Chautauqua Institution’s Board of Trustees Friday voted unanimously to approve a resolution that calls for no in-person programming on the grounds of Chautauqua Institution for the summer of 2020. Depending on government and public health regulations and guidelines, the Institution may operate a limited range of facilities and services, such as dock installation and service, recreation facilities, and food service, targeted for property owners. 

This decision follows two months of analysis and consultation with government, public health and public safety officials, as well as analysis of the Institution’s capacity to operate safely and responsibly amidst a continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Alternatively, Chautauqua will convene online daily throughout its summer assembly season, presenting a multi-dimensional online experience in lieu of the on-grounds Summer Assembly as a means of continuing to serve its patrons and fulfill its mission to explore the best in human values and enrichment of life.  

“We gave very serious consideration to a number of scenarios, from proceeding with the Summer Assembly as planned, to completely shutting down operations,” said Candy Maxwell, chair of the Institution’s Board of Trustees.  

“The information and analysis pointed clearly to this decision. As challenging as it is to imagine a summer without the opportunity to physically gather at Chautauqua, we are focused on navigating the next several months in the most careful way possible to emerge on the other side of this pandemic strong and prepared to serve our many patrons and constituencies well into the future.” 

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill said the option of simply cancelling the season did not seem possible, since there has been a Chautauqua Assembly every year since the Institution was founded in 1874. 

“We started our planning with the aspiration to find a way to assemble. While we will not be able to safely do that in the traditional sense, we will bring people together online to engage around some of the most critical issues of the day,” Hill said. “Many of our planned 2020 programmatic themes are emerging as even more critical amidst the pandemic crisis, and we are excited to explore these conversations with Chautauquans, new and familiar.” 

Hill will be available to respond to questions from patrons and the general public via livestream at at 10:30 a.m. EDT today, Saturday, May 2. Participants may submit questions via text during the broadcast. Questions are also welcome in advance and can be submitted here

“We recognize the impact of this decision on our regional and on-grounds businesses, property owners, seasonal staff and countless others who depend upon Chautauqua for their livelihoods,” Hill said. “We will remain safe, we will be back, and we will be strong, which are the very best things we can do for our whole community at this unprecedented time.” 

Plans for the online Summer Assembly are under way, and will include as many experiences as possible, including education, religion, arts, and recreation programming. While many programs, including Chautauqua Opera Company and some Chautauqua Theater Company programs will not take place, artistic directors are imagining creative ways to engage constituents online in the art forms that they love. A schedule of programs to be presented online will be published as soon as possible. The online calendar of events will be updated starting next week to reflect programs and experiences that will be presented as well as those that will be cancelled or rescheduled.   

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, which will include the option of donating all or a portion of the purchase value back to the Institution. 

“We’ve already seen a tremendous amount of generosity from our patrons during this very difficult time,” Hill said. “These contributions mean so much and reflect the true love of our patrons for our mission, and we could not be more grateful.” 

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.  

Plans for the online assembly and for accommodating property owners on the grounds remain under development and will be shared with the community as they are completed. Property owners who are planning to return to their Chautauqua residences from out of town are asked to honor the 14-day quarantine practice advocated by the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services. The Afterwords Café is offering free delivery of prepared foods and groceries to facilitate effective quarantining by returning property owners. To date, these quarantine efforts have proven effective for preventing disease spread. 

The Institution will be posting frequently asked questions and responses on the webpage, where questions can also be submitted.