Before Monday Night Football, before talk radio, before web surfing and chat rooms, there was Chautauqua.

At the turn of the century, there were more than 10,000 Chautauqua venues in small towns and rural areas across the United States. People gathered to enjoy the famous authors of the day, the best musical ensembles, and art exhibits usually available only in major cities. After a stimulating presentation, participants wandered back to their porches and living rooms to discuss, debate, and reflect on what they had experienced together. The Chautauqua movement was all about learning in community.

Today, there are only a handful of Chautauqua sites left to provide this unique opportunity to share a rich menu of cultural and educational activities We can never replace the pleasure of sitting together on the grass and talking long into a summer night. But we can make a time and place for learning in community – even in lives lived on Internet time.

In The Virtual Chautauqua we’re bringing some of the best of this learning tradition online.