Posts tagged with "Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation":

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Is the School of Architecture at Taliesin staying open or not?

When the news broke on March 5 that the board of the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) had voted to keep the school open, it seemed like the 88-year-old institution was getting a reprieve. However, now that the March 10 deadline SoAT had offered the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to come to the table and negotiate has come and gone, the only path forward could be arbitration. The school and the foundation split in 2017 under Higher Learning Commission regulations and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to govern the relationship between the two. The current MOU also acts as the school’s de facto lease and is set to expire on July 31, 2020, unless extended. However, in a March 14 memo, the foundation announced that in a final decision, it would let the memorandum expire and provided a list of requirements the school would have to meet as it vacated both Taliesin locations. “The Foundation,” the memo reads, “will return to its own efforts to develop new programs in architect education that advance this legacy, [Wright’s] pedagogical ideas, and the integrity of Taliesin and Taliesin West as architectural campuses.” Whether these new efforts take the form of unaccredited programs, as previously suggested by Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the foundation, or another accredited program, remains to be seen. While the foundation claims that the school acted without its knowledge on its vote to stay open and the foundation’s staff only found out about the school’s decision through media reports, SoAT’s leadership says otherwise. In a March 9 call, Aaron Betsky, the former president of SoAT, and Dan Schweiker, the chairperson of the school’s board of governors, rebutted that assertion, saying the foundation had two representatives on the school’s board and would have been informed of any and all moves the school was going to take. According to both Schweiker and Betsky (who were joined by a representative from Chicago-based law firm Kirkland & Ellis, which is representing the school pro bono), they had secured pledges of support to continue the next semester with six students as well as a line of credit. Additionally, thanks to the outpouring of support the school had received after the news broke, alumni and fellows had pledged additional funds to keep SoAT running. However, the foundation never responded. March 10 passed, and now the only way forward will be, according to the MOU, through a mediator. The school claims that all it wanted was to renew the memorandum for another two years as a runway to adapt and change the school for the times and reevaluate its options, but the foundation refused. Yesterday, in an editorial for Dezeen, Betsky laid out his version of events:
“The school was given two choices: close immediately, or give up its accreditation and continue for one more year while developing programmes with the foundation. However, the school would have to continue paying the foundation's fees while not being able to recruit students, retain those who sought an accredited degree or raise funds. This would have been financially impossible, so the school was forced to take the first option and announce its closure.”
Betsky explained that the foundation ordered the school to close and that SoAT had changed its mind after seeing the outpouring of support from the architectural community and former students. If the foundation and SoAT fail to come to an agreement through mediation, the next step may be arbitration. AN will follow this developing story and update this article accordingly.
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The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation responds to SoAT’s decision to keep the school open

After the news broke last night that the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) had voted to reverse their decision to close the school, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation provided the following statement to AN: The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation learned through stories the School of Architecture’s lawyers had placed in the media of their change in plans to remain open based on its assessment that it has secured funding and a new path to increase enrollment. Despite having two representatives on their board, the Foundation has little information about these new income sources and programs, which remain to be vetted by the School’s accreditors, its lawyers, and its own finance committee. Questions also remain about the School’s leadership, in light of the departure of the current dean/president later this spring, and how that impacts the direction of a revised program. The Foundation believes that the timing of this most recent proposal to the School’s board, the notion of which was communicated to them shortly before its January 25 decision to close, does not reflect the careful exercise of fiduciary oversight incumbent on the organization’s Governors. The School’s announcements and lack of planning for the consequences of its earlier decision have adversely affected the lives of its employees who were terminated, generated distraction for its students from their studies and future planning, upset its alumni community, and disrupted the Foundation’s own important work. The board has demonstrated more concern about seeking blame for its decision to close than creating a sustainable business model for itself. Since the School’s initial announcement about its decision to close, the Foundation has heard from former apprentices, alumni, members of the profession and leaders of professional organizations, along with members of our community. This diverse group of stakeholders is hungry for impactful programs for training architects and design professionals in the evolving principles of organic architecture—rooted in Wright’s ideas, but applied to our present and future built environment. We have spoken with the leaders of several prominent M. Arch. programs about partnering with the Foundation to create accredited programs on the Foundation’s campuses. And we are proud that many of the ideas that we are discussing are based closely on the program of apprenticeship that was the hallmark of Wright’s Fellowship—and something absent from our campuses since Taliesin Associated Architects, the practice that was the framework of the school’s pedagogy, was closed in the mid-2000s. We will continue to advance these explorations while the School, an independent organization, is vetting its programs, and look forward to evaluating all available options to secure the future of training professionals at Taliesin and Taliesin West. Frank Lloyd Wright’s 88-year-legacy of architect training will continue at his two homes. Because of the uncertainties around the School proposal, and the lack of any direct communication from the school itself, the Foundation will have no further response until the necessary evaluations by the accreditors, attorneys, and financial stewards of the School proposals are completed and brought directly to the Foundation for consideration towards the renewal of the expiring Memorandum of Understanding. However, it is imperative if the Foundation allows for the use of Taliesin and Taliesin West by any independent organization, that the work that will occur on these two campuses, each part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, reflect both financial soundness and professional programmatic content that can advance the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. We do not intend to debate or negotiate this matter in the press or in social media and plan no further statement at this time. As always, Taliesin and Taliesin West remain open and thriving, welcoming record numbers of visitors from around the world to learn from Wright’s principles of organic architecture through the experience of his most personal designs.
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Taliesin school board reverses vote, won’t close the school

It turns out that earlier coverage of the death of the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) may have been premature. In a stark reversal, SoAT’s board has decided to reverse its January 25 vote and keep the school open. When the news was announced at the end of January, it looked like the 88-year-old SoAT would close at the end of June and send the final 30 students from the Taliesin West campus in Scottsdale, Arizona, to the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe to finish their education. After an outpouring of support, the board’s change of heart might seem like a good thing, but the school still finds itself in a precarious position. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which owns the land the school is on, has terminated SoAT’s lease effective July 31, 2020; as a result, the Chicago based law firm Kirkland & Ellis, LLP is representing the school pro bono in what could become a protracted legal battle. How did the situation come to this? The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School formally split in 2017 as a requirement of accreditation; under Higher Learning Commission regulations, accredited schools must be separate from their parent institution. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the two bodies to dictate the terms of how they would interact. When the news first broke of the closure, dueling editorials published in AN from the Governing Board of the School and from Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, laid fault at the feet of each other. The School claimed that: “The Foundation presented our school with two options. One was to close the school when the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) expired this summer. The Foundation’s other option was to keep the School of Architecture at Taliesin open for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Foundation wanted the school to immediately terminate our accreditation under those terms. The Foundation also wanted the school to then help create a new non-accredited program to be run by the former.” In his rebuttal, however, Graff claimed the School has always been a financial drag on the Foundation and that they were subsidizing its continued existence. Citing what he called “aspirational, but unrealistic” enrollment and fundraising targets, Graff wrote that the Foundation was materially incapable of supporting the school any longer. Additionally, the Foundation released a previously confidential memo from the School’s Governing Board that seemed to confirm their version of events; in it, Dan Schweiker, the chairperson of the Board of Governors, admitted that “We do not have, nor will we have in the foreseeable future the resources needed to successfully operate our current model. We do not have the funding to even have the state of the art software programs that graduates need to gain successful employment. Our students are immensely talented, but we need to give them the proper tools. No matter how romantic or quixotic are aspirations are, they fail to meet current reality.” He then recommended that the school drop its accreditation and move students to ASU, close enrollment, and sign a new, one-year memorandum. Whoever the responsible party was, there was an outpouring of support for keeping the school open. A petition to save SoAT has nearly hit its 10,000-signature goal, editorials from former students and staff piled up across architecture outlets, and plenty of memes have been posted at the Foundation (though Graff has asked the parties responsible to stop). And, thanks to community efforts, it seems the winds have shifted. Today, the SoAT board confirmed that they had secured additional funding and have long-term operating viability. However, the final word still lies with the Foundation, and according to the media release sent to AN, the school board is “now calling on the Foundation to allow the School to extend its existing agreement so it can remain open, but the Foundation is being resistant and still retains the power to force the School to close unless a deal is reached.” Schweiker also provided the following quote:
“The legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright embodied by the School is, as the outpouring of support has shown, one of international importance. The quality of the work the students have been doing in recent years is excellent. It would be a severe blow to the future of architecture if these talented students would not have the chance to continue this legacy.”
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation provided the following statement when asked for comment: “The Foundation has no proposal from the School other than what it reads in the media. We therefore have nothing to respond to.” The Foundation later followed up with a full editorial, readable here. This is an evolving story and this article will be updated as more information comes in.
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Opinion: To close The School of Architecture at Taliesin is to kill the experimental legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright

The following letter to the editor comes courtesy of Cruz García and Nathalie Frankowski. García and Frankowski are former Visiting Teaching Fellows at The School of Architecture at Taliesin, codirectors of WAI Architecture Think Tank, and current Ann Kalla Professors at the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. This is the fourth in a series AN from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit. Last week we got some horrible news. The School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) would close by the summer of 2020. Our former home would officially become a museum, our former students would be left without their beloved school, the opportunity to educate future architects would disappear, and the unique offerings of an almost century-old institution would melt into air. Why, at the moment when the school seemed so vivid, the student work so exciting, and the educational programs so transcendental are we facing this fate? We paid close attention to the official announcements made by The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, former students, faculty, followers, but among the many questions, letters, complaints, and affirmations published by many parties since the fateful announcement, one thing remains unclear: what would be lost if the school closes? The following are five points about what will be lost with the closure The School of Architecture at Taliesin: 1: Without Accreditation in the United States, you can’t have an Architecture School Losing accreditation means losing all legitimacy in the formal education of architects under the current certification and licensing system. Contrary to the claims of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the legacy of the institution they claim to protect cannot be safeguarded with K-12 education and sporadic arts and craft workshops, that although necessary programs of outreach, won’t satisfy the required steps for the education of future architects. In his will signed on April 25, 1958, Frank Lloyd Wright stated the direct relationship between the Foundation and the education of Architects: ‘Since their inception the Foundation and the Fellowship have operated as the equivalent of a college in the preparation of American architects in which capacity they have rendered full service the past twenty-five years.’ Denying the students of the opportunity to at least obtain a diploma of equal value to a University rests legitimacy to a program devised to train future architects with critical thinking, technical and material skills. If the School follows the demand of the Foundation and loses its accreditation, it will lose all forms of professional, academic, and intellectual legitimacy. Without an architecture school, the Foundation can offer educational programs but cannot formally ‘prepare architects’, thus opposing the very reason the foundation was assembled by Frank Lloyd Wright. 2: Taliesin is one of the smallest schools with the most organic offerings. Lead by president Aaron Betsky, Dean Chris Lasch, a dynamic Faculty, and an enthusiastic group of students, Taliesin boasts with an incredible array of projects, initiatives, publications, and events that have brought it back to the center stage of contemporary architectural relevance. The spatial limitations of the premises (operating between Historical landmarks), and the necessity to oscillate mid-year between the Taliesin Campus in Spring Green, Wisconsin (too cold in the winter), and the Taliesin West Campus in Scottsdale, Arizona (too hot in the summer), create a series of unique opportunities for the students and faculty to migrate and in the journey experience some of the most stunning landscapes in North America. In the two campuses students and resident faculty assist with the maintenance of the fields, the kitchen, and events like lectures, and dinners, thus creating a self-sustaining community where architectural thinking and discourse are at the center stage every day of the week. Sharing living spaces with Taliesin fellows like Jane Houston (Minerva Montooth) who was Olgivanna Lloyd Wright’s personal assistant, Indira Berndtson, whose mother Cornelia Brierly worked on the plan for Broadacre City, or painter and musician Effie Cassey, guarantees that the legacy of Taliesin is shared among generations living, breathing, thinking, and making architecture in these spaces. What can be more organic than learning like this? As quoted from the recent manifesto published by former faculty and students: “Organic are the ways the students, faculty, staff, former fellows, and the community at Taliesin learn from the landscapes of the rolling hills and prairies in Wisconsin, and the wild, blossoming desert in Arizona. Organic are the histories that are shared and the life that is lived in Taliesin. Organic are the experiments that the students execute living with and in nature, in their buildings that find new ways to relate to their material, historical, and architectural contexts. Organic are the future architectures to be devised by those who have lived and been educated at Taliesin.” 3: The learning intensity is unmatched Imagine being one of twenty students and spending several days a semester listening to lectures and exchanging ideas in the dining room with Tatiana Bilbao, David Adjaye, Wolff D. Prix, Hernan Diaz Alonso, Erin Besler, Lise Ann Couture, Michiel Riedjik, and Frank Gehry, among others. Imagine learning about the work and discussing ideas with these practitioners to then publish these exchanges in WASH Magazine, a Graham Foundation grantee student-run publication. Imagine living in constant contact with established and new positions and discourses. The School of Architecture at Taliesin is part of the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright but avoids reducing the experience of learning and practicing architecture to the mere aesthetic imitation of the late architect. Instead, the School anchors its foundations on the rich past of the two historical sites and the people that live in them while enriching them with a diverse plethora of ideas and positions of local and global relevance to the discipline of architecture. 4: Taliesin redefines design-build Challenging the design-build model across the country where students are often subordinated to the role of draftspeople while the professors take the accolades and awards, at Taliesin the students design and build (with their own hands) the shelters where they live during half of the Fall Semester and the Full spring semester. Recent projects like ‘Branch’, a rammed earth minimalist cube designed and built by Conor Denison, ‘Site 168’, Richard Quittenton’s post-internet take on desert concrete and Organic aesthetics, ‘Lander’, a commentary on dark ecologies and surveillance culture by Jan Sobotka, ‘Dwelling 17’, a built ontology of found contemporary desert objects constructed by Nelson Schleiff, ‘Ava’, an inhabitable miniature wooden palace built by Liu Xinxuan, and ‘Tali-Beach’, a student lounge built by Jose Amaya on the former ruins of a derelict structure in the desert, are just some of the latest shelter-thesis constructed by the most recent class of graduates. These students are not only going out to the world with the unique experience of living and learning in Taliesin for several years, but they have built architectural experiments for minimal and sustainable living as one of their many accolades. Through this hands-on learning-by-doing approach the students at Taliesin have also been able to offer practical, real, and innovative ideas to communities, like the recent project to transform a discarded early twentieth-century school into a teacher-preferable residential compound and community center in the town of Miami, Arizona. 5: Closing the school is an attack on architectural education In the current political and social climate, with ballooning tuition fees, the elimination of art programs across many higher learning institutions, and the deformation of educational institutions into businesses, the threat launched against The School of Architecture at Taliesin should be of concern to us all. The demand of the Foundation that The School of Architecture drops its accreditation shows a lack of understanding of the complexities and challenges inherent to the education of future architects. Assuming that Taliesin can be reduced to ‘organic’ slogans, aesthetics, and products may be a profitable business model, but abandoning a robust academic curriculum presents a toxic menace to critical inquiry, curiosity, and experimentation. Taliesin is an institution founded on a culture of critical rebelliousness that rejects, in the words of Frank Lloyd Wright, ‘little art of any but the most superficial kind—the formula or the fashion’, because ‘the capacity for spiritual rebellion has grown small and the present ideals of success are making it smaller every day.’ The tone-deaf insistence of the Foundation, in claiming that it will be offering other forms of education once the School closes instead of doing everything possible to keep alive the one thing Frank Lloyd Wright created the foundation for, shows that the leadership of the foundation doesn’t get it and is on the way to destroy the legacy it claims to protect. To close with words by Frank Lloyd Wright: “We don’t use the word organic as referring as something hanging in the butcher shop, organic means in philosophical sense, entity, where the whole is to the part and the part is to the whole.” By closing the School of Architecture, Taliesin can’t be whole.
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Letter to the editor: Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy will continue at Taliesin

The following letter to the editor comes courtesy of Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. This is the third in a series AN from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit. In 1932, Frank Lloyd Wright created the Taliesin Fellowship, a community of apprentices and their families who lived, worked and studied with Wright first at Taliesin in Wisconsin and later also at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. The program provided a total learning environment integrating all aspects of the apprentices’ lives with the intent of educating responsible, creative, and cultured human beings and building professionals. Over time, and after the Frank Lloyd Wright’s (1959) and Olgivanna Lloyd Wright’s passing (1985), the Fellowship transformed into a more formal architectural firm and institution of learning, and most recently an accredited and fully independent small college, continuing to operate at the both Taliesin and Taliesin West. This week, the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) announced that it was unable to continue its operations, and would be closing its doors at the end of the spring semester in June. That decision could be made only by the school itself, and not by the Foundation, which is committed to finding ways to continue the legacy of education that Wright intended at his homes. Taliesin and Taliesin West remain open and thriving. In the frenzy of the week’s announcement, some misinformation has been spread about how the decision to close the School came to be. Let’s set the record straight. The Foundation is committed to keeping the two Taliesin campuses as living sites—where people make architecture and learn design from nature and the experience of working at an inspiring complex of buildings. We are the largest financial supporter of the School, donating over the last several years shared services and the free use of our campuses to facilitate SoAT’s health and support its growth, and to fulfill the commitment of preserving the Taliesins to maintain them as living sites that are at the heart of the community. But to fulfill this commitment for the future, the Foundation needs to have a solid plan for programs that do this work, precisely so we aren’t a pair of “mere house museums.” SoAT is a completely separate entity from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. It was made an independent organization because its accrediting body insisted that SoAT be capable of standing on its own, financially and academically, and no longer be dependent on the Foundation for support. Two representatives from the Foundation serve on the SoAT Board of Governors, so the Foundation has been conversant with the school’s operational challenges. From the moment it became independent, SoAT built its budgets on aspirational, but unrealistic, projections for enrollment and fundraising that consistently weren’t met, leaving the School scrambling for operating and investment funds. The School later came back to the Foundation to request funding. We explained that we could not divert funds donated for preservation and other programs since these were needed to keep the historically fragile buildings’ infrastructure (that serves the School and our visitors) in good service. The Foundation does not have large cash reserves, and like most cultural organizations in the Valley, it too has to borrow money to cover the summer months when revenues fall. By mid-Spring of 2019, SoAT financial projections were so bleak that the SoAT Board made the decision to close its doors in August 2019 if student enrollment for the fall had not met a critical threshold by June 30, giving their students less than two months notice. Therefore, it was not unanticipated when Dan Schweiker acknowledged to the Foundation leadership in early November that the School’s business model was, in his words, not sustainable. He asked us to extend the donation of our facilities at no cost for as long as two years so that he could explore a new model that would include assembling a new board, eliminate accredited programs, move the School off of the Taliesin campuses entirely or used them only part-time, and/or merge the School back into the Foundation. Over many weeks thereafter, the Foundation asked Schweiker for guidance as to the School’s direction—without a meaningful response. In the meantime, the School’s President, Aaron Betsky, had tendered his resignation to be effective as of May—leaving the School with no defined business model and no leadership in addition to inadequate funding. Finally, in a mid-January meeting at Taliesin West with Schweiker, SoAT vice-chair Jacki Lynn, and the Foundation leadership, a plan was worked out based on a deep and shared commitment to maintain the dual legacy of cultural enrichment and professional education at Taliesin and Taliesin West. Contrary to what Schweiker and Lynn told The Architect’s Newspaper, that agreement provided for current second- and third-year students to complete their accredited degrees at the School and on our campuses; first-year students could accelerate their programs to graduate with accredited degrees as well. SoAT and the Foundation would also collaborate to create new programs to carry Wright’s legacy forward through hands-on education for architects, designers, and the interested public. Because these new programs wouldn’t require accreditation, we could save costs by bringing the School back into Wright’s Foundation. After a productive meeting, we stood together in my office and shook hands, congratulated one another on creating a successful path forward, which Schweiker and Lynn agreed to recommend and support before the SoAT Board. But this agreed-upon plan was neither recommended nor supported by them. Instead, that Board was presented with yet another financially speculative program to try to save the School, offering hopeful dreams as an alternative to a concrete path to a sustainable future. Rather than approve the agreed-upon plan and provide certainty for the students’ education and well-being, the SoAT Board chose to close the school and blame the Foundation for a failure to come to an agreement. To be clear: the Foundation sought a plan to transform the School for the 21st Century; the SoAT board voted instead to close the School. This decision to close was not communicated to the Foundation until we read the School’s press release. The School later came up with a new excuse for their decision; that the one-year extension to which they had agreed just one week earlier “was not financially feasible,” leaving unclear how they could have funded the two-year extension they proposed in November. Because SoAT is still struggling to figure out how to stay open through May, the Foundation has agreed again to donate shared services to reduce the School’s costs and ensure the students are as well served as possible under the circumstances. The Foundation will return to extending Wright’s legacy of educating architects, keeping the life and the spirit of what he created front and center at both Taliesin and Taliesin West. That legacy includes continuing the training of architects, preservation specialists, design professionals, and the interested public—all in the same spaces where he created the world’s most celebrated architecture. Since the School’s announcement, we have welcomed and opened dialogues with potential partners to create a new and sustainable educational model rooted in Wright’s ideas, and we will announce those plans when they are finalized. And we will keep the two Taliesin campuses as the places that Wright wanted them to be: Vibrant places where we advance the way we build and live, designing the future in harmony with the landscape, incorporating the arts in our work and our lives, building community. Wright said that “The mission of an architect is to help people understand how to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to give reason, rhyme, and meaning to life.” That’s what we do at the Foundation he created, and we’ll do that for as long as we are able.
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Letter to the editor: A sad day for Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy

The following letter to the editor comes courtesy of Jacki Lynn and Dan Schweiker, who serve on the Governing Board of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. This letter is the second in a series AN will run in the following days from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit. We want to set the record straight and offer facts and perspective to the heart-wrenching decision to close the School of Architecture at Taliesin. The decision to close the venerable school, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for organic and sustainable architecture, came only after our Governing Board exhausted all options in trying to craft an agreement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Unfortunately for Mr. Wright’s legacy, an agreement with the Foundation did not happen. We approached the Foundation with a proposal to extend the Memorandum Of Understanding for an additional two years under its current terms while we explored options to enhance the school’s viability and still allow the Foundation to more fully utilize the school’s spaces. Our goal was to reach a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with the Foundation to keep the school open. The Foundation presented our school with two options. One was to close the school when the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) expired this summer. The Foundation’s other option was to keep the School of Architecture at Taliesin open for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Foundation wanted the school to immediately terminate our accreditation under those terms. The Foundation also wanted the school to then help create a new non-accredited program to be run by the former. We took those proposals to our full Governing Board for serious consideration. We soon realized that terminating accreditations for our graduate architecture programs would immediately result in the loss of current and prospective students. Those students need to be part of accredited programs to reach their degree objectives. The school would have also lost our financial donors with the announcement of the school’s closure; simply put, the school would not survive the 2020-2012 academic year under those dynamics. Our Governing Board felt a duty to sadly wind down operations after this semester while the school was still financially solvent. The Governing Board’s independent members, which are all of our Governing Board members with the exception of the two Board Members from the Foundation, all voted unanimously to close the school after this summer. It was a sad and difficult decision but a necessary one considering the untenable options. We also did not feel comfortable putting our staff, students and board members in the position of providing their expertise and deep wells of knowledge to help the Foundation establish a new non-accredited program. Our Governing Board did present some new funding options to extend our operating agreement with the Foundation. Those plans included guaranteed funding from another program. The Foundation opted not to accept the funding options to keep the school operating. The School of Architecture at Taliesin (which was previously the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture) has been a critical part of Mr. Wright’s legacy for 88 years. Our school was dedicated to furthering Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for ‘organic architecture’ and better connecting design and our human experience to the natural world. More than 1,200 architects and designers studied under Mr. Wright and at the school. We focused on designing more than buildings and boxes. Our school and our students focused on how to better live with the natural environment, including the Sonoran Desert here in Arizona. We focused on how to change the world. We and the Foundation are working together with Arizona State University so our current students can transfer credits to the Design School at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, as established in concept in 2014 when the School was operated as part of the Foundation. Our Governing Board was deeply saddened to make this decision. We were left with no other options. The end result is a sorrowful day for architecture and for Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy.
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Opinion: Shame on the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

The following editorial comes courtesy of former Taliesin teaching fellow Ryan Scavnicky following the recent news that the School of Architecture at Taliesin would close come June 30 of this year. This letter is the first in a series AN will run in the following days from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit. The gift shop at Taliesin West tells you everything you need to know about the closure of the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SOAT). Look around it and you will realize there is little gained by the world of architecture from a room full of tourists paying top dollar for home decor with prairie-style motifs. One can smell the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation cashing in on the aesthetic legacy produced by the work of the late architect. Meanwhile, SOAT has continued and built upon that legacy for 88 years, serving as a home base for experimental architecture and providing a counter-narrative to the sterile classrooms of state schools. Through its ups and downs SOAT remains intact and healthy, with enrollment increasing from a total student body of two to 30 in the last five years. Recently independent, on the heels of receiving a full eight-year accreditation, and re-energized by the herculean efforts of president Aaron Betsky and dean Chris Lasch, the school at Taliesin was thriving. Why then, the decision to close?  The architecture community isn’t just mourning the loss of another accredited degree-awarding machine; this is the loss of a pedagogical apparatus whose contemporary presence is in dire need. When we are in school we learn information, but we also learn life skills and craft behaviors which we model off of our colleagues and teachers. We do that outside of the classroom. In an era of infinite access to information, the “living community” of SOAT is increasingly valuable. I am grateful to have served three semesters as the Visiting Teaching Fellow, having experiences with students beyond that which is provided by typical institutions of learning today: I drove sleeping students home from a field trip to Kitt Peak Observatory, asked for help in ridding my apartment of scorpions, washed the dishes, gave a toast, played Dungeons & Dragons, learned yoga, wandered the desert to yell at God, taught Rhino, and I even performed a rendition of En Fermant Les Yeux when entertainment options were running thin. These extreme moments of “ad hoc” were intertwined with everyday life as fluidly as you can imagine. The value of education via distinct experience in today’s attention economy society is certainly worth more to the world than the ability to sell a couple more gaudy stained glass earrings. SOAT made this immensely felt, and the students I was honored to teach are now cutting-edge cultural operators.  On my first day of work, I made jokes about feeling like an Oompa Loompa—that the school’s significance was to provide scale figures to make the tourists happy. At least then I had a value that was being used in service to the field of architecture. In my experience, the current leadership at the Foundation doesn’t care about the mission of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin because they will still be able to sell $250 chess sets and tired craft classes to beady-eyed baby boomers as a stand-in for the heralded school. Do you remember the plot of the movie Major League? Released on April 7, 1989, the film follows a professional baseball team in Cleveland, Ohio. Owner Rachel Phelps secretly wants the team to tank so that she can move them to sunny Miami. She attempts to do this by intentionally staffing the organization with oddballs and misfits who all have a major flaw in their game. Spoiler alert for those who still haven’t seen this cult classic—the ball club finds out about the scheme, and with nothing to lose, the team plays above expectations, eventually winning a playoff series with the New York Yankees. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is currently playing the part of owner Phelps, attempting to publicly eschew their role in putting the final nail in the coffin of Frank Lloyd Wright's grand and timely pedagogical legacy just to line their pockets. They made a mistake hiring such capable and passionate administrators. Although SOAT pushed passed many obstacles, there is no nationally-televised game for them to win. Meanwhile, the Foundation is sitting in box seats, resting on their Usonian gravy train and toasting our collective tears. Everything in the statement released by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is accurate; but if you believe that to be the whole story then I know a Saudi Prince who would love your email address and social security number. The failure of the School of Architecture at Taliesin to agree to terms with its landlord, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, is a real tragedy and we must learn from it. The architecture community needs to be acutely aware of the value of germinating a style recognized by popular culture and what that means for future commodification. We need to be cognizant of the potential impact outsiders can have on our field who fetishize and exploit the genius of our heroes. We must claim aesthetic territory and take no prisoners securing that value to be in service of architecture, lest any more establishments like SOAT become the victims of assassination by the very institutions sworn to protect them. Correction: The article originally gave credit for the accreditation to Betsky and Lasch, however, the process had begun before they started at the school.
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture at Taliesin will close

After 88 years in operation, the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) will be closing its doors when the spring semester ends. The Governing Board of the organization said in a statement that it wasn’t able to align with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation on a plan to develop alternative educational programs over the next year and a half, and will be forced to transfer its remaining 30 students to the nearby Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.  “This is a sad and somber day for our school, our students, and staff, and the architecture community,” said Dan Schweiker, chairperson of the board. “Our innovative school and its mission were integral to Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for connecting architecture to our natural world. Wright’s legacy was not just building. It was a school to promulgate the lessons for all future generations...We did everything possible to fight for its survival but due to other forces it was not meant to be.” Established in 1932, Taliesin has been home to over 1,200 architects who lived and worked alongside Wright and his contemporaries, furthering the practice of “organic architecture.” Students immersed themselves in study while splitting their time between two iconic Wright-designed spaces at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Taliesin East in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Prior to making the decision to close, leadership at both the Foundation and the school had created proposals to allow the institution to continue operations on both campuses through the end of July next year, a period during which, according to the Foundation, they were going to come up with alternative programming that wouldn't need to be accredited. “The Foundation had reached an agreement with the leaders of the SoAT Board that would have allowed for second- and third-year students to complete their education at Taliesin and Taliesin West, and we are disappointed that it was not approved by the full SoAT Board,” said Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Foundation. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is based out of Scottsdale and is charged with preserving both Taliesin West and East and providing educational STEAM programming inspired by the principles of organic architecture. It is a separate entity from the SoAT, which had to be regularly accredited by several boards and commissions in order to be fully operational. According to a statement by the Foundation, the decision to close the esteemed institution was made because the school “did not have a sustainable business model that would allow it to maintain its operations as an accredited program.” Now that the school is closing, the Foundation said it will expand its educational programming for K-12 students and professionals while continuing to promote Wright's legacy and vision. “The Foundation wants to ensure that it has the ability to work with a variety of partners,” it said, “to develop professional education programs for architects, preservation specialists, and design professionals that will keep the Taliesin campuses vital places for the development of organic architecture in the future.”
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National Endowment for the Humanities awards $29 million to preservation, virtual reality projects

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recently announced $29 million in awards for 215 projects across the country relating to all things humanities, from education programs to cultural preservation, film, exhibitions, virtual reality, and architecture.  Some highlights of the grant recipients include the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which received $50,000 for storage improvements for its collections housed at Taliesin West; the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which received $170,000 for k-12 workshops on the development of the skyscraper; and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which received $10,000 for saving the School of Architecture design project archives. Lawrence Technological University was awarded $7,000 for improving the storage environment in its Albert Kahn library collection while the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, got $9,938 for a rare books assessment including influential texts on the history of architecture, aesthetic theory, and visual representation in European art. Old Sturbridge Village, a living museum located in Massachusetts, received $9,794 for the preservation assessment of various structures. “NEH grants help strengthen and sustain American cultural life in communities, at museums, libraries, and historic sites, and in classrooms,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “As the nation prepares to commemorate its 250th anniversary in 2026, NEH is proud to help lay the foundations for public engagement with America’s past by funding projects that safeguard cultural heritage and advance our understanding of the events, ideas, and people that have shaped our nation. The NEH awarded these peer-reviewed grants in addition to $48 million in annual operating support that goes to the national network of state and territorial humanities councils during the fiscal year. The organization also gave grants to cultural projects South by Somewhere, a television series created in Durham, N.C., on the foodways, history, and culture of the American South, as well as to Louisiana State University and A&M College in Baton Rouge for the development of a VESPACE (Virtually Early-Modern Spectacles and Publics, Active and Collaborative Environment) project on the fair theatre in 18th-century Paris. In addition, the NEH engaged in a $1 million partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to support the preservation of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
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The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture is $2 million closer to independent incorporation

In collaboration with the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation (FLWF), the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture (FLWSA) has raised more than $2 million dollars from 317 contributors. To comply with new accreditation requirements, the school is in the process of becoming an independent subsidiary of the foundation. The funds are an important milestone on the FLWSA's journey towards financial stability. The FLWSA was founded by Wright in 1932 at Taliesin, his home in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The school, with a current enrollment of 19 students in its M.Arch program, is now dually located at Taliesin and Taliesin West, in Scottsdale. In 2011, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) changed its accreditation requirements, stipulating that it will no longer grant accreditation to schools which operate under umbrella institutions with "multifaceted missions." The FLWF, whose purpose is to "preserve Taliesin and Taliesin West for future generations, and enrich society through an understanding of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas, architecture, and design,” is helping the school on its mission. As part of the agreement, the foundation will loan the school classroom and residential facilities at Taliesin and Taliesin West. The FLWF will put $1.4 million over four years towards the operating costs of the school, in addition to a $7 million investment over the same period. FLWSA's dean, Aaron Betsky, outlined the direction the school will take: “We have been hard at work with the Foundation’s staff and Board to ensure the School’s future not just in financial and organizational terms, but also by improving its curriculum and by developing programs that continue Wright’s legacy in organic architecture and learning by doing in ways that answer to our needs for a more sustainable, open, and beautiful human-made environment.” Students will design and build desert shelters, as well as take newly added courses in digital fabrication, design, and theory. The school has a four year partnership with the mining towns of Miami and Globe, Arizona. Students will carry out community–based projects in those communities and in similar towns near Taliesin. To solidify accreditation, the foundation and the school board will prepare a "Change of Control" application for the HLC to review in June 2016. If the HLC approves, the foundation will file documents with state and federal agencies to legally recognize the school as an independent subsidiary of the foundation. If all goes smoothly, the process is expected to be complete by early 2017.
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Aaron Betsky to Head Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture

The search for a new leader of Frank Lloyd Wright's School of Architecture concluded today, as the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation named Aaron Betsky the new dean in charge of Taliesin. Betsky previously served as director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, but stepped down from that position in January 2014. He was previously the director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, and he directed the 11th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2008. He has authored numerous books on art and architecture and continues to blog for Architect. Split between campuses in Spring Green, Wisconsin and Scottsdale, Arizona, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture is in the middle of a fundraising campaign that could decide the future of the school's accreditation. Facing new rules from the Higher Learning Commission, officials from the institution said they must raise at least $2 million before the end of 2015, or the school will lose its standing once those new rules take effect in 2017. Betsky will "set the intellectual tone or the School," according to a press release, but he will also have to help tackle the school's financial challenges. "Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture broke the box and opened vistas toward a democratic landscape; he made organic architecture and built with, rather than on, the land before anybody talked about sustainable architecture," Betsky said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing the tradition of experimental architecture he did so much to define." The future of that tradition, however, remains uncertain. In December Sean Malone, president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, said the school would remain committed to design education even if they are no longer able to award accredited degrees after 2017. With Betsky at the helm that mission appears intact; the Foundation said they will continue to award degrees at their Taliesin East and Taliesin West campuses either way, perhaps in partnership with accredited institutions. "We wanted a bold thinker and a talented leader," Malone said in a statement, "and we found both in Aaron." Betsky, who was born in Montana but grew up in the Netherlands, succeeds Victor Sidy, who returns to his private architectural practice. Betsky assumes the role of dean immediately.
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Frank Lloyd Wright School calls for cash to save its accreditation

In August, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture found its accreditation in jeopardy, following a rules change by their regional accrediting board, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Now the institution needs to raise $2 million before the end of 2015, or it will lose its standing once the new rules take effect in 2017. The challenge lies in establishing the school as an entity fully independent of its parent company, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. HLC, apparently targeting for-profit universities, said it would no longer offer credit to schools that are part of institutions whose “missions extend beyond academics.” As part of a foundation that also advocates for preservation and engages in non-academic pursuits, the Frank Lloyd Wright school found itself in violation of these new rules. Now the plan is to spin off the school, which earned accreditation in 1992, into a financially independent entity. To do that, the school's administrators say they need to scrounge at least $1 million in cash and pledges by March 27, and then another $1 million by the end of 2015. If they meet that goal, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation has agreed to make a one-time gift of $7 million. "This campaign is the only opportunity to save the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture as we know it," said Maura Grogan, chair of the school’s board of governors, in a press release. If they don't reach their fundraising goal, President Sean Malone told AN the school "would remain deeply dedicated to shaping architectural education," but would lose its ability to offer accredited degrees after 2017. They could still team up with accredited institutions to offer such credentials, but their standalone certifications would carry considerably less weight in the professional world. Malone said the rules change had the unintended effect of risking the school's standing due to its unique status as a financially dependent subsidiary of a larger foundation. "It was an imperfect storm," Malone said. “Right now we're very hopeful and focused on bringing in people who believe in this cause." The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture offers a professional M.Arch degree program with a focus on hands-on studio experience at its two campuses: Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin.