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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Photographing Wright, redux

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

Note: My photos of Minerva and Charles Montooth are the post below this one.

This is the final installment of my 2019 quest to find new photos as I visit buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that are familiar to me. I visited them five times accompanying Road Scholar trips this year:

https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure/22976/architectural-masterworks-of-frank-lloyd-wright

I have posted earlier photos on the website since May. Have a look, and let me know what you think!!! The photos are in the order in which we visited these sites…not all the sites visited are represented on this post.

Wingspread, Wind Point (Racine):

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Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa:

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Jacobs 1, Madison:

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The Unitarian Meeting House, Madison:

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Wyoming Valley School, Spring Green:

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Taliesin 3:

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The original drafting studio at Taliesin:

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Midway Barns:

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Hillside Home and School:

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Michael DiPadova continues reconstruction of the Tea Circle:

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And, finally, my friends, I leave you with two more “selfies,” one at Wingspread and one at Taliesin!

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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!

 

Exploring Wright with My Cameras, 9.18.19

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

This is a follow-up post to the one from two days ago and several from earlier this year, as I visit Frank Lloyd Wright sites that are familiar to me with guests traveling on Road Scholar tours. I have been with four tours this year, a fifth one is scheduled for next week. One of our guests this week was from Australia:

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My challenge to myself is to try to see (i.e. photograph) these sites in new ways on each visit. Earlier this summer Taliesin Preservation was kind enough to ask me to write about my photography for their blog:

https://www.taliesinpreservation.org/behind-the-lens/

I am dedicating this post to my friend Cate Boldt, docent and educator extraordinaire at Taliesin. First you see Cate, a Master Gardener, preparing for her role as a Taliesin Garden Fairy, and then with students in Taliesin’s summer architecture camp, as students prepare for their final presentations at Hillside Theater (the practice run was at Wyoming Valley School):

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Our first stop Wednesday morning was at Jacobs 1 in Madison:

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I was taken with the glint of morning sun on the side of the house:

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I have long admired James Dennis’s red Volvo P1800 sports coupe which sits under Wright’s first carport. Wednesday I challenged myself to photograph it in the context of the house:

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Then it was on to the Unitarian Meeting House where I concentrated on the new copper roof. There is just a hint of light on the left edge of the prow in the first photo, the usual angle from which the church is photographed:

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Then it was time to play with light and shapes:

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As I shot the next few photos I longed for the days I worked for a newspaper, when I likely would have been given access inside the fence and allowed to climb up with the craftsmen restoring the landmark building:

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Our next stop was Wyoming Valley School. I have posted geometric photos in the past, but I found new lines to photograph Wednesday as Mary Pohlman told our guests about the school:

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I found a new way to show one of the many mitered windows:

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After lunch at Riverview Terrace, it was on for a Cate-led tour of Taliesin. What could I see differently? The first two photographs are reflections in windows:

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Percy Jackson (Hamblen) thinks he rules the roost (Fifi Montooth sometimes loudly challenges Percy, but she can never catches him):

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Inside the original drafting studio:

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In Mrs. Wright’s bedroom:

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Outside Mr. Wright’s bedroom:

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I struck out at Hillside Home and School, but that is okay…I can’t force pictures that don’t present themselves to me. Earlier Cate had urged me not to miss photographing Kevin Dodds (white shirt) from Taliesin Preservation and Michael DiPadova from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation as they rebuild the Tea Circle:

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I leave you with one more “Selfie,” my reflection in the trim of the headlight of Jim’s Volvo:

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Thank you for joining me on my photo adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Photographing Familiar Wright Sites, Part 2

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

A few weeks ago I posted photos that showed new things I saw at Frank Lloyd Wright sites that I had visited “umpteen” times. I was helping lead a Road Scholar tour and had told the guests that one of the joys of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture is the challenge of seeing his work in new ways on return visits. For me that means I have a personal challenge to see new things to photograph. On my visit to Taliesin last Friday – just two weeks after my last visit with a Road Scholar group – I saw many new things. One cannot help but be on the lookout for new things with Cate Boldt as docent (and that is not to diminish her colleagues’ skills, but, well, Cate is Cate!).

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I cannot count the number of times I have been in the living room at Taliesin and seen the piano. This was the first time I saw it this way and thought about Wright and his apprentices sitting next to the windows and gazing out at the “Valley of the Almighty Joneses” (the late Edgar Tafel, one of the first Taliesin Fellowship apprentices, often told of Wright directing him, “Edgarrrrr, play some Bach!”). Hats off to Cate for sending me into the small kitchen adjacent to the living room to look for our friend Minerva Montooth!

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How many times have I seen the old drafting tables in the original drafting room? This is the first time I have seen photographs in them:

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This is what Wright called “the belvidere,” framed by the wisteria plants outside his bedroom:

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I led my last post with a view of the farmland framed by a window near the bird walk. I saw more things framed by windows this visit. Two photos look abstract because I shot them as my camera’s autofocus was hunting for a focus spot:

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And, seen from the entrance to Hillside Theatre:

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Sometimes the architecture itself frames our view:

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Sometimes the red shuttle bus can add a point of interest, instead of being an element to crop out of the photo:

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The next two photos are from the Jacobs 1 House and the Unitarian Meeting House in Madison:

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While I have your attention, on June 14 Nick Hayes, steward of the Elizabeth Murphy American System-Built house in Shorewood (Milwaukee) will present a program about the house and the ASB homes in Milwaukee. I encourage you to hear his presentation:

https://uwm.edu/sce/courses/how-frank-lloyd-wright-built-an-artistic-legacy-from-a-tiny-house/

 

 

Photographing Wright for the Umpteenth Time

Photos and Text (c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

When I take guests on Frank Lloyd Wright tours for Road Scholar I tell them that one of the joys of Wright’s architecture is the possibility of seeing new things on every visit to places one has been to before. I always take my cameras with me on the Road Scholar tours for that reason and on my fifth tour for them, two weeks ago, I saw new things in buildings I have photographed many times. Alas, I did not find new things at every site we visited.

My first discoveries were at 2734 W. Burnham Street in Milwaukee, an American System-Built duplex being restored by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block. The walls have now been stripped off and I saw these things, including the incinerator chute in the kitchen. The first photo is the view from the living room into the kitchen:

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I have photographed the Unitarian Meeting House in Madison many times. This visit I saw these views of the church. I hope to see the new copper roof by the time of my scheduled fall visits:

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I also saw a picture which spoke to the church’s statement of what Unitarianism is about, a collection of May poles amidst a “Black Lives Matter” sign. No matter what one’s beliefs, this is what the church believes, which is why the church exists, which is why there was a building for Frank Lloyd Wright to design:

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I have enjoyed photographing one of Wright’s smaller commissions, the Wyoming Valley School. This is what I saw differently this time:

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At Riverview Terrace (the Visitors Center at Taliesin), I was struck by the colors on a tree in the driveway:

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Then, of course, there was Taliesin. One of the guests asked why there are no art glass windows in the house. Cate Boldt (our superb docent) explained that Wright had no reason to shield the house for privacy and art glass windows would have blocked the views of his beloved land. What did Wright see?

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Windows looking out from the guest room were uncovered in December, 2017:

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The “Hoffman rug” in the living room has been taken out:

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The Romeo and Juliet Windmill and Tanyderi:

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And, then, finally, this was the first time I saw the drafting room at Hillside Home and School without students, which meant I could go into the room and take pictures:

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The tour I accompany for three days for Road Scholar is: https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure/22976/architectural-masterworks-of-frank-lloyd-wright

 

 

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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LR Wright Birthday 2018 018.jpgMinerva Montooth greets guests at her home…Taliesin.

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