The esteemed Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York is close to my heart for many reasons. I was introduced to the Institution by a friend at church, who suggested that I send them a proposal to instruct a dance class for their Special Studies program during the nine-week “Season.” I sent in a proposal that was accepted. I had never been to Chautauqua and didn’t know what to expect.
When I entered the gates, it felt as if I were coming home and my smile remained the entire week until it was time to leave, when my eyes filled with tears. The Chautauqua Institution is not so much a place, but an experience. You either “get it” or you don’t. It is considered the “intellectual’s paradise” or “Disneyland for nerds.”
For nine weeks during the summer, this sleepy Victorian village awakens like the mythical Brigadoon to fuel the mind, body and spirit. The famous from politics and academia lecture, renowned ministers preach and entertainers perform. The Institution has its own symphony and youth orchestras, ballet, opera and theater companies. Located on scenic Chautauqua Lake, numerous recreational activities abound for adults and children, from sailing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming and more. There is even a Steamboat, the Chautauqua Belle that picks up passengers from the Institution for an historic lake tour. The Institution hearkens back to America’s past with a patriotic, old-fashioned, wholesome, friendly and safe environment.
Founded as a summer Methodist retreat for ministers and Sunday school teachers, the Institution maintains its religious roots by honoring the Abrahamic faiths: Christian, Jewish and Muslim. Denominational houses offer affordable lodging. There are quaint inns, condominiums and houses for rent and the elegant and historic Athenaeum Hotel.
I am honored and privileged to have been selected as a Special Studies instructor in dance (my eighth year) and writing (my third year). On Friday, July 10 at Noon, I am privileged to have a book signing at the famous book store.
For years, I have taken notes with the thought of incorporating my favorite place in America as the location of a novel. I did take some literary license, however. I just hope that this novel, though a romantic suspense and not a literary work, does the Chautauqua Institution justice. This novel is my tribute.