UNESCO Plaque Celebration

© Mark Hertzberg (2021)

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The early morning fog burned off in time for two ceremonies at Taliesin Wednesday September 15, one to cut a ribbon for the restored Tea Circle, the other to unveil two plaques marking Taliesin’s place in architectural history. One plaque notes Taliesin’s designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1976, the other notes it as one of eight Wright sites collectively named UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2019. The latter marked years of effort by many people with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in particular. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Anne Sayers, Wisconsin’s Secretary of Tourism headlined the event.

First, I will show you two photos I took wandering through Taliesin before the event, showing the view of Tan-y-deri from Mr. Wright’s bedroom and studio and one I took in the Blue Loggia:

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Kimberley Valentine, left, Carrie Rodamaker and Stuart Graff, center, greet guests before the ceremony:

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Gov. Evers was introduced to Minerva Montooth shortly after his arrival (look for a profile story about Minerva and my history of photographs of her on this website soon):

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Carrie Rodamaker, CEO of Taliesin Preservation, led the ceremonies in front of the Belvedere:

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There was a break in the middle of the speeches for Phillis Schippers, left, Gail Fox, and Sid Robinson to cut a red ribbon at the Tea Circle:

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Then the two plaques on the crest of the hill were unveiled:

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Gov. Evers and Secretary Sayers then toured Taliesin:

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Sid Robinson and Minerva greeted each other:

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Wright Through My Lens

All photos © Mark Hertzberg (2021)

I had not been to many Frank Lloyd Wright sites outside of Racine in more than two years until a week ago. I had a gracious lunch invitation from Minerva Montooth for Sunday, and a last-minute photo assignment in Sparta, Wisconsin (west of Spring Green) Saturday, so I overnighted in Spring Green. I have always enjoyed challenging myself to see new things at familiar Wright sites on return visits. These are some of the many fruits of last week’s visit.

I photographed at the famous cantilevered Birdwalk terrace from below:

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I noticed visitors taking pictures above me while photographing the Birdwalk:

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I do not plan my photo visits for a particular time of day / lighting…I shoot what is there when I am there. I explored Taliesin and the grounds of the newly-restored Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center in wonderful evening light Saturday, before dinner with Keiran Murphy and “Mr. Keiran.” I visited both again in Sunday’s morning light. I saw the familiar sign for Taliesin in a different way, thanks to the sharp angle of the morning light:

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The first thing I saw at Taliesin Saturday as I drove onto the grounds was the corn crib, dramatically lit by evening light:

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Sunday morning I saw something different with a long lens as I drove up:

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I used a powerful zoom lens to photograph Romeo and Juliet and Tan-y-deri from a distance both days:

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I continued to explore with the long lens:

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I sat on the floor to photograph through one of the fireplaces inside Taliesin:

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I explored Wright’s office – with its own cantilevered balcony – and the original drafting room:

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I photographed Taliesin itself with long and short lenses:

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Going to Taliesin means also exploring Hillside Theatre and the drafting room. The theatre is currently being restored.

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After photographing the ghost-like seats with the sheets covering them I looked for photos under the seats:

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I also looked up:

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Outside is a view of the theatre and nearby farm:

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Then I went to explore the silent drafting room, first reflected in the theatre’s windows:

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And, Hillside itself:

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I photographed Midway Barn from the road, on my trips between Taliesin and Wyoming Valley School and once from Hillside:

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The last set of photos is of the Wyoming Valley School, now known as the Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center. One of the only upsides of the pandemic is that the restoration of the school was able to proceed without having to work around visitors. Many of the changes are structural and not visible. Perhaps the most visible change is that the bricks inside now approximate their original natural color…the yellow of recent years was painted over with a grayish tone.

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The desks in the classroom today are not original, but I enjoyed photographing them through the mitered glass in the evening light nonetheless. This historic black and white photo shows the original desks.

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Robert Hartmann’s wonderful 1960s black and white photos of Taliesin and the school still hang on the walls. His photos documenting the construction of Riverview Terrace are in the rear of the dining room at the Visitors Center.

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I leave you with a photo of the Marvelous Minerva Montooth and my Taliesin selfie. Technical notes: I do no “post processing” on my photos…I do not sharpen them or increase the color saturation. What I shoot is what I get. I sometimes open the midtones a bit and do a bit of dodging and burning in…nothing that could not be done in a traditional chemical darkroom. I use two camera bodies, one has a DX or crop frame sensor, the other is FX or full frame (equivalent to what would be recorded on a 35mm piece of film). The lenses used are: 14-24mm (used on the FX body); 17-35mm (on the DX body);  a 70-200mm on the FX body, and a 200-500mm, used on both bodies. When the 200-500 is on the DX body, it is approximately the equivalent in 35mm terms of a 350-750mm lens. I thank John Clouse for selling me that lens recently…I had a wonderful time exploring Taliesin and Wyoming Valley School with it!

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Wright

Photos © Mark Hertzberg

There is a small gathering to mark Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday (June 8)  at Taliesin this evening, in lieu of the big celebrations of pre-pandemic years. My wife and I have been privileged to have been invited by Minerva Montooth to those lively evenings. We stopped to see Minerva Friday on our way to Minnesota. I honor Wright’s birthday this year with a photo taken yesterday of Minerva’s smile and the seemingly ever-present gleam in her eyes.

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Thank you, Minerva, for yours and Charles’s friendship, and for all you do to keep Wright’s legacy – Mr. Wright to you and the Taliesin family – alive for the World of Wright. You are always stylish when we see you, with a lovely scarf! We love you!

Photographing my Friend Minerva Montooth

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

Olgivanna Wright could not have picked a better and more congenial assistant for 25 years than Minerva Montooth, who I am privileged to call a friend. Make that “Friend” with a Capital F. We have been privileged to know Minerva Montooth since May 2003 when her late husband Charles invited me to give my “Wright in Racine” presentation in the theater at Hillside Home and School (that was indeed a heady invitation for a burgeoning journalist-student of Wright’s work!). Minerva has kindly invited us to the annual celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday at Taliesin every year since then.

I visit Minerva in her apartment at Taliesin whenever I am on campus helping lead Road Scholar explorations of Wright’s work in Wisconsin https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure/22976/architectural-masterworks-of-frank-lloyd-wright

Last week Minerva told me how she came to join the Wright community at Taliesin West in 1952 (gosh, I was only 18 months old!). She has a keen photographic eye. I admired the magnificent lighting of a photo of Charles, who died in December 2014, in her living room, not knowing that she was the photographer. When it was time for me to leave, I couldn’t just leave; after all my camera first had to photograph Minerva and Fifi:

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Below are some of my earlier photos of Charles and Minerva:Evening at Taliesin 2004 008.jpg

Charles on the “Birdwalk” at Taliesin, Wright birthday celebration, 2004.

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Charles at The Prairie School in Wind Point (Racine), October 2003, with plans for the addition to the athletic center. Charles designed the original school building and each subsequent addition. He worked with Floyd Hamblen on the addition.

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Minerva and Charles at the dedication of the new facility, January 2005.

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Charles accepts accolades at the dedication.

By the way, if you email Minerva or write her something on Facebook, don’t expect a reply during your normal business hours: she is a confirmed computer night owl…1 a.m. is not an unusual time stamp for her.

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Minerva at the 2016 Wright birthday celebration.

We love you, Minerva!

 

Poking Around Taliesin With My Cameras

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

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This is the third installment this spring in my photographic discoveries at Taliesin…based on the premise that one can indeed see new things even on one’s umpteenth visit to a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This visit was the weekend of June 8…when we were privileged to stay overnight in the Rose guest room after Minerva Montooth’s and Taliesin Preservation’s annual celebration of Wright’s birthday.

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Yes, as seen above, sometimes there is a reason I bring a camera into the bathroom!

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There are, indeed, gnats and mosquitoes on a warm spring evening.

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Happy 152nd Birthday, Frank Lloyd Wright

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

It is always a joy to mark Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday at Taliesin at a party hosted by the always-gracious Minerva Montooth and Taliesin Preservation. The celebration, which is always on a Saturday, was on June 8, his birth date.This year we had the privilege of staying overnight at Taliesin for the first time because I was giving a presentation the next day at Hillside about my new book about Penwern, the Fred B. Jones estate on Delavan Lake.

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Caroline Hamblen, left, Director of Programs, and Kyle Adams, Events Manager, show Minerva the traditional Frank Lloyd Wright birthday cake, made from his favorite cake recipe.

 

Dixie Legler Guerrero chats with Minerva.

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2019 Wright Birthday 017.jpgBenjamin Feiner played for the guests.

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2019 Wright Birthday 031.jpgMinerva holds Fifi as the celebration winds down at 9:30 p.m.

 

Reflecting on Wright at Taliesin

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2018

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Much has been written about Frank Lloyd Wright’s reasons for building Taliesin after his return from Europe with Mamah Borthwick (Cheney). Perhaps Jamaal Allmond summed it up succinctly – without necessarily knowing the details of the turmoil in Wright’s life in 1911 – when I saw him at Taliesin Saturday several hours before the annual Wright birthday celebration. His answer when I asked him what I had just photographed him doing: “I was relaxing my soul.” Allmond, a first time visitor to Taliesin, is from Scottsdale, Arizona. He was visiting friends who are at Taliesin.

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Now, onto the annual celebration of Wright’s birthday at Taliesin, hosted by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the School of Architecture at Taliesin, and Taliesin Preservation. Our hosts were the ever-ebuillent Minerva Montooth, Carrie Rodamaker, and Stuart Graff. There are more photos of Allmond “relaxing his soul” at the end of this post.

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Celebrating Wright at Taliesin and Stillbend

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

There are Wright celebrations aplenty this year to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth on June 8, 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin.

The annual Wright birthday cocktail reception and dinner celebration at Taliesin, organized by Minerva Montooth and co-sponsored by Taliesin Preservation (the reception at Taliesin) and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation (dinner at Hillside), was Saturday evening. The photos of the Taliesin celebration are followed by photos of a celebration the next day at Stillbend, Wright’s Bernard Schwartz House (1939) in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. The guests at Stillbend included Steve Schwartz who shared his memories of growing up in the house. Michael Ditmer, steward of Stillbend, wondered if Wright have approved of the fuss. Read through to the end for my thoughts and then post your thoughts in the Comments link.

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Minerva was ebullient – as always – as she greeted her guests:

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Sara Lomasz Flesch, left, Aron Meudt-Thering, and Erik Flesch of Taliesin Preservation help guests with refreshments on a hot and humid evening during the reception:

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The guests included Steve and Lynette Erickson Sikora, stewards of the Malcolm Willey House in Minneapolis:

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Stuart Graff, President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, joined by his husband, Rob Chambers, sported a concrete (really) bow tie:

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Souvenir photos were in order for many guests:

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Musicians Effi Casey, Caroline Hamblen, Shannon McFarley, Ethan Ewer, Steven Ewer, Laurie Riss, and Eliana Baccas played a concerto before remarks by Tim Wright (one of Wright’s grandchildren), Graff, Aaron Betsky (Dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture), and Carrie Rodamaker (Executive Director & Director of Operations at Taliesin Preservation):

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Tim Wright (whose father was Robert Llewellyn Wright), reminisced about his grandfather who he met for the first time when he was 13, at Taliesin. He drew chuckles when he said the architect greeted him asking quite directly, “How do you like shoveling shit and pulling tits?” Timothy confessed to the guests that he had neither shoveled manure nor milked a cow yet, even though he had been at Taliesin for several weeks.

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The birthday feast seems to appear magically every year. Two of the magicians Saturday were Jay Anderson, an apprentice chef at Taliesin, and Chef Barbara Wright (no relation to the architect). They were photographed preparing the lemon butter asparagus and rosemary new potatoes which accompanied the spinach and feta cheese stuffed chicken:

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Guests, below, found the menu as they unfolded origami found in little boxes at the tables:

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The healthy menu was followed by the presumably less healthy (but no less tasty) traditionally named Frank Lloyd Wright’s Birthday Cake and a toast to Wright by Graff:

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The origami menu presentation and decorative lights were made by students Lorraine Etchell and Xinxuan Liu:

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WRIGHT CELEBRATION AT STILLBEND:

Michael Ditmer, steward of Stillbend, Wright’s Bernard Schwartz House in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, hosted his own celebration at the house Sunday afternoon.

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Steve Schwartz, whose parents commissioned the house in 1940, delighted guests with his recollections of growing up in the house from the time he was three years old. He said that Wright named the estate for the bend in the river at the site he picked out for the house which evolved from the 1938 Wright design for LIFE Magazine’s feature of  “Eight Houses for Modern Living” ostensibly for a family from Minneapolis.

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Schwartz had a treehouse in the maple behind him in the first photo below:Wright 150th Taliesin 029.jpg

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He said he hoped someone would ask him what it was like to come back to the house, and had prepared a poem entitled Home Again:

The river curves, a still bend

Flocks off honking geese flying in formation

To seek gentler climes.

Firelight illumines sooty

History of joyous life.

All is in harmony

Quietly outwitting temporal arguments

Of color and placement.

Patterns, the rising heat swirls outward

Taking conversations of generations.

Oh, to resist one’s youth

To capture, nourish and restore,

Remember the thread

That wove the future.

While guests at Taliesin were treated to classical music, Ditmer chose as entertainment a wonderful new as-yet-unamed jazz trio from Two Rivers which he decided should be named the Stillbend Jazz Trio, including vocalist Vida Martin.

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Wright 150th Taliesin 071.jpgWright 150th Taliesin 068.jpgWright 150th Taliesin 069.jpgWright 150th Taliesin 070.jpgDitmer asked me at the end of the day what Wright would have thought of this commemoration of his birthday. Consider that Stillbend was a gathering place for both friends and strangers that afternoon. Consider that the little boy who grew up there was back to experience the house again. Consider that the guests were treated to live music, Consider that the acoustics in the living room were perfect. Indeed, the house was being enjoyed just as Wright intended. He likely would have been pleased.

Wright Birthday Bash at Taliesin

(c) Mark Hertzberg

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A crisp blue sky greeted guests at the annual Taliesin celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday Saturday June 11. Wright was born June 8, 1867.

Minerva Montooth, who was an assistant to Olgivanna Wright, and whose late husband, Charles, was also a member of the Taliesin Fellowship, greeted guests, as is her custom at the celebration. Minerva lives at Taliesin. Mary Jane Hamilton, a Wright scholar from Madison, is behind her in the photo.

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Fewer guests than usual gathered outside because it was so warm and humid, even at 6:30 p.m.

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Lovely evening light set the scene as guests made their way to Hillside School where Jason Silverman, residence life manager of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture directed them to the theater for the evening program.

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Stuart Graff, center, CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, introduced Aaron Betsky, Dean of the School of Architecture, and Eric O’Malley, right, of OAD (the Organic Architecture and Design archives) and the PrairieMod website.

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O’Malley told the guests how moved he was seeing the original model of Wright’s San Francisco Call newspaper building when he visited Taliesin young. The model has been moved to the Museum of Modern Art, so OAD commissioned Stafford Norris to build this replica to be displayed at Hillside where the original model stood for years. Architect Randolph C. Henning was also present. Henning, O’Malley, and William Blair Scott are the three partners in OAD.

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The musical selection was Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3:

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Dinner featured braised beef short rib with greens grown at Taliesin, topped off by the traditional homemade birthday cake.

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Next year’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birth will be marked by many special events, including a just-announced major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

Preview Screening: Pedro E. Guerrero on PBS American Masters

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2015

Screening at Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin, of the PBS

Dixie Legler Guerrero remarked “Everyone I know in Wisconsin is here!” as she surveyed the auditorium at Monona Terrace in Madison Tuesday evening September 1 for the premiere Wisconsin screening of “Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey.” Guerrero (1917-2012) was Wright’s favorite photographer. The auditorium was filled for the screening which was part of Monona Terrace’s Wright Design lecture series. The screening was also sponsored by Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin wrightinwisconsin.org

Dixie Legler Guerrero, left, greets Effi Casey. Tim Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright's grandson, is at right.

Dixie Legler Guerrero, left, greets Effi Casey before the screening. Tim Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson, is at right.

Minerva Montooth, left, and Dixie Legler Guerrero chat at the reception after the screening.

Minerva Montooth, left, and Dixie Legler Guerrero chat at the reception after the screening.

Guerrero’s work is on permanent display at Monona Terrace:

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Guerrero PBS Screening

Guerrero and Dixie Legler Guerrero at the annual Wright birthday dinner at Taliesin in 2011 and 2012:

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Pedro Guerrero

Pedro Guerrero

The show, part of PBS’ American Masters series, airs Friday September 18 nationwide.