Chautauqua Institution

The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra practices in the 5,000-seat Amphitheater.

CHAUTAUQUA — Voters in the latest USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice contest selected Chautauqua as America’s “Best Small Town Cultural Scene.”

“It’s a tremendous honor for Chautauqua to win this national contest, especially among such an amazing array of fellow nominees,” said Michael E. Hill, president of Chautauqua Institution. “We’re immensely proud of the cultural scene we provide at Chautauqua Institution: We explore the best in human values and uplift art and voices that our world needs to see and hear. This is further affirmation that the work we do matters.”

Town of Chautauqua Supervisor Don Emhardt said the recognition is “extra special because it suggests Chautauqua is not only a great place to visit, but it’s also a wonderful place to live year-round.”

Nominated among American small-town gems such as Taos, New Mexico, and Saratoga Springs in New York, Chautauqua never relinquished the No. 1 spot in the “Best Small Town Cultural Scene” contest while standings were visible, until about a week before the end of the voting period.

As Institution staff simultaneously prepared to launch a collection of five completely new online properties in lieu of an in-person season in 2020, several Chautauqua County partners stepped forward to help lead a get-out-the-vote campaign.

Readers voted June 1 to June 29 for one of 20 nominees.

Chautauqua’s win is the third national distinction a Chautauqua County site has scored within the past eight months.

In December, the village of Fredonia was chosen as the featured town of Season 5 of Hulu’s “Small Business Revolution” series. The National Comedy Center was named “Best New Museum” in a USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice contest in February.

Nominees for “Best Small Town Cultural Scene” were chosen by a panel that included editors from USA TODAY and editors from

“Chautauqua is a double threat — stunning scenery and a thriving cultural scene, thanks in large part to the celebrated Chautauqua Institution, a summer center for the arts, spiritual growth and recreation,” the panel noted. “The institution hosts more than 2,000 events during its annual summer season, including concerts, lectures and educational demos.”

Chautauqua was named by Smithsonian magazine named as the No. 1 “Best Small Town to Visit in 2014” in the cover story of its April 2014 issue, which preceded a lengthy feature later that summer on the front page of The New York Times’ Travel section.

In January 2011, the hourlong documentary “Chautauqua: An American Narrative” premiered on national PBS stations, and in 2014, WQED-TV, the Pittsburgh PBS member station WQED premiered “Chautauqua: Charting a Life in the Arts,” an hourlong documentary following four students of the Institution’s Schools of Performing and Visual Arts.