ARE WE CRAZY – telling you about an activity for next summer, when the past one is barely gone? Yep! This post is about a week-long MWC trip to the world-famous Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York for Week One (June 25th-July 2nd) of their 2016 series, focusing on “Creative Expression.” The MWC has booked a house – with limited space – for the week, although we will also welcome other MWC’ers for socializing who are staying elsewhere on the grounds. Chautauqua sells out every year – which is why we are doing this so early. Scroll to the bottom the post for details.
A CAMP FOR GROWN-UPS: How many times over the years as you’ve put a child on a bus to camp, or perhaps remembered going yourself, that you’ve thought, “What I need is a camp for grown-ups.” Hold that thought – you’re not the only one who has had it. In 1874 just such a place was started – and over the past 140+ years it has evolved to be a supremely satisfying place to nurture one’s self in mind, body and soul and to have a great, bang-up time doing so. Welcome to the Chautauqua Institution – America’s Brigadoon – a place that comes together for nine weeks every summer with speakers, and books, and music, and art and opera and movies and theater and classes – and a big beautiful lake and gingerbread houses with porches and every make and manner of outdoor activity (including golf, if you’re so inclined). -Where the primary mode of transportation is walking or biking. But there are no camp counselors on hand exhorting you on to the next activity – you can fill all your time with the offerings available, or you can do none of it and use your time to sit on a porch reading or staring into space or planning your next nap. Long before TED talks, the Chautauqua Institution was thinking about bringing meaningful subjects to large groups of people and finding a myriad of ways for them to engage. Life-long learning and education as basic tenets for a meaningful democracy have always been at the core of what happens there. But fun is not forgotten! Rated the #1 small town in America by Smithsonian Magazine, generations of families have stoked their imaginations for the year by going to Chautauqua in the summer.
The structure of the summer has budged barely a wit for most of its existence. An “umbrella” theme is chosen for the entire summer and each week thereof has a subtheme where an aspect of the larger one is explored. Next summer, the theme is: What Does It Mean to Be Human? (Clearly, the powers that be at Chautauqua are not sissies in the deep and meaningful department!) Or as they put it, “In 2016, we comprehensively explore facets of the human experience, of the human project….. In this summer as we explore our history, our future, our hearts, bodies, minds and souls, we look at the state of being human today — offering an unflinching look at humanity at its worst, and celebrating what it means to be a people striving for its best.”
The sub-theme for the season’s first week is, “Creative Expression” and the week is being moderated by Chautauqua favorite, the best-selling novelist, essayist and, memoirist Roger Rosenblatt. Mr. Rosenblatt will host writer-to-writer conversations about creative expression as a uniquely human quality. Already confirmed as his guests for the week are Ann Patchett (author of Bel Canto), journalist Pete Hamill, the songwriters Marilyn and Alan Bergman and the comedian, actress and writer Joy Behar. Called an “Edification Vacation” by the NYTimes, read how their wary reporter was charmed by her week at Chautauqua the summer before last: CLICK HERE. Please note that while a group of us will be in Chautauqua together it is not presumed that the group will do activities or attend events as a group – if it works out that way, organically, that’s fine. But everyone there will be free to explore Chautauqua individually – or join others if all parties want to at the time.
HISTORIC BACKGROUND: When does a place become a noun? In the case of the Chautauqua Institution, the word “chautauqua” (derived from an Iroquois word) has come to mean and was first used in the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a philosophical dialogue – a meaningful exchange of some ideological heft by intellectually curious, thoughtful and engaged parties. When the Chautauqua Sunday School Assembly was created in upstate New York in 1874 as a way to train Sunday school teachers and, slightly later, to bring education, religion and entertainment to rural areas, Chautauqua communities and groups sprung up in many locations throughout the United States and evolved along with the nation itself. Some of these became rooted in specific locations. Others were travelling shows – tent communities which, not unlike circuses, would go from one town to the next. They extended their reach by inviting speakers – particularly political ones. In a pre-Kardashian era, when celebrities were typically individuals of accomplishment, they all wanted to appear at Chautauqua and William Jennings Bryan (he gave his famous “Cross of Gold” speech), Theodore Roosevelt (“Chautauqua is the most American thing in America!”), and Mark Twain reached the American population by speaking there. The notion of book, or reading, groups were first created at Chautauqua (called the Chautauqua Literacy and Scientific Circle – or CLSC – which is still in existence today) for a far-flung population eager for education and exposure to a bigger world. There are currently 17 Chautauqua groups operating in the United States.
But while the history of chautauquas and particularly the Chautauqua Instutution is legendary, it does not overwhelm the relevance and dynamism of the place right now. Really, it’s sort of perfect for the MWC – don’t you think??
DETAILS: This information is for Week One-2016, from Saturday, June 25th to Saturday, July 2nd. The hardest part of going to Chautauqua is finding a place to stay because with the exception of the Athenaeum Hotel, all housing is private and is often reserved a year in advance. Which is why we have reserved a house – a really gorgeous one with lake views and great porches. (Not to mention a private dock – hmmm, should we get a boat? – grill, air-conditioning and great Wi-Fi.) Information about the house and individual accommodations will be sent to those who reserve by sending in a non-refundable deposit of $500. per person (MWC Members, go to the Reservations/ Payment page on the member-site). Individuals will choose their rooms in the order of deposits received (aka … first come, first served). Spouses/ partners are welcome. The balance remaining for the house will be divided between two payments made by January 15th and April 15th, 2016. At this time it is expected that staying in the house for a week (seven nights) will cost somewhere between $1000-1350 per person; variation is based on room-sharing (or not) and length of stay. Full-week stays are preferred; stays of less than one week will be considered based on availability. Linen and maid service is NOT included. The 3.5 bathrooms in the house will be shared. A recommendation (based on group input) for food/ beverage expenses will be made in May. Additionally, to enter the Chautauqua grounds all attendees need to purchase a gate pass for the length of your stay (bought online). Classes (not events) should be booked online, early, and are also charged for separately. Sometime next spring, all MWC-Chautauquans will be surveyed as to their transportation needs. For more information about the Chautauqua Institution and next year’s events and classes, CLICK HERE.