What is Muskoka Chautauqua?

Creative, multi-disciplinary arts-based programming that engages, innovates and transforms.


To be internationally recognized as a leader in the provision of creative arts-based programming for entertainment and life-long learning that enhances and enriches our communities.


To design and deliver multi-disciplinary arts-based programs that inspire personal growth, enrichment and renewal by celebrating creativity, the human spirit, and Muskoka s unique heritage and natural environment while contributing to the economic and social vitality of our communities.

A Brief History of Muskoka Chautauqua

At the turn of the century, Muskoka was known as Canada s Literary Summer Capital. In the years 1916 and 1917 conferences were held at Windermere House and Elgin House to provide study, sport and spiritual uplift.

Chautauqua was part of a larger American movement established to bring education, religion and the arts to communities, most often in beautiful outdoor settings. Tobin s Island, Lake Rosseau, Muskoka, post World War I, was the location of the first permanent Canadian Chautauqua Institution.

A day at Chautauqua would be divided into education in the morning, recreation in the afternoon and entertainment in the evening. It was an opportunity for rejuvenation in a beautiful natural setting, through intellectual challenge, physical workouts and artistic and spiritual enlightenment.

In Muskoka, an extremely important part of this movement was the Reading Circle, whose intention was to introduce and advance the works of Canadian authors.

It is interesting to note that the study of Canadian literature was not considered credit-worthy at the University of Toronto until after World War II, and then only as a subject of graduate study. To learn more about the historic and today’s revived Muskoka Chautauqua Reading Circle, click here.

Chautauqua weeks featured famous authors of the day such as Bliss Carman, Charles G. D. Roberts, E. J. Pratt, and Dorothy Livesay reading from their works, accessible to their readers and discussing current issues. Chautauqua provided inspiration and intellectual challenge for its visitors.

The Reading Circle was organized into 4-year cycles where suggested lists of books were given to participants and lectures and readings would be given to enhance the assigned books. There were formal graduation ceremonies for those who read all the assigned books.   The Reading Circle »

To design and deliver multi-disciplinary arts-based programs that inspire personal growth, and enrichment by creativity.


Our Events and Programs

Key People

Founding President

  • Fraser Fell, C.M., Q.C.

Founding Director

  • Marie Mahovlich

Honourary Director

  • Howard Cable

Board of Directors

  • Diane Adamson
  • Douglas McIntyre (acting treasurer)
  • Stan Hunter
  • Patrick McCrudden (co-chair)
  • Jake Thomas
  • Beverlie Robertson (Secretary)
  • Michael Jones
  • Andrew Wagner-Chazalon (co-chair)


  • Marsha Skain
  • Michael Lawley
  • Leah Leslie

Executive/Artistic Director

  • Gary Froude

Director of Development

  • Gayle Dempsey
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