WAXAHACHIE – Water will be the topic of discussion at this year’s Chautauqua Assembly on Sept. 24 when visitors are afforded the opportunity to learn about the history associated with water - such as sea travel, scientific exploration involving water and how water is connected to our culture through music.
“This year our theme for Chautauqua is ‘The World of Water.’ We are going to bring in various speakers and demonstrations to try to show water from a variety of different ways in history, science, and the art. We are going to try and bring that to Waxahachie,” Chautauqua Program Chair Maureen Moore said. “Everyone is concerned about water and has solutions for it. It is so encompassing every part of our life from our day-to-day water from our tap as well our emotional well-being. It was such a good topic because we try to take so many different sides of a topic and look at it.”
According to the Waxahachie Chautauqua website, the Chautauqua Movement originated at Lake Chautauqua, New York in 1874. Each year for its first 31 years, the Waxahachie Chautauqua Summer Encampment and Assembly provided two weeks of education, culture, art, and recreation to the community. The assembly was revived in 2000.
The keynote speaker at this year's assembly is oceanographer Fabien Cousteau - the grandson of pioneering explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. According to his official Facebook page, in 2014 Fabien completed a monumental project called Mission 31 where he and his team lived and worked underwater for 31 days, based out of the world’s only undersea marine laboratory.
“[Fabien Cousteau] has followed his grandfather’s steps and is an oceanographer and explorer,” Moore said. “He will talk about his experience not only with his grandfather who was an inspiration but how he has following up on all that and the research that he is working on.”
The assembly will also feature a presentation from Brad Jones, who is the collections manager and project reviewer with the Texas Historical Commission. Jones will talk about the archeology dig that recovered the ship the La Belle from Matagorda Bay. The remains of the ship are preserved and the artifacts on display at the Bullock Museum in Austin.
According to the Bullock Museum’s website in 1684, French King Louis XIV sent explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, across the ocean with four ships and 400 people to North America.
The explorer was to land at the mouth of the Mississippi River, establish a colony and trade routes, and locate Spanish silver mines but it never came to be. During the voyage, La Salle lost ships to pirates, disaster and sailed past his destination. La Salle’s men later murdered him. The La Belle sank in 1686 following a storm and was located by archaeologists in 1995.
According to the Bullock Museum, the remaining section of the hull remains preserved and 1.6 million artifacts from the ship recovered.
“He (Jones) will come in and talk about the whole process of how they discovered it. What its history was and why it ended up there,” Moore said. “He will also bring some of the items that from that exhibit.”
Landscape Architect Kevin Sloan is another featured speaker at this year’s assembly and will discuss the practical role of water in public and private landscapes.
“Kevin Sloan's public projects are nationally and internationally recognized. His studio's projects range from large urban planning and landscape programs, crafted landscapes such as at the Dallas Urban Reserve, the Centennial Quadrangle, and Pavilion at Southern Methodist University,” Moore said.
At this year’s assembly, there will be several live musical performances will show the role of water culturally. The Stonhenj Players will sing sea shanties that were a part of lives of 15th-century sailing ships. The Stonhenj Players have performed at Scarborough Faire along with museums, schools, fairs, pubs, madrigal feasts, and even movie openings.
Southern Methodist Professor Emeritus of Harpsichord and Organ Larry Palmer will be performing as well. Palmer will be playing music ranging from George Frideric Handel’s “Water Music” to Broadway tunes that incorporate the assembly water theme.
Brien Engel will also perform his glass harp, which features glasses of water filled with different amounts and when played each glass generates a different musical note.
Moore said this year’s assembly would also feature an art contest.
Students from second to fifth grade in Waxahachie ISD will be challenged to create a piece of art that reflects their interpretations of water. Ribbons for the winners will be given at the assembly, and their work will be on display.
The Waxahachie Chautauqua event starts at 9 a.m. on Sept. 24. The Chautauqua Auditorium is located at in Getzendaner Park, which is located at 400 S. Grand Ave. in Waxahachie. The event is free for the public to attend.
For more information about the event go the Waxahachie Chautauqua website at www.waxahachiechautauqua.org.
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