Week 9 Letter from the President

Dear Fellow Chautauquans,

Welcome to the ninth and final week of our 146th Assembly. I cannot believe that we’ve come to our final days of the season, but we are going out in style, to be certain. This week, we welcome one of Chautauqua’s most beloved artists, thought leaders and friends, as we explore “Race and Culture in America with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center.”

The intersection of race and culture creates a unique vibrancy to American democracy, often channeling and challenging the ugly effects of racism, bigotry and inequality, past and present. In this week, we examine the different ways that race and culture shape and enrich our society, and how being responsible consumers of culture, regardless of our different backgrounds and tastes, matters to who we are as citizens and as an American community. We open and close the week with renowned trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who explores race and culture as a testing ground for the principles of American democracy. 

In addition to Wynton providing context and wise words for the week, we are so very fortunate to be able to experience his artistry and that of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in various performances. He has always been one of my very favorite jazz artists, and I cannot think of anyone better to help us round out our summer assembly season. 

In our companion Interfaith Lecture Series, we explore “Race, Religion and Culture.” It has been observed that racism is one of the most disturbing of historical cultural phenomena — speciously scientific, privileging some and denying value to segments of the world’s populations. This week we will explore how racism became enculturated, and will look for ethical realities, understanding and cultural healing. 

And in addition to these thought-provoking journeys, we bring back, for the third year in a row, our Chautauqua Food Festival. This year we’ve added more vendors than ever, including the ever-popular return of food trucks on Bestor Plaza; our own on-grounds restaurants sharing and highlighting their cuisine; and libations of all kinds. In so many ways, it’s a week-long block party, and all of our neighbors are invited. 

Some other special things to watch out for this week (as if everything above wasn’t already a full plate): 

I’m so grateful to welcome back to Chautauqua the Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. I was fortunate enough to work with this prayerful man for several years when I served the National Cathedral; he served at that time as Canon Pastor and director of its Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage.

My mom and brother are excited for two of our last popular entertainment concerts, with The Beach Boys on Wednesday, and Pat Benatar, Neil Giraldo and Melissa Etheridge on Saturday. Come hear some “Good Vibrations” at the Amphitheater with us!

We have had an incredible season in our Chautauqua Literary Arts program. Our director of literary arts, Atom Atkinson, has a gift for highlighting talent, right before the writer wins a major award or prize. This year they went one further, selecting Joy Harjo as a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author right before she was named United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to be so honored and acknowledged. You won’t want to miss her presentation on Thursday, as she features in her poems the joys and struggles of the everyday played against the grinding politics of being human.

And lastly, our closing Sacred Song Service on Sunday, this year under the theme of “Camp Meeting is Over,” gives me a special chance to close the Assembly with one of my very favorite traditions: Three Taps of the Gavel. Please join one last time this season as a community to share in this special ritual of farewell. 

Now, enough about farewells. We have a packed week ahead of us. And in keeping with our food festival, let’s agree to “eat, drink and be merry!”

Tags : CommuntiyLetter From the PresidentMichael HillWeek 9

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