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Arts Activities

Group of Dancers A dance performance in the Amphitheater
Chautauqua: An American Narrative
The arts are a central element of the Chautauqua experience. According to Chautauqua historian and archivist Jon Schmitz, "The arts have always been a part of the Chautauqua program, at the very beginning, particularly music, and sacred music especially." Arts programming at Chautauqua has continually grown since the beginning. In many ways, an increased focus on arts programming helped Chautauqua pull itself out of financial difficulties in the 1930s and helped to spark its renaissance in the 1970s. Today the arts at Chautauqua are as central to the programming as they have ever been.

In many ways the arts are a gateway for people into the larger programming Chautauqua has to offer. According to Ethan McSweeny, co-artistic director of the Chautauqua Theater Company, "The arts have a really important role in Chautauqua. They are often people's first point of entry to the Chautauqua campus. And then they get curious about life on the grounds and they start to want to come back."

Theatre Stage A Theater Company performance
Chautauqua: An American Narrative
Jon Schmitz touches on another important aspect of the arts at Chautauqua, the idea of engagement. Schmitz says, "[In] many cases there is an elitism associated with the arts. And the artist would come between the object of art and the public. It was almost like a role of a priest that would mediate between the two. That was not the way that the Chautauquan founders were thinking." Chautauqua prides itself on engagement between the artists and the community. Many of the arts programs have community groups that sponsor arts students. The Chautauqua Theater Company, School of Music, opera company, and dance programs all pair each of their students with a family during the summer season. The Voice Program holds it annual sing-in and sing-out at the start and end of each season to introduce the voice students to the Chautauqua community. The visual arts quadrangle is open all hours of the day for Chautauquans to visit to see all types of visual art being created. According to Vice President of Programming Marty Merkley, "At Chautauqua you walk outside your door and the next-door neighbor is practicing their music, you take a walk anywhere on the grounds and you experience the creative process of art being made. Whether it's a painter at the lakefront doing a landscape of the beautiful scene, or whether you go up and see them throw pottery at the arts quad, whether you're walking by the School of Music, or the symphony in the Amphitheater; all of this is within a short walk from your front porch."

Piano Soloist Alexander Gavrylyuk performing in the Amphitheater
Chautauqua: An American Narrative
There is some form of arts programming every day of the week at Chautauqua. Performance times vary from afternoon to evening and can include Chautauqua's art students or one of its professional resident companies.

Every Friday night during the summer season the Amphitheater offers Chautauquans some form of popular entertainment. The show is typically some form of musical performance but can include dance, acrobatics, a talk from a well-known individual, and more. The Friday night shows typically draw large crowds and are a great way for people unfamiliar with Chautauqua to get a taste of what life is like on the grounds. Past participants have included The Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, and Bill Cosby.

Arts programming at Chautauqua offers something for everyone. Arts programming includes: chamber music, dance, family entertainment, opera, popular entertainment, symphony, theater, visual arts, and film.

For more information about arts programming at Chautauqua visit:

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