Our History, Mission and Vision

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History

The name Chautauqua, pronounced “Shuh-TALK-wa,” comes from a lake in Upstate New York where, in 1874, an adult education program for Sunday School teachers was founded.

Housed at a camp on a lake resort, this education program soon added family entertainment and outdoor recreation and became known as the Chautauqua Institution -a permanent summer cultural resort that can be enjoyed today.

Tent Chautauquas (1904-1932)

Before radio and television, traveling cultural tent shows toured across America. The original Chautauqua was a road show of music, entertainment, and always a great speaker of the day. At their peak, Tent Chautauquas appeared in over 10,000 communities and preformed for more than 45 million people. A Tent Chautauqua regularly came to Greenville, SC and set up its distinctive brown tents in City Park (now McPherson Park).  When the Great Depression struck the U.S. in the 1930’s, Tent Chautauqua faded away, replaced by radio and movie entertainment.

Modern Chautauqua

In the 1970’s Chautauqua was revived and sponsored by national and state humanities councils as a means of providing lively, interactive and authentic humanities education. Local communities began to recreate the magic of the Chautauqua tent and present historical interpreters in first person performances featuring Q&A often in outdoor settings.

Greenville Chautauqua: GVL CHTQ

George Frein, PhD, a founding member of the National Chautauqua Tour, brought Chautauqua back to Greenville in 1999, and the Greenville Chautauqua has been in constant production ever since. In 2000, Buncombe County, in cooperation with Greenville Chautauqua, began presenting Chautauqua in Asheville, NC and in 2009 GVL CHTQ expanded to Spartanburg, SC, first sponsored by Wofford College and now by the Spartanburg Public Libraries.

Our Mission

Greenville Chautauqua aims to bring history to life through the use of compelling storytelling and interactive theater where discussion and audience participation stimulates critical thinking.

Our Vision

A brighter future through an enlightened understanding of the past.

Our Values

  • Education: to foster multi-generational, life-long learning. We promote the art of active reading and the development of critical thinking.
  • Authenticity: to engage the highest level of scholarship and underwrite original research.
  • Diversity: to celebrate the impact that diversity has on our community and nation.
  • Inclusion: to create a place, accessible to all, where everyone can come together to interact with their heritage.
  • Dialogue: to encourage questioning and civil discussion of ideas.
  • Collaboration: to initiate and cultivate collaboration with other organizations.

Fun: “We like to laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained, and delighted.” – Dr. Seuss

The Power of Words
  • Eleanor Roosevelt (Winter Chautauqua)
  • Maya Angelou
  • Rachel Carson
  • Cesar Chavez
  • Walter Cronkite
  • Abraham Lincoln
America at the Movies
  • Meriwether Lewis (Winter Chautauqua)
  • Amelia Earhart
  • Matthew Henson
  • Mark Twain
  • Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn
  • Wernher von Braun
America at the Movies
  • Bette Davis (Winter Chautauqua)
  • Walt Disney
  • Mary Pickford
  • Gordon Parks
  • Orson Welles
Rising to the Occasion
  • Marie Curie (Winter Chautauqua)
  • Harry Truman
  • Clara Barton
  • Patrick Henry
  • Robert Smalls
  • The Joy of Music a la Bernstein
American Legends
  • Benedict Arnold (Winter Chautauqua)
  • Davy Crockett
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Herman Melville
  • Malcolm X
  • King Harold II of England (Legends of Camelot)
They Came to America
  • Lafayette (Winter Chautauqua)
  • Winston Churchill
  • Golda Meir
  • Denmark Vesey
  • Carl Jung
  • King Harold II of England (Legends of Camelot)
Ideas That Changed Amercia
  • James Madison & Thomas Jefferson (Winter Chautauqua)
  • John Muir
  • Albert Einstein
  • Frances Perkins
  • W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Mark Twain
American Imagination
  • Thomas Jefferson (Winter Chautauqua)
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Thomas Edison
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Langston Hughes
  • Dr. Seuss
America In Crisis
  • Robert E. Lee and Wade Hampton III (Winter Chautauqua)
  • George Washington
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Rosa Parks
The Land: What will Our Children Inherit
  • Ansel Adams, Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Georgia O’Keefe (Winter Chautauqua Panel)
  • John James Audubon
  • James Beckwourth
  • Black Elk
  • Teddy Roosevelt
  • Rachel Carson
The American Stage: Spotlight on Ourselves
  • P.T. Barnum (Winter Chautauqua)
  • Houdini
  • Mark Twain
  • Will Rogers
  • Lillian Hellman
  • Paul Robeson
Great American Journeys
  • Mary Ingles (Winter Chautauqua)
  • Sequoyah
  • William Clark
  • Herman Melville
  • Harriet Tubman
The Civil War: As Told By Those Who Were There
  • Ambrose Bierce (also Winter Chautauqua)
  • Sam Watkins (also Winter Chautauqua)
  • John C. Calhoun
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Mary Chesnut
  • Frederick Douglass
American Visions
  • Pauli Murray (First Winter Chautauqua)
  • Thomas Paine
  • John Winthrop
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • Eugene V. Debs
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
American Autobiography
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Henry Adams
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Pauli Murray
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Mark Twain
America: Conceived in Liberty
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • John and Abigail Adams
  • Elizabeth Freeman
  • Henry Laurens
  • Alexander Hamilton
American Renaissance
  • Walt Whitman
  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Herman Melville
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Frederick Douglass
Southern Writers
  • Zora Neal Hurston
  • Katherine Anne Porter
  • Thomas Wolfe
  • William Faulkner
  • Mark Twain
American Humorists
  • Mark Twain
  • Will Rogers
  • Langston Hughes
  • James Thurber
  • Dorothy Parker