News & Announcements

Chautauqua Community Mourns Passing of Jared Jacobsen

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Dear Friends of Chautauqua Institution:

We learned yesterday of the tragic passing of our beloved Jared Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music for nearly 25 years, and someone who proudly proclaimed himself a lifelong Chautauquan. Jared was involved in a car accident in Geneva, Ohio.

While we await formal word of Jared’s wishes, we know our community is grieving this unspeakable loss. Many have described Jared and the music he masterfully created with the iconic Massey Memorial Organ at the Chautauqua Amphitheater as the “heart and soul” of Chautauqua. This sentiment speaks not only to Jared’s talent, but of his ever-presence during our summer assembly season, his untiring love for music, and his generous willingness to share his passions with Chautauquans across generations. His music ushered in each day, heralded the noontime and afternoon hours, and closed each Sunday evening of the summer assembly, keeping the time of a timeless community.

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Three Taps of the Gavel Address: ‘Camp Meeting Commences’

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Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill addressed Chautauquans gathered for the season's final Sacred Song Service with the traditional Three Taps of the Gavel Address to close the 2019 Chautauqua Assembly on Sunday. His remarks as prepared for delivery, with light edits, are provided below. (Photo by Dave Munch, Chautauqua Institution multimedia producer)


“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
—T.S. Eliot

Our organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, Jared Jacobsen, has dubbed this evening “Camp Meeting is Over” and The Chautauquan Daily headline reminded me that my job tonight is to declare that this is so. This final Sacred Song Service each summer season lends itself well to this narrative. The day’s sun has slipped beneath the horizon, hints of autumn can be felt in the air, and our beloved Amphitheater is far too empty. The Saturday crowds have left the grounds and a new group has not come to take up residence on “change over day.” And the likelihood that a gentle bark from one of our furry puppy Chautauquans will puncture the proceedings is far less than it was just a few nights ago.

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Atom Atkinson to Step Down as Director of Literary Arts

Chautauqua Literary Arts Director Atom Atkinson has announced their resignation effective Aug. 30 to take on a new professional opportunity at Catapult, a New York City-based literary arts organization with an educational mission.

Atkinson has served as Director of Literary Arts at Chautauqua since 2017. Their focus has been to build on the Institution’s literary legacy by aligning programs and services around Chautauqua’s mission and convening authority, inviting a diverse range of authors and educators and pursuing partnerships to further enliven and elevate the experience of learning through reading and writing for participants of all ages and experience.

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President Michael E. Hill Opens 146th Chautauqua Assembly with ‘Three Taps’ Address

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Following an introduction to Chautauqua Institution’s new strategic plan, 150 Forward, President Michael E. Hill on Sunday morning tapped a historic gavel three times to officially open the Institution’s 146th Assembly. Hill’s “Three Taps” address, marking the traditional and formal start to a Chautauqua season, was titled “Walking the Tightrope Between History and Innovation,” and gave Chautauqua community members gathered a synopsis of the recently approved strategic plan, including a strong rebuke of hatred and bigotry. The remarks preceded the Institution’s popular Sunday worship service, which this particular morning featured a historic twist — for the first time at Chautauqua, the sermon was delivered by a rabbi chaplain in residence, Rabbi Sharon Brous, senior and founding rabbi of IKAR in Los Angeles.

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Chautauqua Theater Company’s 2017 New Play Workshop ‘Birthday Candles’ Goes to Broadway

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Will Star Debra Messing and be Directed by Former CTC Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch

Chautauqua Theater Company (CTC), under the leadership of Artistic Director Andrew Borba and Managing Director Sarah Clare Corporandy, is pleased to announce that its 2017 New Play Workshop Birthday Candles by Noah Haidle will be opening on Broadway in 2019–2020 season. Former CTC artistic director Vivienne Benesch will direct the Broadway premiere at the Roundabout Theatre Company, and the production will star Debra Messing, best known for her lead role in the NBC television series "Will & Grace."

Birthday Candles was originally commissioned by Detroit Public Theater (DPT) in the fall of 2016. In the summer of 2017, it received a workshop production at CTC, directed by Benesch. Benesch followed the production to DPT where it received a world premiere in May 2018. This is the first time DPT and CTC have partnered in this way: from DPT’s commission, to CTC’s workshop performance and back to DPT’s world premiere.

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Chautauqua Board Elects Candace Littell Maxwell as Chair

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Term begins Oct. 1; Decision marks first time a woman will serve as chair 

At its quarterly business meeting today, the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees elected as its next Chair Candace (Candy) Littell Maxwell of Wilmington, Delaware. Maxwell is a retired strategic advisor with more than 30 years of diverse experience in business leadership, governance, policy, and strategy. In October 2018, she completed eight years of service on the Institution’s Board of Trustees, during which time she served on the Board’s Special Committee on Amphitheater-Related Issues, on the Presidential Search Committee, and as Chair of the Audit Committee, as well as other committees and working groups.

“Candy is viewed not only as having significant experience on Chautauqua’s Board, but as someone whose Board service and professional career are marked by a spirit of collaboration that is grounded in a strong background in finance, business, leadership, and strategy,” said James Pardo, current Chair of the Board of Trustees. Pardo’s term as Chair will conclude October 1 when Maxwell’s term begins.

Most recently, Maxwell served as a member of the Board’s Strategic Planning Working Group, a team composed of volunteer leaders and executive staff who worked for more than a year to lead the process that resulted in the formulation of the next strategic plan for Chautauqua Institution (click here to read a separate announcement about 150 Forward).

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Chautauqua Trustees Approve Strategic Plan

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150 Forward to be made public in June, calls for bold new response 

At its quarterly business meeting today, the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees approved a new strategic plan for the Institution titled 150 Forward. The plan was developed over the past year and a half following wide community consultation, market research, and externally advised analysis. The plan will guide strategic decision making over the next 10 years, leading up to the Institution’s 150th anniversary in 2024 and beyond.

Framed within the context of Chautauqua’s mission to “… explore the best in human values and the enrichment of life …,” the plan for the first time names values that guide the organization and an overarching goal that frames the 10-year key objectives of the plan as follows:

  1. Optimize the summer assembly season on the Chautauqua Grounds to provide a first-class experience around the arts, education, religion, and recreation;
  2. Expand Chautauqua’s convening authority year round to broaden its impact beyond the summer assembly season;
  3. Drive the implementation of a comprehensive, science-based approach to improving the health and sustainability of Chautauqua Lake and elevate its conservation as the centerpiece of the region’s economic prosperity; and
  4. Grow and diversify revenue to address critical needs, increase financial resiliency, and fund Chautauqua’s future.
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Seven Finalists Named for 2019 Chautauqua Prize

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Chautauqua Institution is pleased to announce seven exceptional books as the 2019 finalists for The Chautauqua Prize, now in its eighth year:

  • Little, by Edward Carey (Riverhead Books)
  • The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth, by Ken Krimstein (Bloomsbury)
  • Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon (Scribner)
  • The Overstory, by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton)
  • Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, by Elizabeth Rush (Milkweed Editions)
  • All the Names They Used for God, by Anjali Sachdeva (Spiegel & Grau)
  • The Mercy Seat, by Elizabeth H. Winthrop (Grove Press)

The winning book will be selected from this shortlist and announced in late May.

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Chautauqua Institution Signs On to Consensus Strategy for Chautauqua Lake Conservation

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Chautauqua Institution today announced that it has signed on to the memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the Chautauqua Lake Weed Management Consensus Strategy championed by Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello. The MOA seeks to bring together lake agencies and organizations, as well as the municipalities located around Chautauqua Lake, so they can more effectively work together to manage invasive aquatic plants, nuisance native vegetation, and hazardous algal blooms in the lake while being considerate of the lake and its watershed’s economic, recreational and ecological significance. Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill signed the MOA on the Institution’s behalf.

“I proudly signed this memorandum on behalf of Chautauqua Institution because it represents the comprehensive and scientifically sound approach for Chautauqua Lake conservation that we’ve been advocating for many years,” Hill said. “We are hopeful that all other agencies and municipalities will join us in signing the MOA and supporting this incredibly important strategy. We thank County Executive Borrello for his resolute leadership on this crucial issue. While Chautauqua Lake faces many challenges, we’re confident that with an independently sourced, science-based comprehensive approach and the support and leadership of a consensus of stakeholders, we will save and preserve Chautauqua Lake as the source of so much of our livelihood in Chautauqua County.”

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My Tran Wins Second Chautauqua Janus Prize

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Author Will Give Public Lecture and Reading at Chautauqua Institution 

Chautauqua Institution is delighted to announce “Tree rings, like concentric ghosts” by My Tran as the 2019 winner of The Chautauqua Janus Prize.

As the author selected from eight finalists by judge Vi Khi Nao, Tran receives $5,000, elevated this year from the original prize of $2,500, plus all travel and expenses for a summer residency at Chautauqua during the 2019 summer season. Tran will present a public lecture and reading at a celebratory event with music and refreshments at a date to be determined on the Institution’s grounds. Their writing will also appear in a future issue of the literary journal Chautauqua

Tran said they were honored to be chosen for a prize that celebrates formal innovation.

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Prayers for Christchurch, from Chautauqua

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Dear Chautauquans,

We stand with Muslims around the world in grieving the acts of hatred and murder in Christchurch, New Zealand. Chautauqua Institution remains steadfast in its commitment to interfaith dialogue and engagement that build bridges and foster understanding across difference. Interfaith understanding doesn’t just happen — it takes work and study and face-to-face interactions with Muslims. That is why Chautauqua, through its Department of Religion, strives to bring leading Muslim voices to our 2 p.m. Interfaith Lecture Series and our Interfaith Fridays series. Ours is an emphasis on interfaith learning and respect that has gone on at Chautauqua for more than two decades.

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Board of Trustees Extends President Michael E. Hill’s Contract

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Hill to Pursue Doctoral Degree

The Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees has extended President Michael E. Hill’s appointment for three years, through Dec. 31, 2021, following its annual review of presidential and institutional performance last month. Hill, who was appointed in 2016 and began his work at Chautauqua on Jan. 1, 2017, is the 18th president of the nearly 150-year-old Institution.

“Michael has met or exceeded all of our expectations in his first two years of service, and he has outlined an ambitious agenda for the future of our beloved Institution,” said James A. Pardo Jr., chair of the Board of Trustees. “The Board approved his contract extension with great excitement and anticipation for the future.”

Hill and others currently are in the final stages of a comprehensive and collaborative strategic planning process that is outlining the Institution’s priorities over the next five to 10 years. As part of this process, Hill’s vision to expand Chautauqua’s impact beyond the summer assembly season and beyond the grounds of Chautauqua’s historic campus has been tested and reaffirmed. The plan is scheduled to be approved by the Board in May and released to the community in June.

“It has been a true honor to engage with the Chautauqua community and to understand its aspirations and potential in the world,” Hill said. “I am thrilled by the Board’s confidence in my leadership and vision, and I look forward to building on the extraordinary experiences and conversations that we convene here on the grounds during the summer months and to also bring them to a world that is calling for Chautauqua’s multidisciplinary brand of positive, action-oriented dialogue and engagement.”

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Chautauqua School of Art and Pratt Institute Announce Groundbreaking Partnership

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Inaugural Pratt/VACI Fellowship in Pedagogy a First-of-its-kind Opportunity

Chautauqua Institution’s School of Art this week announced a series of new and reconfirmed partnerships designed to increase awareness of the renowned summer program and to provide its students with more attractive financial aid packages. Spearheaded by Sharon Louden, Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel Artistic Director of the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution (VACI), the new partnership initiative features as its centerpiece the inaugural Pratt/VACI Fellowship in Pedagogy, an innovative collaboration developed by Pratt Fine Arts Department, the Center for Teaching and Learning at Pratt Institute and VACI.

“As I’ve traveled and visited with many artists, educators, students around the country, it’s become clear to me that there’s a gap in our education system for artists who would like to teach— artists don’t often learn how to teach when they are in college seeking a MFA,” said Louden, an artist, educator, advocate for artists, and editor of the Living and Sustaining a Creative Life series of books. “My hope in partnering with Pratt on this groundbreaking fellowship is to provide a model for how we might educate the next generation of artists to teach as well as give direction on how to apply, interview, negotiate and secure a teaching job, where to apply our skills to teach outside of higher education, and actively encourage artists to participate in explorations around new pedagogies.”

This first-of-its-kind fellowship, which is fully-funded, enables a Pratt Institute Fine Arts graduate student to attend the summer program and to teach a course through the training of VACI core-faculty member Hasan Elahi, who will teach the “Art of Pedagogy” component within the residency program. Elahi is an artist, associate professor at the University of Maryland and board member of Creative Capital. After the summer residency concludes, the fellow will return to Pratt Institute and share their new knowledge with Pratt Institute students and faculty.

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Chautauqua School of Art Announces Partnerships with Renowned Art Schools

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Agreements to Provide Increased Financial Assistance to Students of Summer Program

Chautauqua Institution’s School of Art this week announced a series of new and reconfirmed partnerships designed to increase awareness of the renowned summer program and to provide its students with more attractive financial aid packages. The partnerships, spearheaded by Sharon Louden, recently appointed as the Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel Artistic Director of the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution (VACI), represent a number of reaffirmed and completely new relationships for Chautauqua’s visual arts program with celebrated higher-education programs around the United States.

“I’m incredibly excited to announce these new partnerships, and grateful to these schools for their commitment to their students and affirmation of the value of VACI’s program,” said Louden, an artist, educator, advocate for artists, and editor of the Living and Sustaining a Creative Life series of books. “To provide the students who attend these schools and Chautauqua’s School of Art residency with extra financial resources is a gift that will assists artists who would never have the opportunity to attend, and allow them to more deeply experience their time in our program.”

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Joseph Gerace Named Director of Campus Security and Safety

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Former Chautauqua County Sheriff Will Also Become Institution's Chief of Police Upon Alan Akin's Retirement Later This Year

Chautauqua Institution this week announced the appointment of Joseph Gerace as Director of Campus Security and Safety. Gerace, the highly respected former Chautauqua County sheriff, is responsible for enacting recommendations from the Institution's recently established Security Master Plan, and will take command of the Institution's police department upon the planned retirement of longtime chief Alan Akin in the fall of 2019. 

As sheriff, Gerace played a foundational role in forming and maintaining the Sheriff's Office's close partnership with Chautauqua Institution, where campus police personnel are officers who hold appointments as special deputy sheriffs.

"We are elated to welcome Joe to our year-round staff. His leadership as sheriff ensured the safety and security of multiple generations of Institution residents and visitors, and this community is fortunate to benefit now even more directly from his experience and service," said John Shedd, the Institution's vice president of campus planning and operations. "Through Joe's leadership, our security personnel will continue to provide the delicate balance of enforcement, preventive security tactics, and exceptional community relations acumen cultivated for decades under Al's command. We are grateful for Al's dedicated service to Chautauqua, and we look forward to celebrating his many contributions throughout the coming months.”

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Seasons Greetings from Chautauqua, 2018

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Dear Chautauquans,

Many of you know that as President I am incredibly fortunate to work from an office that overlooks Bestor Plaza. This is a grand vantage point in any season, and especially as night falls late in the year, when the Winter Village lights paint our picturesque town square in the colors of the season. I’m reminded of the first stanza of “Day is Dying in the West,” a staple of our summertime Sacred Song Services: 

Day is dying in the west,
Heav’n is touching earth with rest,
Wait and worship while the night
Sets her evening lamps alight
    Through all the sky.


Today is the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere, and as we approach the longest night of the year, it’s comforting to celebrate and appreciate anew that which brings light to our lives.

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Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Announces 90th Anniversary Season

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Music Director Rossen Milanov Signs Five-Year Contract

Chautauqua Institution today announced the repertoire and highlights of the upcoming 90th anniversary season of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, including 22 Chautauqua Amphitheater performances over the course of eight weeks of the Institution’s 2019 summer season. The CSO season announcement accompanies news that Maestro Rossen Milanov, who in 2019 enters his fifth season as CSO music director and principal conductor, has agreed to a new five-year contract that ensures his well-regarded tenure at Chautauqua will continue through at least the 2024 season.

“The CSO is truly the musical heartbeat of Chautauqua Institution and our celebratory 90th anniversary season focuses on themes that propel us into the future as we strive to be musically excellent, intergenerationally relevant, culturally connected and artistically collaborative,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, Chautauqua Institution vice president of performing and visual arts. “We’re particularly grateful for the visionary leadership of Rossen Milanov, who has proved to be a perfect fit for this community and this unique collection of talented musicians. I’m elated that he has accepted our invitation to make a long-term commitment to Chautauqua, and build upon four seasons of astonishing work.”

The CSO’s 2019 season begins on June 27, with a program featuring celebrated pianist Daniil Trifonov performing Scriabin’s Piano Concerto, and concludes on Aug. 20, in a joint performance with renowned trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The full season program is available at cso.chq.org. Appearances from other internationally recognized soloists include Chautauqua favorites pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk (July 2, Brahms’ First Piano Concerto) and violinist Augustin Hadelich (Aug. 1, Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto).

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Toys for Tots Accepted at Chautauqua Bookstore, Colonnade

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Chautauqua Institution is pleased to support the 2018 Chautauqua County Toys for Tots campaign, led by our neighbors at The Resource Center in Jamestown. Chautauquans and visitors to the grounds are encouraged to drop off unwrapped children’s toys at the Chautauqua Bookstore (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily) or the Colonnade lobby (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Winter Village weekends).

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Chautauqua Institution to Celebrate Giving Tuesday with Special Match Opportunity, Sweepstakes

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On Tuesday, Nov. 27, Chautauqua Institution joins individuals, families and non-profit organizations from all 50 states and in countries around the world for Giving Tuesday. This growing, global movement celebrates the collective gifts shared in community with one another. At Chautauqua, these are gifts of artistic expression, lifelong learning, multi-generational experiences, and treasured moments that lift up the best of human values.

Throughout the day on Giving Tuesday, the Institution invites the community to join an online celebration. On its social media channels, namely Facebook at facebook.com/chq1874, there will be a series of special video announcements, and updates on educational and community engagement initiatives for Chautauqua County students.

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A Message of Thanksgiving from Chautauqua

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Like many of you, I look forward tomorrow to gathering around a table with loved ones — for me at the President’s Cottage at Chautauqua — to share and partake in a most cherished tradition. At many Thanksgiving gatherings it is customary to begin the meal with a brief prayer or blessing, to “say grace,” as we put it at my table. It is a simple act, but one that is so profound: an expression of thanks for a nourishing meal, for those who prepared and share in it, and any number of the countless blessings in our lives.

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace lately, and not just in the Thanksgiving context. It’s the reason we have a whole week devoted to it in 2019. The description for that theme begins: “Be it emotional, physical or spiritual, grace takes many forms. It exists in the way we treat one another, the way in which we move through the world, and the way in which we use our gifts, our grace, to lift up others.”

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