Our History

Chautauqua Visual Arts has been the launching point for thousands of artists for more than a century, and for over 50 years our galleries have been one of Chautauqua Institution’s primary links to the world of contemporary as well as historical art.

One of the oldest summer visual art programs in America, courses in art were offered at Chautauqua Institution (CHQ) as early as the 1880’s, but it was with the construction of the Arts and Crafts Quadrangle in 1909 that a fully active school for visual arts was established. It was designed and built by the team of New York artist Henry Turner Bailey (first Director of CHQ’s Visual Arts program) and renowned architect E.B. Green.

A century later this facility, one of the finest examples of American Arts and Crafts architecture in the country, continues its flawless design as an art school. Through the foresight of its original designers, the structure has maintained its relevance through many different periods of art history, creating an ambiance which facilitates a natural exchange of ideas among students and faculty, many of whom are working in media that hadn’t even been invented when the building was originally constructed. The layout of the quadrangle, with its U-shaped design overlooking a green expanse leading to one of the best views of Chautauqua Lake in the region, has continued to serve its pedagogical purpose for more than 100 years. The space has been and is today a catalyst of learning, experimentation and progression in the visual arts.

For decades many of the faculty, mentors and makers at the School of Art have been among the most respected in the world. In addition, the Chautauqua Visual Arts welcomes visiting artists to share their knowledge with us in a series of lectures held every season. In 2009, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Chautauqua School of Art with the complete renovation of our historic facilities: more than 50,000 square feet of studios and galleries.

In 1956 the independent Chautauqua Art Association Gallery was founded through the vision of painting Program Director, Revington Arthur, and longtime Chautauquan supporter of the arts, Florence Norton. Two years later, the Chautauqua National annual exhibition was established and has been juried by many distinguished luminaries in the arts, renamed later as the Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art.

In 1987, the original Arts and Crafts Center was renamed the Chautauqua School of Art and Logan Galleries were established in order to showcase the work of contemporary artists, faculty and students.

In 2004, the independent Chautauqua Art Association Gallery merged with the School of Art and Logan Galleries, bringing the School of Art, Logan Galleries, the Art Association Galleries and the visual arts lectures series under one umbrella which became known as Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution (VACI), and renamed in 2020 as the Chautauqua Visual Arts (CVA). The synergies created have resulted in a tremendous level of interest and support for the visual arts programs.

From 2007 to 2009 the School of Art underwent an extensive renovation of its century old facilities and in 2008 the Art Association Galleries underwent a $3.5 million renovation resulting in brand new, museum quality exhibition facilities known as the Strohl Art Center. The art school renovations provided improved individual studios, expanded sculpture facilities, the state of the art Joan Lincoln Ceramics Center, faculty studios in close proximity to student studios, a re-built printmaking studio, a fabulous drawing studio, and more. 

Along with the new Strohl Art Center galleries, in 2008 the Melvin Johnson Sculpture garden was completed as a venue for temporary sculpture installations by contemporary artists. In 2010 the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center, with four spectacular galleries, opened to the public after a complete renovation. Exhibitions formerly housed in the Logan Galleries were relocated to this elegant and historic 121-year-old facility. Fowler-Kellogg, which is linked to the Strohl Art Center and Melvin Johnson Sculpture Garden by an outdoor piazza, gives CVA one of the premier summer program gallery complexes in America.

CVA now presents 8 exhibitions seasonally to thousands of visitors physically and around the world virtually. Our exhibitions range from cutting-edge work in every media by nationally recognized artists – many who are outside the mainstream gallery world, to the annual School of Art student and emerging artists exhibition.

Applicants to the School of Art come from all walks of life, and in 2020 we widened the qualifications to reduce eligibility restrictions other than being older than the age of 21. For many students, the Chautauqua School of Art offers the opportunity of access to mentors who are thought-leaders in the visual arts, as well as interaction with other students and emerging artists from all over the world in this intergenerational program. With students aged 21-64 this season, our residency offers a unique opportunity to share freely in a brave, safe space and to access not only exceptional mentors and makers in the CVA program, but also to interact with leading lecturers visiting Chautauqua throughout the season.

Chautauqua School of Art’s residency program also encourages collaborative projects with those who practice different art forms. We promote an atmosphere which encourages wide-ranging ideas that may seem far-fetched and even experimental within a traditional academic environment, but which in the end actually allows the artist to explore terrain never before imagined.

Today the CVA is composed of four pillars: the Chautauqua School of Art residency program, the Galleries, the Visual Arts Lecture series, and our Enrichment courses. It is not only one of the most respected summer visual arts programs in America, but as a cornerstone at the world-renowned Chautauqua Institution, it is also the only summer program in the world which brings together in one place such an extraordinarily high level of experience in the visual arts, dance, theater, symphony, opera, literature and intellect. The mix of influences offered at Chautauqua make our residency program uniquely dynamic, rigorous and most relevant to the 21st Century.

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