The Chautauqua Institution is a small town in Chautauqua, New York. It’s located in the western part of the state and only really comes alive in summer. People first start arriving in late May and leave in September. Some stay for the whole season in lovely old, restored houses. Others come for a week or two and rent a room, an apartment or stay at the old Athenaeum Hotel.
Yes, there are a few year-round residents, about 400. But that is nothing compared to the approximately 7,500 daily visitors at the height of the season. Some buy season passes but most buy weekly or daily ones. The passes include many excellent lectures and classes from 9:00 a.m. to the evening performances in the Amphitheater that start at 8:15 p.m.
Why? What makes Chautauqua so special? It’s the people who come and what is offered. During the nine-week season, each week has a theme. All the classes, lectures and performances for that week revolve around that theme. And all of them are excellent.
Some of the themes from this year are: Life of the Written Word, American Identity and The Arts and Global Understanding. We went for Week 6, July 28 to August 4. The theme was “The Changing Nature of Work”. We had an absolutely marvelous time.
We stayed at the Athenaeum Hotel and after breakfast each morning went to a lecture on the efficiencies and inefficiencies that are built into our economy. At 10:30 we headed to the Amphitheater so we’d be sure to have a seat for that days’ talk. At noon we went to lunch and around 1:15 p.m. walked over to the Hall of Philosophy so we had good seats for the 2:00 p.m. presentation. On Monday Sister Joan Chittister spoke.
We usually stayed for the 3:30 lecture as well. That’s how we had the opportunity to hear Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
Afterwards there was always a performance in the Amphitheater from 8:15 to 10:00. One night it was a symphony. Another it was a ballet. On our last night it was “The Piano Guys”. They were the perfect end to a magical week!