When it Comes to Arts and Culture, Chautauqua County Packs a Big Punch

Anyone from New York City will tell you that Chautauqua County isn’t really comparable to the city that never sleeps, but don’t tell that to Daryl Simons Jr.

Growing up in nearby Warren County, Pennsylvania meant that Daryl knew at least a little bit about the more populated county to the north, just across the state line. But it wasn’t until a trip into Jamestown in 2017 that Daryl and his partner, Sukanya, realized there was something special happening here and they just had to be a part of it. 

“It was summer 2017 and we had attended a Comedy Open Mic hosted by Karate Sleepover at the Labyrinth Press Co., a locally owned coffee shop. It felt like a slice of New York City, but in a smaller town setting,” Daryl says. “We later discovered the vibrant music and arts scene located here as well, so we decided to buy a home – which ended up being cheaper than rent back in Northwest PA, mind you – and plant our roots here.”

In addition to affordable living, Simons adds that there’s an active arts and culture scene in Jamestown, something that was sorely missing in his hometown.

“In Warren County, the nature is beautiful, but culturally and artistically speaking, it didn’t have as much to offer as Jamestown did at the time.” he explains.

Since moving to Jamestown, Daryl has launched his own photography business, with a specific focus dance. He also works remotely as a project manager with a national AEC Recruitment Firm and in 2023, he became the executive director of Sukanya Burman Dance Company, a nonprofit Modern & Indian Classical Dance Company founded by his partner.

Daryl also points to a lot of things to see and do in Jamestown when not working, including taking in a show at local Jamestown establishments like Labyrinth Press Company, Robert H. Jackson Center, the Scharmann Theater at Jamestown Community College, the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, and – of course – Sukanya Burman Dance.

“For a city of 30,000, Jamestown has a surprising amount of resources and venues for the arts, supported in part by organizations like Arts Services Inc. WNY and NYS Council on the Arts (New York State is great about arts funding). We have found that this city is packed with a plethora of artists across a variety of disciplines, and we are very happy to be a part of it,” he says.

Daryl also points out there’s plenty of other destinations outside of Jamestown worth going to.

“We like going to Chautauqua Institution whenever they bring in interesting dance companies. Buffalo or Niagara Falls also aren’t that much of a drive from Chautauqua County for an evening or weekend of fun, or if you are looking to drive a bit, the Finger Lakes, Corning, and Letchworth State Park are all well worth the trip,” he says, while adding another local outdoor destination. “Panama Rocks are pretty cool as well.”

When asked about what he likes best about living in Chautauqua County, Daryl doesn’t offer a single item, but instead provides a long list.

“There’s the low cost of living and utilities like electric and water are cheap due to being publicly owned in Jamestown. There’s also a busy music and arts scene. And nature is gorgeous and easy to get to. We even have deer in the city! Also, we have a great non-profit local radio station with WRFA. Lastly, Jamestown is an incredible walkable city, with many of its main features being located with a walking distance from downtown. Also, it is a very well lit city as well, making nighttime commutes feel that much safer.”

Needless to say, Daryl says he and Sukanya have no regrets about their decision to settle down Jamestown and Chautauqua County.

“With having fresh eyes, we saw a beautiful geographic region with a lot of potential. Jamestown NY is an underappreciated hidden gem in Western NY.”

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