I just returned from a lovely week of summer vacation at one of my very favorite places on the planet- Chautauqua. If you have never heard of Chautauqua, it is a must know! I am one of the fortunate few to have a cottage nearby and to steal a week away during the summer is not only a pleasure, but a privilege.
Chautauqua Institution is located in the far reaches of southwestern New York state- nestled between Erie and Buffalo. The Institution, originally the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly, was founded in 1874 as an educational experiment in vacation learning for Sunday school teachers.
The two founders, Lewis Miller and John Vincent, were Methodists, and Chautauqua is unquestionable faith based. However, from early on other Protestant denominations participated, and today Chautauqua embraces multiculturalism as the direction toward achieving world peace. Chautauqua's Department of Religion presents distinguished religious leaders of all faiths from this country and abroad, as preachers, teachers and speakers.
By 1880 the Chautauqua platform had established itself as a national forum for open discussion of public issues, international relations, literature and science. It is famous for it's lecture program where past speakers have included Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, supreme court justices, actors, artists, scientists, educators and the list goes on. Approximately 100 lecturers appear at Chautauqua during a season. It was here that I heard Al Gore deliver his presentation "An Inconvenient Truth" which served as my own inspirational ah ha moment that launched the concept for Green Paper Company.
Many of my most cherished moments have been at Chautauqua. My father, a violinist, played in the orchestra for over forty years and as a child that summered here I was given extraordinary freedom and growth opportunities available in very few places. As a teen I worked in the theater department, a summer job that greatly influenced my career path for years to come. As an adult I return, not only in summer, to seek refuge from the busy, hectic day to day life I have come to lead.
Chautauquans are stewards of a national treasure. It is designated both a National Historic District and a National Historic Landmark. In keeping with 21st century ethics- a focus on a green, eco-conscious lifestyle has emerged. Chautauqua is committed to practicing responsible environmental stewardship and sustainability. I was pleased to see this growing list of current stewardship practices as listed on their website:
-Tree management and planting
-Planting of lakefront buffer zone vegetation
-Use of phosphate-free dishwasher and laundry detergent to conserve the lake's ecosystem
-Lawn and grounds fertilizer reduction to reduce seaweed overgrowth
-Commitment to storm water management in new construction, renovations, road construction
-Use of re-cycled water (effluent) for irrigation at the golf course
-Energy efficiency audit, and upgrades to Chautauqua Institution facilities including increased use of energy-efficient lighting
-Purchase of electric trams, bio-diesel buses
-Green Design standards and rewards
-Wildlife habitat preservation
-Substitution of e-publications for paper
-Use of recycled and recyclable products
This past week I decided to lay low, relax and participate only on the fringe. This meant: attending 2 symphony performances, 2 lectures about developing alternative energy sources- "Powering the Future", a Department of Religion lecture by the incredibly inspiring Karen Armstrong, a film starring Tilda Swinton- "I am Love", and, a trifle, ditty of a play called Macbeth. ;) I sat out listening to Salman Rushdie speak... opting for a nap instead!
So you get the idea- even "relaxing" is packed full of endless options! I often describe Chautauqua as Club Med for intellectuals and artists and it is an amazing oasis for the talented and curious. It draws people of all ages and is a perfect spot for young families, teens, and it is a mecca for seniors as well. Needless to say, I am a bit partial! But if you are looking for an idyllic place to recharge and regroup this may just be the ticket.
To read more- visit the official Chautauqua website and plan a trip for next summer!
All photos via: ciweb.org and The Chautauqua Daily