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Building on the 19th century tradition, Ohio Chautauqua is a five-day residential program combining living history, music, education, and audience interaction in an exciting cultural event the entire community can enjoy. All workshops and performances are FREE.
Five nights of performances take place under the old-fashioned tent – each beginning with local musical entertainment. Each evening, a different living history scholar becomes a figure from the past, giving a unique monologue that showcases the person’s importance in our culture. Audience members can meet and talk with the performers after the presentation. In addition to the living history performances, programs and workshops for adults and children take place.
In 1874, Methodist minister John Heyl Vincent from New York State and businessman Lewis Miller from Akron rented a Methodist camp meeting site along Lake Chautauqua in western New York to host summer classes for Sunday school teachers. This became known as the Chautauqua Institution. Within a few years, the scope of the Chautauqua Institution had broadened to include adult education of all kinds, as well as the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, a correspondence course. Along with the educational offerings at Chautauqua, its thousands of summer residents attended concerts and social activities. By the last decade of the nineteenth century, the Chautauqua Institution was nationally known.
The Chautauqua Movement grew out of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. As its members and graduates spread the Chautauqua idea, many towns, especially in rural areas, established Chautauquas. At the height of the Chautauqua Movement, about 1915, some 12,000 communities had hosted a Chautauqua. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the movement died out. Most historians cite the rise of car culture, radio, and movies as the causes.
Several independent Chautauquas survived and are thriving again while others are being resurrected. Leading the way, state humanities councils have organized Chautauquas in the last decade. Ohio Humanities established Ohio Chautauqua in 1999, traveling to four towns in Ohio each summer.