"The Chautauqua idea is an idea embracing many features, developed through years, in many forms, originated and developed thru personal thought, experience and conversation by Lewis Miller and J. H. Vincent. The question of personal pre-eminence or priority as to the original elements and plans is forever dismissed. The two claim joint ownership and fellowship; and no recognition of the one shall by our permission be acknowledged without recognition of the other – that we may stand and abide as brothers, and with a perfect mutual understanding and a spirit of love which shall not allow alienation or even difference between us."
The Chautauqua Challenge defines the mission of the Chautauqua Institution. It was adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1974 and revised in 2000.
Although the property inside the gate that is designed for the use of Chautauquans is technically private, it is arguably quasi-public, in terms of the whole idea of the place. At this website we raise this question of the status of the common spaces that we enjoy every time we enter the gate.
This is important because the Institution has a delicate balancing act on and off season. Two often incompatible courses of action are in play. First, the Institution markets and cultivates a sense of common experience to be enjoyed and invested in (through gate passes and gifting), and the common experience by definition means the common experience of the spaces that are marketed, celebrated, and each season re-dedicated to the use of Chautauquans. But secondly, the Institution reserves the right to buy, sell, improve, demolish, anything on the properties that it owns. Miller Park is a haven for the little children learning about oak trees and soccer kicks, and the romantic and the poet, but next year it could be condos, technically.
Perhaps there is an implicit contract of a sort that exists between the Institution and Chautauquans, a contract that promises nothing will be done physically to subtract from what the place stands for. Defining what that is presents problematic questions, but it is enough to say here that those who leave each season feel that when they next return the Grounds will not be turned upside down. If Miller Park is merely private land that can be cleared of its oaks and made into private residences, the Chautauquan who leaves at the end of the season might be nervous about what awaits the next June. If Chautauqua is quasi-public, she need not be apprehensive.
Click the image below to see Lewis Miller and John Heyl Vincent's original handwritten pact: