Chautauqua Institution Chosen Northeast Regional Finalist in “Prettiest Painted Places” Competition

Gingerbread houses and painted porches adorn the grounds of Chautauqua Institution, providing both new and historic wooden canvases for a whole palette of colors.

The search for the “Prettiest Painted Places in America” is narrowing, with Chautauqua Institution chosen as one of 10 finalists from the U.S. Northeast named by the Paint Quality Institute, an informational entity whose mission is to educate the public about quality paints and coatings.

Located on 300 acres in rural southwestern New York State, Chautauqua is a National Historic Landmark for its contribution to American culture as well as a National Historic District and recipient of the Heritage Award from the Urban Land Institute. In 2010 Chautauqua received the Silver Award from the International Awards for Livable Communities. It has also been honored by the American Institute of Architects for its commitment to historic preservation. Founded in 1874, Chautauqua is best known for its nine-week summer programming mix of fine and performing arts, lectures and classes, interfaith worship, and recreational activities.

Chautauqua joins nine other finalists including: Bristol, Rhode Island; Brookville, Pennsylvania; Cambridge, Ohio; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Cape May, New Jersey; Chester, Vermont; Downtown Frederick, Maryland; Owego Historic District, New York; and Wooster, Ohio. After further evaluation, two of these 10 will be named the prettiest painted places in the Northeast, alongside winners from five other regions of the U.S., to make up the 12 prettiest painted places in America.

A “prettiest painted place” is a special town or neighborhood with exceptional community-wide “curb appeal” due to optically pleasing or creative use of exterior paint color, according to Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute.

“One typically thinks of curb appeal defined by beautiful color schemes on homes or buildings, and that’s the case most of the time, but exquisite outdoor murals and creative use of paint color on statues, signage, traffic signals, water towers, and even streets and sidewalks have elevated the appearance of many of today’s prettiest communities,” she said.

Homeowners in Chautauqua are especially good at coordinating paint colors with beautiful gardens and landscapes.

“Chautauquans go to great lengths to preserve the historic fabric of their homes, while expressing their individuality through interesting shapes, Chautauqua Lace patterns, construction details, and especially through color,” exclaimed John Shedd, administrator of architecture and land use regulations for Chautauqua Institution. “All of this attention contributes greatly to the sense of place and community in Chautauqua neighborhoods. It makes our community fun and exciting, while respecting the notable people, events and architecture from our history.”

The search for America’s prettiest painted places began this spring, when the Paint Quality Institute contacted state departments of tourism, local chambers of commerce, and convention and visitors bureaus in all 50 states. Eventually, nearly 200 towns, historic districts, neighborhoods and Main Streets were nominated in the competition. The Chautauqua County Visitors’ Bureau nominated Chautauqua Institution.

Last week, a panel of judges with expertise in color selection, exterior painting, and home improvement reviewed the entries and narrowed the field to 60 finalists, 10 from each of six geographic regions. The 12 national winners will be named later this month.

This is the third time the Paint Quality Institute has conducted a search for the prettiest painted places in America. It held the first competition in the 1990s, and another in year 2000.

According to Zimmer, the purpose of the competition is to give recognition to places that use paint to express pride in their communities, and highlight how an attractive exterior paint treatment can enhance the curb appeal of virtually any home, building or exterior structure.

To see a complete list of the 60 finalists involved in the search for the “Prettiest Painted Places in America”, visit For information on Chautauqua Institution, visit

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