News & Announcements

(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.


UPDATE: April 30, 2020

Outcomes of Board of Trustees meeting to be shared Saturday, May 2

Dear Chautauqua Institution Family:

As you may recall, the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees will meet tomorrow, Friday, May 1, for its quarterly business meeting. The primary agenda item is consideration of the volumes of data and information compiled to inform their decision about the extent to which Chautauqua Institution will host the 2020 Summer Assembly on the Institution's grounds in Chautauqua, New York.

President Michael E. Hill will report out to the community regarding the Board's decision on Saturday, May 2, at 10:30 a.m. via livestream during which, in true Chautauqua style, he will also respond to questions. You will find the livestream at this link, where you can also submit questions.

Should you be unable to join President Hill live, the discussion will be recorded and made available on demand at that same location.

Thank you for your support and attention,
Department of Marketing and Communications

UPDATE: April 10, 2020

Update on Chautauqua's 2020 Summer Assembly

Dear Chautauqua Institution Family:

Thank you for your many expressions of support, your inquiries and your suggestions since we last communicated regarding the Institution’s plans and priorities as we join the region, state, nation and world in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The daily news reports on the status of the pandemic and its impact near and far call us to thoughts and prayers of healing for those affected and of gratitude for the many who continue to serve their patients, customers, patrons and constituents, including the Chautauqua Institution staff who are reporting to work in essential roles, amidst this global health crisis.

While we focus on planning and actions that are designed to keep our staff, community and surrounding region safe, we are also deeply involved in developing and testing scenarios and decisions that are geared toward preserving, to the extent possible, the summer assembly season experience. 

While no core programs have been canceled or postponed, within the past week, we received word of the following programmatic cancellations and operational plan changes from affiliated organizations:

  • The Unitarian Universalist Denominational House will be closed for the 2020 summer assembly season.
  • The Everett Jewish Life Center at Chautauqua has suspended programming for the 2020 summer assembly season and is continuing to evaluate its ability to host overnight guests.

One pre-season program, the 2020 Writers’ Festival, scheduled for June 24–26, has been postponed to 2021 due to a drop in registrations, likely impacted by the uncertainty in this COVID-19 environment. Organizers are considering ways to offer an online opportunity that can support our Writers’ Festival patrons, particularly during this time when writing may serve as a source of consolation and much-needed inspiration.

Looking Ahead

There are no state or federal laws or restrictions at this time that impact the summer assembly season timeframe. We are, nevertheless, working on contingency plans in the event the season schedule needs to be adjusted in minor, moderate or major ways. 

Online Programming

As you may know or recall, we have made many of our lecture programs available via Facebook Live in recent years, and we have for many years made recorded copies of selected lecture programs available for purchase, with free access at our Online Grounds ( To build and expand upon these efforts, we are planning to significantly enhance online offerings in 2020 to create a more comprehensive and engaging online assembly and to widen our reach and impact in the world. 

Timeline for Decisions

On or shortly after May 1, we will announce whether there will be major assembly-wide changes to the schedule, such as cancellations of in-person programming for any portion of the season. Should any individual event or program cancellations occur, they will be announced in this publication, the Friday e-newsletter.

Thank you for continuing to support Chautauqua Institution during this challenging time. We remain as committed as ever to delivering on our promise to assemble in 2020, and we are creating the plans and mechanisms to ensure this can happen regardless of whether physical gatherings are possible or preferable. 

During this holy week in so many traditions, we send blessings to all during this sacred time.   



Michael E. Hill

UPDATE: March 27, 2020

From the President: How We're Planning in These Uncertain Times

Dear Chautauqua Institution Friends,

Within the next few days, Chautauqua Institution’s 2020 Calendar of Events will begin landing in the mailboxes of 60,000+ patrons across the U.S., Canada and beyond. It is always distributed at this time of the year, and amidst the COVID-19 crisis, we felt it more important than ever that our plans for the 2020 summer assembly season stay top of mind, if for no other reason than to serve as a source of hope in uncertain and troubling times.

As we stand today, exactly three months from the planned start of the 2020 summer assembly, there are many unknowns, and that which is “known” is questioned and challenged. Each day’s news brings a different hypothesis, new discoveries, and terribly unfortunate illness and loss due to a virus that doctors and other scientists do not fully understand. We are keeping in our prayers all who are so deeply impacted, including our healthcare and public service professionals who are on the front lines.

Amidst this uncertainty, there is one thing of which we are absolutely certain: There will be a Chautauqua Institution summer assembly as there has been every year since we were founded in 1874. Will the season begin and unfold at the same time, in the same rhythm and using the same modalities that we know and cherish? We can’t answer those questions in detail right now. But what we can tell you is we are planning according to the following priorities in order of importance:

  1. Priority One is the health and safety of our staff, patrons and greater community. We will follow all CDC and other government guidance relevant to our operations to protect those who invest their professional and personal lives and time in Chautauqua Institution;
  2. Priority Two is preserving and fulfilling the mission of Chautauqua Institution to explore the best in human values and the enrichment of life. The circumstances call us to broaden our thinking on how we can deliver on that mission in flexible, innovative and compelling ways; and
  3. Priority Three is limiting, to the extent possible, unsustainable negative economic effects on the Institution and the region that depends on it as a major driver of its tourism economy. We take our role as an economic driver, an employer of choice and a citizen of Chautauqua County and New York state very seriously, and we are doing all we can to play a part in ensuring that this region is vibrant now and into the future.

Our promise to you is this: To the extent that any changes need to be made from the current plan for the 2020 summer assembly season, we will tell you promptly. We ask for a spirit of experimentation and discovery — traits that Chautauquans carry naturally — as we navigate the next several months together. We will likely try some things that you will love. Other experiments may not be so well received, but we will learn from them and improve as a result. Our planning and decision-making modes will continue to be based on known information and guidance from trusted sources. We are prepared to pivot as circumstances dictate.

Right now, what we know is that there are no restrictions or protocols that call for a change in our summer assembly season plans. To that end, you will continue to receive program announcements via email and social media, and you will receive that familiar calendar of events in the mail. We hope they serve as sources of enrichment as they also convey our intent to pursue our mission, which is more important now than ever.

You and all your loved ones, Chautauquans all, remain in my thoughts and prayers during this uncertain time.

All my best,
Michael E. Hill

UPDATE: March 26, 2020

Chautauqua Golf Club Opens, following CDC and PGA Protocols and Precautions

Chautauqua Golf Club has received clarification from the NYS governor's office and regional Empire State Development regarding its operations as follows:

New York golf courses are permitted to be open but must implement all CDC and state-mandated guidelines, and promote safe, social distancing. There is to be no access to pro shops, locker rooms, indoor facilities and restaurants/bars (unless for take-out purposes only).

Social distancing on the golf course should include:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others
  • Don't shake hands before or after your game
  • Leave the flagstick in the hole
  • Don't use rakes, ball washers and coolers from course
  • Don't share clubs or any other equipment
  • If using a golf cart, limit to one person

Therefore, the Chautauqua Golf Club will be open beginning tomorrow, March 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in a limited capacity. Everyone’s patience will be appreciated as staff work through and implement the new guidelines for operation. Greens fees and cart rentals can be paid for via credit card by calling 716-357-6211 during the hours stated above. Take-out will not be available. A very limited number of staff are permitted to return to work onsite at this time.

UPDATE: March 24, 2020

Keeping Each Other Well and Safe at Chautauqua

As we communicated via news release and social media posts yesterday, Chautauqua Institution is not seeing a significant influx of returning resident traffic amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. What we are seeing, however, are national news stories about the challenges that migrations from urban centers to more rural vacation communities may cause, both in terms of the feared potential impact on the spread of the virus and the strain that increased traffic will cause communities that are not prepared to serve unusual volumes of returning homeowners, especially during the current crisis.

Amidst this flurry of news stories and resulting social media posts, we thought it might be helpful if we established some recommendations for those who may be considering returning to their Chautauqua homes. Whether you plan to be on your normal schedule this spring or you are planning to return to Chautauqua in advance of a normal travel schedule; whether you are returning to a Chautauqua Institution-based home or to one of the thousands of seasonal homes that compose our greater 22-community Chautauqua Lake family, we offer the following recommendations and information. They are offered in the spirit of community safety and with concern for the wellbeing of everyone.

If you are planning to return to your Chautauqua region home while New York State “PAUSE” regulations are in place, please consider the following recommendations:

  • Whether or not you are coming from a region or community where there have been confirmed incidents of COVID-19, we recommend you consider significantly isolating yourself in and near your Chautauqua County home for 14 days after arrival. This means:
    • Bring with you (or arrange to have delivered to your home) all of the food and personal supplies you need so that you do not need to go to the grocery store or shopping center upon arrival. (See the list of delivery resources at the bottom of this page.)
    • Make arrangements to have your internet and cable service hooked up and tested prior to your return, if possible. If not possible, make sure you have disinfected any surfaces the service staff person may come in contact with before inviting them into your home, and maintain the 6-foot social distancing practice while the service person is in your home.
    • Postpone any repairs or other work on your home until the isolation period has ended unless you can assure no contact with workers. Remember, workers will likely need access to restroom facilities if the job takes more than an hour or so, and inviting them to use your private facilities during your isolation period could be risky.
  • The following are resources and services available at and nearby to Chautauqua Institution that can support your 14-day isolation plans:
    • Lakewood Apothecary offers delivery service of prescription medications and other products they sell.
    • Mayville Rite Aid will mail prescription orders.
    • Andriaccio’s Restaurant opens for the season March 25 and offers takeout, free delivery and curbside pick-up. Phone and online orders are accepted.
    • Bag and String Wine Merchants accepts phone orders and makes deliveries daily
    • Afterwords Café offers take-out and delivery at Chautauqua Institution daily 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (credit card purchases only) 716-357-5772. Very soon, the Afterwords team will also be offering a grocery delivery service. The list of available items will be posted as soon as the service is launched later this week.
    • The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce maintains a webpage,, with a full list of businesses offering essential services and restaurants offering delivery and takeout under the current regulations.

The list of resources and delivery options seems to grow daily, so we will post this message also on our COVID-19 web page so you can return to it as often as you like for the latest information.

We hope this information is helpful as a guide as you consider returning to Chautauqua during the pandemic crisis. As always, please consult the New York State COVID-19 webpage for the latest information and also the Centers for Disease Control.

UPDATE: March 23, 2020

Statement Regarding Social Media Rumors

Our statement regarding rumors of an influx of seasonal residents returning to the Chautauqua Institution grounds:

As we work with officials and residents across Chautauqua County to implement the recommended preventative measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, we share this message with our community and the Chautauqua region to address concerns and questions that are surfacing regarding whether the Institution’s seasonal residents are returning to their Chautauqua homes to escape more densely populated urban centers, such as New York City, where there is a greater incidence of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus.

The Institution has no evidence that large numbers of people are returning to their homes on our grounds any earlier than normal. Currently, the Institution grounds are essentially shut down — our buildings and operations have been closed to the public since last week according to New York State regulations. Because of those preventive measures, there is in fact lower volume of regular traffic on our grounds. We are now staffing our gates 24/7 and will know if that volume changes, as the attendant at the Main Gate entrance is taking information from every person who enters and departs the Chautauqua grounds. Our log from the weekend shows that most of the traffic in and out of the grounds was by visitors who came to walk or sightsee and enjoy the beautiful weather while practicing social distancing.

Chautauqua Institution’s property is host to only a fraction of the seasonal homes on Chautauqua Lake. Like our neighbors, nearly all of the Institution’s year-round staff are full-time residents of Chautauqua County and its immediate vicinity, and we understand the anxiety over people traveling to our region from more densely populated areas. This anxiety is being felt all over the country in areas with a strong tourism economy. We continue to recommend safe social distancing practices and following other CDC guidelines as the best ways we can individually combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are grateful to those who have come to us for factual information and refrained from spreading unfounded rumors and irresponsible reporting on this issue. The resulting stress and fear this has generated is regrettable because it is, itself, preventable. Institution property owners have been informed of this rumor and they have been advised to carefully consider any plans to return to the region during this phase of the pandemic, as we work with our colleagues throughout the region to manage within the means of our healthcare and other systems in Chautauqua County.

The Institution has created a webpage,, where all of the latest information about the Institution’s response to the pandemic, including this message, can be reviewed.

We express deep appreciation to all of the leaders, healthcare professionals, emergency professionals, social services staff, and countless volunteers who are contributing to Chautauqua County’s response to COVID-19. We stand ready to continue to be part of the solution.

UPDATE: March 20, 2020

Update on Operations and Facility Access

Dear Chautauquans: 

We are writing today with an update on the status of Chautauqua grounds, facilities and services.  In addition to the announcements made last week (and listed below) we have closed the Dr. Robert R. Hesse Welcome and Business Center, including the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau offices and service desk, the Chautauqua Institution Ticket Office and Business Center, and the public restrooms, until further notice. 
Also, starting today, we ask that all vehicle traffic enter the grounds through the Main Gate so that we can continue to provide safety and security services at the current levels amid staffing adjustments according to state declarations. The Main Gate auto hut will be staffed 24/7 to serve as a resource for questions and on-grounds directions. All other gates will remain closed until further notice.

With these additions, the following list comprises all facilities and operations normally open during the spring season that are closed to the public until further notice:

  • Chautauqua Health & Fitness at Turner Community Center
  • Smith Memorial Library 
  • Main Gate Welcome Center
    • Ticket Office 
    • Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau and Information Desk
    • Public restrooms
    • Business Center 
  • Chautauqua Bookstore 
  • Colonnade 
  • Archives
  • All gates except Main Gate

Please note that the Afterwords Café continues to serve takeout and delivery:

  • Takeout orders will be available seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Place your order by telephone (716-357-5772) or from the café entrance. Credit cards preferred; cash accepted.
  • Delivery orders (on-grounds only) will be available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Place your order by phone (716-294-5286). Credit cards preferred; cash accepted.

Thank you for your cooperation as we navigate these uncharted waters together.

UPDATE: March 16, 2020

Dear Chautauquans: 
As our lives rapidly evolve with the international, national and regional response to the spread of COVID-19, I write to provide some updates based on developments over the weekend and this morning. First, for those seeking to access Chautauqua Institution facilities and services, please note the following updates regarding public access and operations:

  • Chautauqua Health & Fitness at Turner Community Center is closed to the public after 8 p.m. today until further notice
  • Smith Memorial Library is closed immediately to the public through March 29
  • Main Gate Welcome Center
    • Ticket Office is closed to public walk-up traffic beginning March 17 through March 29; accepting online and phone orders
    • Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau
      • Offices open regular business hours
      • Information Desk open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday to Sunday
    • Public restrooms open during business hours
    • Business Center is closed to the public
  • Chautauqua Bookstore is closed to the public beginning March 17 through March 29
  • Afterwords Café will serve takeout and delivery only beginning March 17 until further notice
    • Takeout orders will be available seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Place your order by telephone (716-357-5772) or from the café entrance. Credit cards preferred; cash accepted.
    • Delivery orders (on-grounds only) will be available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Place your order by phone (716-294-5286). Credit cards preferred; cash accepted.
  • Colonnade is open to the public by appointment only beginning March 17 through March 29
    • A phone at the front door will allow patrons with appointments to call for building access upon arrival
    • No public access to ATM in lobby
  • Chautauqua Golf Club will open as planned this weekend, and staff will follow PGA protocols for cleaning of equipment and surfaces


State and County Declarations and Guidance
Most of the above operational changes have been made in response to new guidelines issued this morning by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in cooperation with the governors in neighboring states Connecticut and New Jersey, and to yesterday’s State of Emergency declaration and subsequent recommendations by Chautauqua County officials. This action mirrors those taken by neighboring counties. Some 40 of New York state’s 62 counties have made the same State of Emergency declaration, many of whom, like Chautauqua County, have experienced no confirmed instances of COVID-19. As officials learn more about how COVID-19 spreads, these actions are deemed necessary to stem the growth of the COVID-19 pandemic and to unlock permissions and funds that are only available when a State of Emergency has been declared. It is not intended to increase alarm or panic.

Department of Health and Human Services officials recommended that, as of Wednesday, March 18, all county schools close for an undetermined amount of time. They noted that each school district is empowered to determine its own course of action in relation to this recommendation. They advised citizens to look for communications from their respective school districts regarding such plans. Most if not all of our local districts closed to students beginning today, many indefinitely.


Staff Communication and Update
As I've communicated previously, at Chautauqua Institution our top priorities are to protect the health, safety and wellness of our year-round staff and our community members, and to preserve the mission of Chautauqua Institution, upon which countless individuals, businesses and organizations rely for their livelihood. We have had no instances of COVID-19 on staff, and the individual who fell ill with flu or cold symptoms last week is thankfully on the mend. In light of the State of Emergency and subsequent school closing announcements, last night I provided our full-time Chautauqua staff members updated guidance on leave and work-from-home policies that we hope will provide them flexibility to make decisions that are best for them and their family circumstances. We are also making every effort to keep part-time staff on the payroll and working, seeking opportunities to get a head start on summer preparation, to conduct deferred routine maintenance or cleaning, or to do advanced planning. 


2020 Summer Assembly Season Update
Finally, our 2020 summer assembly season planning continues apace, with more announcements today and still to come this week. As of this date, nothing associated with the 2020 season has been canceled as a result of concerns related to COVID-19. Simultaneously, we are formulating contingency plans for potential disruptions to the season. In all our planning, we are committed to fulfilling Chautauqua’s mission to “explore the best in human values and the enrichment of life.” I’ll reiterate what I’ve said previously: Whether that exploration takes its normal forms, starting with our spring conferencing and special event programming and leading into the summer assembly season as planned, or whether we need to find new and creative ways to bring our community together this year, we remain steadfast in ensuring that our assembly gather to tackle the great issues of the day and to dream together about the creative solutions that our exploration may provide to a world in desperate need of them.


As we track the developments in our community and around the nation and world, we know our staff and community will continue to support each other, and together we will get through this time of uncertainty. I have never been prouder to be part of the Chautauqua Institution community. I am confident that whatever comes in the next several weeks, we will handle it with grace and kindness.  

All my best, 

Michael E. Hill


UPDATE: March 12, 2020

Dear Fellow Chautauquans,

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy as the world continues to grapple with a frightening health pandemic. My thoughts and prayers have been with the entire Chautauqua family during this time of uncertainty.

In the week that has passed since we first shared information about Chautauqua Institution’s response to the spread of COVID-19, much has happened in the nation and world as medical professionals and government officials learn more about the virus and its unique characteristics and resulting challenges. Today, I write to share the latest information about our response and planning efforts.

Our energy and attention are focused on three priorities: 1) Staying in touch with officials to ensure we are up to date on current county, state and nationwide planning and knowledge; 2) protecting our staff and community members through recommended preventative measures; and 3) planning for all possible scenarios as we look toward our 2020 summer assembly season and beyond.

We are in regular contact with the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services and have ramped up recommended prevention practices and procedures to protect the small but vital community that calls Chautauqua home year-round and our staff. As of this writing, there have been no reports of a COVID-19 diagnosis in Chautauqua County or among our staff.

At the same time, as you would expect, we are developing multiple versions of contingency plans to cover scenarios ranging from a complete disruption to our spring and summer programming, to partial disruption, to limited disruption. In each of these scenarios, we are centered by Chautauqua’s mission to “explore the best in human values and the enrichment of life.” It is through this lens that our guiding stars are safety, the continuation of an ongoing civil dialogue in the nation and the role that we might play in each.

Whether that exploration takes its normal forms, starting with our spring conferencing and special event programming and leading into the summer assembly season as planned, or whether we need to find new and creative ways to bring our community together this year, we remain steadfast in ensuring that our assembly gather to tackle the great issues of the day and to dream together about the creative solutions that our exploration may provide to a world in desperate need of them.

We continue to be guided by our strategic plan, 150 Forward, which calls us to convene diverse perspectives and voices to discover and advance the most important, relevant conversations and experiences of our time, during the summer assembly season and year-round, on the grounds of the Institution and beyond. We intend to fulfill this commitment.

At this time, our 2020 summer assembly season schedule remains intact, as we complete final preparations, speaker and performing arts bookings, and facility preparation. As of this date, nothing associated with the 2020 season has been cancelled as a result of concerns related to COVID-19.

This is not to say we are ignoring the potential implications of COVID-19. Rather, it is the right response today with the current guidance and information available to us. The rate at which learning and information are changing tells us that we must start each day anew, asking ourselves what we must do now to protect our people and fulfill our mission. If the time comes when we need to make decisions about curtailing or cancelling programs, I promise you we will base those decisions on what is best for the health and safety of all who make Chautauqua Institution so special, and on guidance or directives we receive from government officials. That is and will remain the core of our response to COVID-19.

In the meantime, we will continue to keep you informed as we receive new information and guidance from federal, state and local officials. If that guidance results in changes to our operational plan for the spring and summer months, we will communicate promptly. At the same time, we encourage all of our beloved Chautauquans to take very good care of yourselves and those close to you by consulting trusted resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with your own local and state agencies who may have the most current information about your hometown.

We express deep and abiding appreciation to all who have reached out with very helpful advice and resources. We are reading every message and incorporating learnings and advice into our planning efforts. In this way, and as always, Chautauquans do what they do best — they seek ways to make a positive difference. We could not be more appreciative of these very special gifts. Thank you.

As I look out my window onto a serene Bestor Plaza, I am reminded that this sacred place and this hallowed grove has faced many challenges since the beginning of its mission in 1874. That permanence, that knowledge that all who came before us boldly pursued this mission, and that we together found answers to difficult situations, buoys me even now. Thank you again for journeying alongside us during this difficult time.

Sending all my best,
Hill sig
Michael E. Hill 


UPDATE: March 5, 2020

The health of the Chautauqua community and all who visit the grounds is our top priority. In this interest, Chautauqua Institution is in regular contact with and follows protocols established by the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services whose policies are aligned with New York State Department of Health in the prevention of and response to infectious disease concerns, including the Coronavirus.

We are focused right now on the health and safety of our staff, their families and our community. To that end, in addition to being in contact with local authorities regarding their guidance and directives, we are also regularly monitoring updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and are implementing the recommended preventative measures in work and public spaces. The focus now is disease prevention and proper sanitary practices. As guidance evolves, we will continue to include a COVID-19 update in our weekly emails and also post that information online on this page, easily accessible from a link on the home page.

In the meantime, we are also receiving inquiries about our refund policies as our patrons consider contingency plans. At this time, there are no restrictions impacting the planned spring and summer programs and services of Chautauqua Institution. Nevertheless, you may reference our current refund policies at this link, and we do hope their flexibility provides some comfort in this time of uncertainty. If you have any questions, you may contact the Ticket Office at or 716-357-6250.