Week Three Column from the President

Welcome to the third week of our 145th Assembly. The first two were ideas-packed feasts, exploring both “The Life of the Written Word” and the thought-provoking concept of “American Identity.” If you’ve been with us since the beginning, I hope you’ve enjoyed your time so far, and if you’re joining us for the first time this week, welcome to Chautauqua.

I have been looking forward to Week Three since we announced our 2018 season, and I hope that we can bust through all of the stereotypes that I’ve been hearing.

One of our major groups that come every year said, “We were looking at Week Three, but then we saw that it was about play, and that just wasn’t a fit for a group of adults.”

That’s EXACTLY why we programmed this week on “The Art of Play.”

Play is critically important in the social and emotional development of a child, but research also tells us that play shouldn’t end when we grow up. This week, we take a multigenerational approach to play, to the act of instructive fun.

How does play help people of all ages build community, keep our minds sharp and strengthen the relationships with those we love?

From the free-spirited, free-form play of youth to the intellectual challenge of puzzles and games, to the creative problem-solving exhibited in board rooms, we examine the science behind the importance of play, the changing culture of play and gaming and the innovative work aimed at improving our personal and professional lives through play.

And for those who believe that “play” has to end when we start talking about religion and faith, we also hope to challenge your assumptions during our companion Interfaith Lecture Series this week.

For Jews and Christians, the notion of Sabbath is inscribed in the heart of the Ten Commandments and, therefore, in the heart of both religions — but how is this commandment differently understood and observed by each?

How do we utilize the discipline of “taking a Sabbath day” to make space in an over-scheduled world? Why does this commandment insist on keeping the Sabbath day holy — and how does one do that? How do faith traditions other than Judaism and Christianity relate to play?

In this week, we will discover that play is a necessary component of being human, and, perhaps, that play is therefore holy.

One of my very favorite expressions of play is the annual Color Sprint, which will be held this Thursday at the Sports Club. As an avid runner myself (although not a sprinter), it’s such a joy to see the aftermath of people of all ages bathed in chalk-like color. I hope you’ll take a chance and join them.

There’s so much more on our stages, in our classrooms and around the grounds, including the CHQ Olympics. Please take in as much as you can.

I want to close by addressing two community questions from this week.

Several of you have noticed the occasional presence of police personnel in the Amphitheater, Hall of Philosophy and other parts of the grounds. While we have had armed police at Chautauqua for decades, I recognize that they are more visible than they have been in the past.

Chautauqua recently began a security assessment of the grounds, a part of which recommended these routine patrols. Some have shared that they applaud this move; others have expressed unease.

Please know that these routine patrols do not represent an imminent threat during any particular program but are part of preventative measures we are taking to ensure that the safety of Chautauqua — one of its greatest assets and hallmarks — remains.

Thank you to all who shared comments on my special column in Thursday’s Daily about our response to a recent issue involving our Chautauqua Theater Company. Not all of you agreed with our response, but it did accomplish what I hoped it would: we’re talking more about how we discuss issues of race in our community. Let’s keep talking and finding solutions on ways we can create a community that welcomes people of all backgrounds.

One way you can continue the conversation is to join our community kickoff to Chautauqua’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion planning process from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. July 14 in the Hall of Philosophy. Dr. Johnnetta Cole, the only woman to hold the presidency of both of the nation’s historically black women’s colleges — Bennett and Spelman — will lead a conversation about ways Chautauqua might think about this important work.

I also want to report that I had a very productive and thoughtful meeting with Sheriff Joe Gerace Friday, July 6. You will hear from him directly in this issue of the Daily, and I’m grateful for his proactive and professional response to our inquiry and our desire to create a long-term partnership as I continue in my presidency here.

I’m so excited to join you in a week of play in the coming days. Regardless of age, we hope you let your inner child explore deeply the joys of the art of play.

Thank you for being at Chautauqua and providing the spirit that animates this special community.

Tags : 2018 Week ThreeChautauqua’s Diversity Equity and InclusionMichael HillraceThe Art of Play
Michael E. Hill

The author Michael E. Hill