Ignite 11: Backflip To The Future
If you missed Ignite 11 last night, picture this: cool evening air breezing through the open doors of a sold-out Chautauqua Auditorium; bright dusk showing between planks in the walls; the entire structure buzzing with an eager audience primed with tasty beer. The lights dim. Andrew Hyde taking the stage to fire up the largest Ignite in the world.
Consider the history of the place: Built in 1898 to house the Colorado Chautauqua’s first season, the building has been in continuous use since then. From its earliest days it hosted all manner of cultural exhibitions, music and silent films and traveling speakers. Lectures covered “current events, travel and stories, often with a comedic twist.”
The crowds attending early Chautauquas came there to participate in civic life. They came to discuss “great ideas, new ideas, and issues of public concern.”. They came for authentic, in-person encounters with their neighbors and with the great minds of the day. They came for community.
But the twentieth century charged ahead. Our cars, radios, and televisions made those early meetups seem quaint. The stage moved into our living rooms. Our neighbors could hardly compete with professional entertainers. Our local dialog was downright provincial compared with the great national conversation. Lucrative industries grew around the packaging and transcontinental distribution of cultural experiences. Many great things came to be; and, quietly, when we weren’t paying attention, many of the Chautauquas disappeared.
Well, we all know the rest of the story. The century turned. What was old is new again. Countless communities of interest have awakened for the first time, and our old geographic communities are shining through the dust of neglect. Inexpensive technology tools have reminded us that we have a voice — a beautiful voice. Our words, music and art are important again. Our neighbors are interesting again.
So: Andrew took the stage at Colorado’s Chautauqua Auditorium to fire up the largest Ignite in the world. The lights dimmed. The old building breathed with summer evening air. Bright lines of sky connected over us like a luminous web.
Of all the many Chautauquas once operating in the U.S., only a handful have survived through the decades, including the one perched in the park above Boulder. And there we were last night with our travel stories, our comical twists, our music. Our great ideas, our new ideas, our issues of public concern. Our local breweries. Our backflips. Our homegrown scene.
This is just the beginning. It’s good to be back.