“It’s kind of a right-in-your-own-backyard sort of story.”
Or at least, it is in the words of Emálee Krulish, Chautauqua Institution archives assistant, as she spoke about the final installment of the 2020 Heritage Lecture Series: “Ten People Who Left Chautauqua: And were better for having been here.” This lecture, featuring Krulish and Institution archivist Jon Schmitz, is set to premiere at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 28, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform.
“(We will profile) five men and five women who left Chautauqua (Institution) and were better for having been here,” Krulish said. “That ranges from whether they grew up here, they were employed by Chautauqua, they spent just one summer here, they made a visit, (or) they taught here.”
But none of these individuals were lifelong Chautauquans. All of them left.
“They didn’t remain at Chautauqua, they didn’t become a part of the ongoing Chautauqua (movement) either by returning every summer as part of the administration or anything like that,” Schmitz said. “They went on, but they had been given a break, or had been very much influenced by their time here.”
Krulish pointed to journalist Ida Tarbell as an example. Tarbell sharpened her skills as a writer for The Chautauquan in the late 1880s before moving on to a career as an investigative journalist exposing corporate corruption.
“I started reading her autobiography again and I was like, ‘Oh, she actually kind of had a falling out (with the Institution).’ She kind of found herself here and realized that this is not what she wanted to do,” Krulish said. “It gave her the experience; … Sometimes it’s helpful to have those jobs to know what you don’t want to do.”
Schmitz chose this topic as a way to cap off the lecture series with some historical reflection.
“I usually close with something that deals with people at Chautauqua, rather than issues,” Schmitz said. “It’s just an appropriate way, as the season winds down and people are getting ready to leave — although that’s not happening this year — that we just look back a bit at some of the people who have been at Chautauqua and how that has made a difference for them, and ultimately to how it’s made a difference for Chautauqua over the years.”
In 2020, along with the rest of Institution programming, the Heritage Lecture Series existed entirely online. The lectures were recorded ahead of time, edited and published each Friday at 3:30 p.m. EDT. For the lecturers — including Schmitz — it was a new art form to perfect.
“I know for me personally, it’s been a challenge. It’s been very much a learning experience. It’s not always easy to have to look at yourself present. When you’re doing it live … that’s it — you’re just seeing it from one side,” Schmitz said. “To actually be able to have to look at yourself and realize how much needs to be improved, it’s certainly been — I won’t say a humbling experience — but a learning experience.”
Schmitz learned about the technical side of things, like writing for a teleprompter and choosing images to accompany the presentation. But, above all else, Schmitz’s tone had to match the intimacy of the small screen.
“When you do recordings like this, there’s much greater intimacy with the audience, even though you’re not aware of where they are, who they are, what they’re thinking or anything else,” Schmitz said. “You’re going right into their living room, … and so you have to change your presentation a bit to actually realize that you are coming right into somebody’s home to speak to them, as opposed to addressing them in a huge audience, sitting in front of you.”
This series is made possible with a gift from Jeff Lutz and Cathy Nowosielski.