© Mark Hertzberg (2022)
You plan your Frank Lloyd Wright tour. You reserve tickets on-line. You tour. You shop for souvenirs in the gift shop. You post to social media. You go home. Then it’s on to planning the next Wright visit.
Visitors to Taliesin framed by the windows of the original drafting studio, 2018.
But a lot of strategizing and work behind the scenes went into your one or two-hour visit. It takes a lot of planning and, of course, money, to steward a public Wright site. Wright tourism has been redefined in the two years since the world and the World of Wright were enveloped by the pandemic. Virtual visits, something almost unheard of two years ago, are now common.
Wright tourists are on a self-guided audio tour in Oak Park in 2005.
Are tours being monetized to pay staff and help maintain the property? What is the best way to enhance the visitors’ experiences while maintaining the integrity of the site? Is the site accessible to people with disabilities? If not, how can that be accomplished? What needs to done, now, to offer remote access to Wright sites?
The Hardy House, Racine, in 2013: weather can always be a wrinkle in travel plans.
The biennial Wright Sites Directors’ Summit co-sponsored by the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy addresses questions like that. The 2020 meeting was to be held at Wingspread March 16, just as the world shut down. It was, of course, canceled. The event returned to Wingspread on March 14 this year, with 32 organizations and sites represented in person, and two remotely. The theme was Building On Our Strengths. (One of the participating organizations was the National Endowment for the Arts, founded at a Johnson Foundation conference at Wingspread).
This was the first Summit that Mary Beth Peterson, Board Vice President and Director of Tours and Volunteers at the Laurent House in Rockford, Illinois has attended in person. I asked her for her thoughts about the conference. Her enthusiastic review follows these photographs of one of the work sessions.
Amanda Thurmann-Ward gives conferees a tour of Wingspread.
Anna Kaplan, Graycliff, Derby (Buffalo), N.Y.
Mike Lilek, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, Milwaukee
Dave Zaleski, Wyoming Valley School Cultural Center; Carrie Rodamaker, Taliesin
Gregory Wittkopp from Cranbrook (Smith House), Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Karen Ettelson, Glencoe, Illinois Historical Society (Sherman Booth Cottage)
Ahnquajj Kahmanne, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust (Chicago, Oak Park)
Libby Jordan, Rosenbaum House, Florence, Alabama
Mary Beth Peterson, Laurent House, Rockford, left; Libby Garrison, Marin County Civic Center; and Tami Stanko, Affleck House, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Kathryn Hund, Cedar Rock State Park, Lowell and Agnes Walter Estate, Quasqueton, Iowa, left; Peggy Bang, Wright on the Park, Mason City, Iowa; and Heidi Ruehle, Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, Oak Park
Tiffany Wade, Price Tower, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
Vivien Lasken from Fabyan Villa, Geneva, Illinois, left; Tiffany Wade, Price Tower; Kathryn Hund, Cedar Rock State Park, Lowell and Agnes Walter Estate, Quasqueton and, foreground, Ahnquajj Kahmanne, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust
Stuart Graff, President and CEO, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Zaleski, left; Rodamaker; Graff; Don Dekker, Meyer May House, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Marta Wojcik, Westcott House, Springfield, Ohio
Bob Bohlmann, Bradley House, Kankakee, Illinois, left; Justin Gunther, Fallingwater; Barbara Gordon, Executive Director, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy; and March Schweitzer, Unitarian Meeting House, Madison
Volunteer docent James Wardrip, center, tells visitors about Jacobs 1 in Madison.
Links for the sponsors of the Summit:
This year was my first year to attend – in person – the Wright Site Directors Summit Meeting at Wingspread. I did have the opportunity to attend virtually in 2021. The meeting far exceeded my expectations on all accounts. It was my first time to stay at the retreat center at Wingspread. From the moment I arrived, I felt that I was at a 5-star resort. The rooms were large with a breathtaking view of the landscape, a comfy bed with the finest of linens, and a spotless bathroom filled with spa-like bath products. The staff were all friendly and accommodating and everywhere I looked I was greeted with surprising amenities such as a kitchenette full of complementary drinks and snacks of all kinds – yes to Oreos as a bedtime snack! The living room area of the retreat center offered a large fireplace with an evening fire, books of all genres to enjoy – if only there had been more time – a bar for evening socialization with new friends, and a beautiful eating area with three walls of windows looking out onto the serene landscape at Wingspread. This meeting was my first time to tour Wingspread and the opportunity to enjoy fine dining in its Great Hall each evening was a particular highlight of my stay with each meal being my favorite meal. For all these reasons, I left wishing for one more day to relax and enjoy it all.
Of course, the real reason I was there was to learn and to connect with others in the Frank Lloyd Wright world of public sites. This, too, exceeded my expectations. The theme of the Summit Meeting, “Building on Our Strengths,” offered in-depth presentations on board governance, fundraising, identifying government opportunities, programming, and preservation documentation. These are all topics of extreme interest and importance to all of us working as executive directors or lead volunteers for our own Frank Lloyd Wright public site. The material for each session was informative and well presented. In addition to all I learned, I enjoyed connecting in person with so many whom I had only met virtually during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. I immediately felt welcome and at home with these new friends.
As I left the Summit Meeting, I felt extreme gratitude for the opportunity to be there as a representative for the Laurent House and for the time I spent with other like-minded site leaders and friends. I also left in awe of the extreme generosity and hospitality of the Johnson Foundation in offering this tranquil place to the Frank Lloyd Wright public sites community for no cost. My only regret is that I must wait two years to do this again.
Mary Beth Peterson, Board Vice President and Director of Tours and Volunteers,
Laurent House – Rockford, IL