Summer of 2020 will be a great time for visitors to the Maple Springs Lake Side Inn to explore Chautauqua Institution. Because of the COVID-19 virus, for the first time since its founding in 1874 the Institution will not have their regular season on-grounds. Instead, they will be offering some of their terrific programming on-line, and much of it will be free. In addition, the grounds will be open to residents and visitors. Safety guidelines put out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and New York State will be followed. There will be no gate fees to enter the grounds of the Institution.
We share the sadness expressed by Michael Hill, the President of the Chautauqua Institution, in his message to the community announcing the response to the pandemic. It is a big loss for visitors and homeowners at Chautauqua, and a blow to the county and the region. The Institution has met each summer to bring together “lifelong learners of the arts, education, interfaith and recreational programming.” They even met during the 1918 flu pandemic, the great depression, and both world wars.
The Chautauqua Experience
Every summer during their 9-week season, visitors and residents participate in a wide range of educational and cultural offerings at Chautauqua. Each week there are lectures, concerts, plays, sermons, and other activities that are loosely structured around themes. This summer, we will miss gathering for sermons and lectures. We will miss religious, literary and other talks at the Hall of Philosophy. We will miss the plays, the opera, and the symphony. We will miss taking a boat ride over in the evening to see a big-name act or an up-and-coming talent outdoors, under the roof of the amphitheater. We will miss the conviviality, mutuality and sense of community that is engendered by participating in these things together.
The president will convene the Assembly of the Chautauqua Institution. This year, it will be convened on-line, and in ways that will support and expand the dialogue and sense of community that is fundamental to the Chautauqua experience. And while there are losses associated with this new, temporary reality, there are also some wonderful opportunities – some of which are currently unfolding.
The topics and themes of this year’s season remain the same. The Institution will be curating and creating opportunities to listen and learn as the season unfolds. Some lectures, sermons and other events will occur on-line. Many of the courses that are offered throughout the season may also be available on-line for a modest fee, just like they are during regular seasons. Those who can’t gather in-person for a writing workshop can participate remotely, and with Zoom and other technologies, real classroom communities can be formed.
A New Opportunity to Explore Chautauqua Institution
Guests who perhaps have not been for an event can still explore Chautauqua Institution by going over and walking the beautiful grounds – for free. Imagine the quaint cottages and hotels fully occupied, the shops brisk with customers, the restaurants with waiting lists. As you walk by the lush gardens, imagine the sounds of the symphony floating off the rafters of the amphitheater, down to the lakefront and across the water. Imagine turning a corner and hearing a beautiful poetry reading, or seeing Bestor Plaza filled with art and artists, food and food trucks.
While you’re imagining, take an on-line course, listen to brilliant leaders discuss important topics. Nourish your soul with sermons by preeminent religious leaders from all faiths as part of Chautauqua’s on-line 2020 season. More information and opportunities will unfold during the next few months. In addition, some facilities and services may be open to serve residents and guests, in compliance with safety guidelines. Check the Chautauqua Institution’s website and register for updates to stay abreast of the information.
Make plans to come back in 2021, to relax at the Inn and explore the Chautauqua Institution when it’s in full swing. There is nothing else like it.