1996 as Assistant Editor/Copy Editor of The Chautauquan Daily and later served as guest critic for theater and symphonic music.

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The Chautauqua Institution is a not-for-profit, 750-acre educational center beside Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State, where approximately 7,500 persons are in residence on any day during a nine-week season, and a total of over 100,000 attend scheduled public events. Over 8,000 students enroll annually in the Chautauqua Summer Schools which offer courses in art, music, dance, theater, writing skills and a wide variety of special interests. 

The Institution, originally the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly, was founded in 1874 as an educational experiment in out-of-school, vacation learning. It was successful and broadened almost immediately beyond courses for Sunday school teachers to include academic subjects, music, art and physical education.

While founders Lewis Miller and John Heyl Vincent were Methodists, other Protestant denominations participated from the first year onward, and today Chautauqua continues to be ecumenical in spirit and practice. Chautauqua's Department of Religion presents distinguished religious leaders of many faiths from this country and abroad, both as preachers and teachers.

MillerVincentThe Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC) was started in 1878 to provide those who could not afford the time or money to attend college the opportunity of acquiring the skills and essential knowledge of a College education. The four-year, correspondence course was one of the first attempts at distance learning. Besides broadening access to education, the CLSC program was intended to show people how best to use their leisure time and avoid the growing availability of idle pastimes, such as drinking, gambling, dancing and theater-going, that posed a threat both to good morals and to good health. To share the cost of purchasing the publications and to take encouragement from others in the course, students were encouraged to form local CLSC reading circles. Soon these were established throughout the country and, in time, around the world. Among those who benefited most from the CLSC program were women, teachers, and those living in remote rural areas. At the end of their four years of study, students were invited to come to Chautauqua to receive their certificates in a ceremony, which is still held today during the first week in August.

With the success of the CLSC, many new Chautauquas were created, known as "Daughter Chautauquas," giving rise to what was called the "Chautauqua Movement." Some years later, the talent agencies that provided speakers and entertainers for these platforms, put together shows of their own, which traveled to small towns across the United States and Canada. These were known as the 'circuit chautauquas" or "tent chautauquas."

By 1880 the Chautauqua platform had established itself as a national forum for open discussion of public issues, international relations, literature and science. Approximately 100 lecturers appear at Chautauqua during a season.

Music became increasingly important at Chautauqua, especially after the turn of the century. A symphony orchestra season became part of the regular program in 1920. The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1929, now performs thrice weekly with leading soloists in the 4,400-seat Amphitheater, Chautauqua's program center. Popular entertainers perform other evenings. Guest dance companies, with representations of both contemporary and classical ballet, also appear in the Amphitheater, sometimes with guest artists, while the Chautauqua Theater Company presents its season in Bratton Theater. The Chautauqua Opera Company, also founded in 1929, performs in Norton Hall.

Chautauqua plays a unique educational role today, offering studies on a vacation level, a more serious level and a professional level. In addition, there are enhanced learning opportunities within Chautauqua's other programming. Music, the arts, religion, recreation and the pursuit of knowledge are all available. Younger and older students often share learning experiences in an open, congenial atmosphere. Children and young people are also provided with their own special programs.

Chautauqua Institution is governed by a 24-member board of trustees, four of whom are elected by property owners. The board establishes the policies and direction of the Institution, electing the officers who are responsible for the operation of the Institution. Smith Memorial Library and the Chautauqua Institution Archives are open year-round. Between-season conferences are held at Bellinger Hall, the Athenaeum Hotel and other facilities on the grounds.


The Chautauqua Institution Archives is both an Institution repository and a collection repository. The parent, Chautauqua Institution, is supported by a records management program which allows the repository to receive records directly. The Archives also builds its holdings through the acquisition of papers, records and artifacts from sources that are not administratively affiliated with the Institution.

The mission of the Chautauqua Institution Archives is to identify, organize, preserve and protect the printed, microfilmed, taped, photographic and other records, and selected artifacts and museum pieces to add to the general and scholarly understanding of Chautauqua Institution and the Chautauqua Movement.

The Chautauqua Institution Archives staff assists the public throughout the year. Please stop in the research room of the Archives and explore Chautauqua's history. Researchers and inquiries should be directed to the Oliver Archives Center. The hours during the summer season are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Off-season hours are by appointment. Archives staff can also be reached by phone at 716-357-6332, by fax at 716.357.9014, or via email to Archivist Jonathan Schmitz.


Chautauqua Institution Archives Finding Aid


Chautauqua Institution is a summer community located in southwestern New York State on Chautauqua Lake. Chautauqua specializes in the arts, education, religion and recreation and hosts over 2,200 events and 100,000 guests each summer.

Chautauqua is 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 times; 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.

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onthegroundsThe “On the Grounds” section of the Chautauqua Institution website is designed to keep community members informed on the status of Institution projects, major initiatives considered by the Board of Trustees and environmental issues. Also provided is a menu of resources for property owners, including Institution rules and regulations, Architectural Review Board information, Institution staff contact information and FAQ.

“On the Grounds” will continue to provide updates throughout the off-season.