News & Announcements

Institution Board Approves Approach for In-person 2021 Season

Authorizes Staff to Plan for Limited Programs, Capacity Pending Government Go-ahead, Regulations

Chautauqua Institution this week announced the outline of a plan to present programming for in-person audiences during its 2021 summer assembly season, pending evolving guidance and regulations from state, federal and local government officials. The approach was approved by the Institution’s Board of Trustees at its Dec. 9 meeting, and was shared with members of the community via a series of webinars (included below).

“This working plan is the result of our team having spent the entire fall consulting experts, learning from the experience of industry colleagues, and observing and analyzing government regulations concerning entities with operations similar to Chautauqua’s. We took those learnings alongside the evolving news but promise of vaccines, and crafted a series of informed assumptions about what we might encounter in June,” said Michael E. Hill, president of Chautauqua Institution. “We come to this decision with clear eyes regarding the current heightened state of the pandemic, and I hope this news can provide our patrons hope and something to look forward to. I know it has for our team. We pray in the meantime for rapid vaccine uptake and, always, for the health and safety of all members of our greater Chautauqua and regional communities.”

Hill noted all Institution operations will meet, and in many cases exceed, federal, state and local regulations. Details of how these mandated policies and procedures will affect the patron experience will be shared as the season approaches, following more firm guidance from authorities.

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How We're Approaching Our 2021 Summer Planning

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Good morning. We reach out today following two days of online meetings of the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees. As promised in my email and video message to you last month, I am reporting now on the meeting outcomes, the status of planning for our 2021 Summer Assembly, and to invite your input.

I want to thank you for your patience this fall as our staff has focused on keeping our grounds-based community safe while also planning for our forthcoming 148th gathering as a Chautauqua community.

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Chautauqua Institution Launches New Platform That Brings In-Demand Arts, Culture and Education Content To Your Home

146-year tradition will continue with launch of CHQ Assembly; 2020 summer lineup includes Ben Folds, Jon Meacham, Sir Ken Robinson, Brian Greene, and others

90-day free trial provides access to robust lineup of guest lecturers, performing and visual arts, events, and more

To coincide with the commencement of the summer season, Chautauqua Institution is today announcing the official launch of a brand-new digital collective called CHQ Assembly. This collection of five digital platforms will extend the Institution’s high-caliber programming beyond its Chautauqua Lake campus and engage participants across the U.S. year-round by removing geographic, cultural, social, economic, generational and class barriers to engagement at a pivotal time in our country.

For 146 years, Chautauqua Institution has gathered members and visitors for a summer schedule of in-person and hands-on programming that centers on the most critical issues of the day through lectures, classes, arts and entertainment, and recreation. In lieu of a physical assembly in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the interactive CHQ Assembly collective will continue to provide access to dynamic content experiences that explore the very best in human values and enrichment through education and conversation.

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Chautauqua Institution and Mather Announce Partnership

Collaboration Will Enrich and Enhance Lives of Those 55+

CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y., and EVANSTON, ILL.— Recognizing the opportunity of collaboration to better reach and serve the nation’s 55-plus population, Chautauqua Institution and Mather, a nearly 80-year-old not-for-profit organization, have entered into partnership to jointly pursue research and programming to engage and enrich lives.

The partnership is composed of three primary components: connecting communities for enriching online engagement; conducting research to inform services and support to adults 55-plus; and sharing research findings via online programming.

“This partnership signals the opportunities before us now that we will have a robust online expression of Chautauqua’s mission,” said Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work in new and exciting ways with an organization of Mather’s distinction that also has a mission that is perfectly aligned with ours.”

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Statement from President Michael E. Hill

Like everyone else, I have been watching the events of the past week with a mix of horror and pride: horror that we still live in a society that perpetuates systemic racism, hatred and cruelty, and pride that people who refuse to accept this are standing up and making their voices heard. At Chautauqua, we have been sharing the words of speakers who have given their lives to dismantling systemic racism as a way to shine a light on what we think we can all do to make a better society. This is the mission of Chautauqua: to put a spotlight on the issues most impacting society and to present leading voices who can help us all grapple with those issues and to find a path ahead. We believe that giving a platform to those leading major movements is core to our mission and the best way we can make an impact.

In recent days some have decried this approach as “tone deaf,” indicating that unless the Institution puts out an explicit statement that we are complicit. I’ve wrested with this, not because I have any confusion about where we stand, but mostly because I feel we have consistently, at least in my four years as President, drawn a bright line in the sand about our belief that any society that does not value the dignity of all people is a flawed society. Colleagues of mine who have given their entire life to the struggle to eradicate racism have counseled me that what I can do as a white man of privilege is “to do my work.” I have committed to that, as I can only control my own actions. I believe that’s what we each need to do.

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Chautauqua Nominated in National "Best Small Town Cultural Scene" USA Today Contest

Chautauqua Institution is pleased to share that a panel of experts and USA Today 10Best editors have chosen Chautauqua as a nominee for their 2020 Readers' Choice award for the “Best Small Town Cultural Scene” category.

The public is invited to vote daily from June 1 to June 28 for Chautauqua, one of 20 nominees. All votes can be submitted by individuals who are at least 18 years old by going to USA Today’s provides users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the U.S. and around the world. Chautauqua region neighbor the National Comedy Center was recently chosen as the Best New Museum in the Country.

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Learning from Chautauqua Voices on Race and Justice

Dear Chautauquans,

My heart aches for the hurt in our nation. The recent headlines remind me how much work we all need to do to heal divisions. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who are hurting during this scary time as old systemic wounds of racism are again laid bare, a reminder that they are unresolved and unattended to, all while we grapple with a virus that has leveled the world. It is at moments like these that I search for words to make sense of what is simply senseless. Words fail me right now, but they do not fail the voices we have presented at Chautauqua, prophetic voices of change, voices calling us to live more fully our creed of seeking the best in human values.

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Petina Gappah’s ‘Out of Darkness, Shining Light’ Wins 2020 Chautauqua Prize


Author Will Give Reading as Part of Chautauqua’s 2020 Online Assembly

Chautauqua Institution is proud to announce Petina Gappah’s Out of Darkness, Shining Light (Scribner) as the 2020 winner of The Chautauqua Prize.

As author of the winning book, Gappah receives $7,500, and will be presented with the Prize — and give a public reading — during a celebratory event at a date to be determined as part of Chautauqua Institution’s online assembly season this summer.

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Joseph Earl Thomas Wins Third Annual Chautauqua Janus Prize


Author Will Give Lecture, Reading as Part of Chautauqua’s 2020 Online Assembly 

Chautauqua Institution is delighted to announce “Reality Marble” by Joseph Earl Thomas as the 2020 winner of the Chautauqua Janus Prize.  

As the author selected from 16 finalists by judge Hilary Plum, Thomas receives $5,000 and will present a public lecture and reading at a celebratory event at a date to be determined as part of Chautauqua Institution’s online assembly season this summer. His writing will also appear in a future issue of the literary journal Chautauqua.   

Hailing from Philadelphia, Thomas is a doctoral student in English at the University of Pennsylvania whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Offing, Gulf Coast and The Kenyon Review. Being an emerging writer, Thomas said, means “applying and submitting to hundreds of places where you feel the work might fit or be in conversation with other art you love and admire,” and he was surprised and honored for his work to be selected for the Janus Prize, “which thinks so deliberately about aesthetics and the social world simultaneously.”  

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Seven Finalists Named for 2020 Chautauqua Prize


Chautauqua Institution is pleased to announce seven exceptional books as the 2020 finalists for The Chautauqua Prize, now in its ninth year:

  • Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey, by Mikhal Dekel (W.W. Norton)
  • What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance, by Carolyn Forché (Penguin Press)
  • Out of Darkness, Shining Light, by Petina Gappah (Scribner)
  • Feast Your Eyes, by Myla Goldberg (Scribner)
  • The Parisian, by Isabella Hammad (Grove Press)
  • Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, by Imani Perry (Beacon Press)
  • Bangkok Wakes to Rain, by Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Riverhead Books)

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

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From the President: Moving Our 2020 Assembly Online

May 2, 2020

Dear Chautauqua Family, 

I write today with a message I never conceived I would need to convey, but one that is necessary for the health, wellness and safety of our beloved community. Late yesterday our Board of Trustees decided unanimously and with moral clarity to suspend any in-person programs on our sacred Western New York grounds this summer. We will not be convening as we usually do, but rather in a new, online space, as a distributed but still tightly knit community of lifelong learners and lovers of the arts, education, interfaith and recreational programming. I invite you to read the news release at this link, and to view the above video, in which I provide a few remarks and then participate in a traditional Chautauqua Q-and-A session. Much more information will of course be shared in the coming days and weeks, but I wanted to gather with you as soon as possible after the board’s decision to hear your thoughts and to share some of my own. 

I share in the collective heartbreak and grief this decision is sure to evoke. I assure you — after weeks of careful and painstaking analysis by our amazing and dedicated staff and trustees, in consultation with governmental and other leaders and public health experts — that this is the right decision, to ensure the safety of our community, our region and our future. We are so grateful to all those within the Chautauqua community who have reached out in recent weeks to offer your counsel and expertise, or simply your heartfelt sentiments and well-wishes as we collectively confront a world-historic moment marked by uncertainty, grief and suffering.  

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Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra to Perform at Reg Lenna Center for the Arts on Aug. 22


Aretha Franklin Tribute Concert Marks First-ever Performance Outside Chautauqua Grounds for 91-year-old CSO

Chautauqua Institution today announced that the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra (CSO) will bring its unmistakable sound and artistry to downtown Jamestown’s Reg Lenna Center for the Arts with a performance featuring the music of Aretha Franklin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22. The concert is made possible by the Fund for Downtown Programming awarded through the Jamestown Local Development Corporation and made possible by the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).

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(UPDATED 4/30) Outcomes of Board of Trustees meeting to be shared Saturday, May 2

2020 Season Update

On May 2, 2020, our Board of Trustees decided unanimously and with moral clarity to suspend any in-person programs on our sacred Western New York grounds this summer. We will not be convening as we usually do, but rather in a new, online space, as a distributed but still tightly knit community of lifelong learners and lovers of the arts, education, interfaith and recreational programming. View and read President Michael Hill's message to our community at

The Institution is offering full refunds for services, gate passes, Athenaeum Hotel reservations, and single event tickets. The Chautauqua Ticket Office and Athenaeum Hotel will be reaching out to patrons via email to facilitate the refund process. Patrons are asked to avoid contacting the Chautauqua Ticket Office or the Athenaeum Hotel via phone during this time as call volumes are expected to be very high, and our staffing is limited.

If you have a specific question, please email the Ticket Office at and staff will respond as quickly as possible. The Institution will be posting frequently asked questions and responses on the webpage, where questions can also be submitted. We look forward to engaging you in a new kind of Chautauqua Assembly this summer, and to a time when we can all safely be together again. Be safe and well.

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Institution Offices and Operations Closed Thursday, Feb. 27

Due to inclement weather and the Blizzard Warning issued by the National Weather Service, most of Chautauqua's offices and operations will be closed today, Thursday, Feb. 27. Afterwords Café is closed. The Chautauqua Bookstore is open but may close early. The Fitness Center is open but classes are canceled. The Ticket Office is closed.

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Update on Constable Status for Chautauqua Police

Dear Chautauquans,

I am writing to provide an update on the status of our efforts to achieve Constable status for the officers of the Chautauqua Institution Police Department. This follows communications over the past couple months regarding a change in their “special deputy” status through the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office.

It's my pleasure to report that, at a meeting Monday night of the Town of Chautauqua Board, the Board voted to approve a new law establishing a town constabulary and authorized Supervisor Don Emhardt to sign our agreement making our police department personnel the Town of Chautauqua constables.

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Season's Greetings from Chautauqua

Whatever warms your heart and makes you smile, may you experience it in abundance this holiday season. From all of us at Chautauqua, season's greetings!

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Four Join Board of Trustees; New Leadership Assumes Office

Chautauqua Institution’s Board of Trustees elected Izumi Hara, Terrance N. Horner Jr., Sarah Hagen McWilliams and Richard R. Wade to four-year terms of service at the body’s final meeting of the 2019 season on Aug. 24. The new class officially begins their terms today, Tuesday, Oct. 1, along with newly elected chair Candace (Candy) Littell Maxwell, whose appointment was approved at the board’s May 4 meeting, and Marnette Perry, who was elected as vice chair at the August meeting.

“As I begin my first term as chair, it is an honor to welcome these brilliant new voices to our trustee table, and to build on the remarkable work and devoted service of those colleagues who have come before us,” Maxwell said. “I’m excited to welcome four individuals as accomplished and credentialed as Izumi, Terry, Sarah and Dick to help Chautauqua realize the promise of opportunities outlined in our new strategic plan.”

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Chautauqua Welcomes Fall with October Festival, Oct. 4–5


Chautauqua Institution is pleased to announce it will host a special October Festival on Oct. 4 and 5, 2019, featuring Oktoberfest-inspired events and activities to celebrate the beginning of fall on its picturesque lakeside grounds. Festivities will include German-style food, hay rides, axe throwing and other seasonal activities, and there is no charge for admission or parking. A special package is available at the Athenaeum Hotel for guests who wish to stay the full weekend, through Sunday morning.

The Chautauqua October Festival kicks off on Friday, Oct. 4, with a three-course German-inspired tasting menu at the Athenaeum Hotel. The hotel’s lounge will be open from 4 p.m. to midnight, and entertainment before and after dinner will be provided by The Shotskis, a five-piece ensemble that plays German classics and party songs, from 4 to 6 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m. Reservations for Friday’s dinner can be made at

Then, from 12 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, the festivities move to Bestor Plaza, Chautauqua’s town square. Alongside German-style food, drinks and adult beverages at the Brick Walk Cafe, a mix of family-friendly and adult-oriented activities will include hay rides, bobbing for apples, a bounce house, pumpkin painting, and axe throwing by AXEWAGON. See for a full list. Fees apply for food and drinks and for some activities.

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Chautauqua Community Mourns Passing of Jared Jacobsen


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’


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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