Spring Green Restaurant – Historic Photos

(c) Mark Hertzberg, 2017, with all photos (c) Robert Hartmann, 2017

Robert Hartmann’s passions when he was growing up included Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and photography. The result? Thirty historic photos by him of the construction of Wright’s Spring Green Restaurant, the building now known as the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. It houses the Taliesin Bookstore and Riverview Terrace Cafe. The building also serves as the starting point for all tours of Taliesin.

Riverview Terrace-Spring Green restaurant-3-.jpgA vintage color photo from winter, 1967, of the recently completed Spring Green Restaurant. Hartmann notes that the original location of the old Wisconsin River bridge abuttment can be seen in the upper left of the photo. The pavilion which is still wrapped in plastic sheets, right, originally served as the sales and marketing office of the Wisconsin River Development Corporation headed by Racine businessman Willard Keland.

The building overlooks the Wisconsin River. Wright first designed an auto showroom, restaurant and home for Glen and Ruth Richardson for the site in 1943. His next proposal for the site, ten years later, was for a bridge-like restaurant. Construction had started when Wright died in 1959. Taliesin Associated Architects completed his design and construction in 1967 as part of a Wisconsin River Development Corporation plan from the late Willard Keland (of Wright’s Keland House in Racine).

Hartmann became interested in Wright’s work when he was just eight years old and saw Wright’s newly completed SC Johnson Research Tower in Racine in 1950. Six years later he borrowed his father’s Argus model C-3 35mm camera (which he notes, he never returned). He was working on his Master’s degree in Environmental Design at the University of Wisconsin in 1967. It was an opportunity for Hartmann to follow the progress of the construction of a Wright design. He thought, “It appeared that Wright’s Broadacre City was actually being built.”

An accomplished photographer, Hartmann often drove the half hour to Spring Green to document the construction in his compact gray Sunbeam Imp. He recalls, “Getting to The Spring Green Restaurant was as rewarding as reaching my destination. Driving west on Highway 14 took me through the wonderful small towns of Cross Plains, Black Earth, Mazomanie, Arena and Spring Green. These were the places that Wright had passed through so many times in his lifetime and have now become immortalized by way of mention in the many books and articles by and about Wright.”Riverview Terrace-Spring Green restaurant-4-1060899.jpgThis summer 1967 photo,with scaffolding still in place, captures The Spring Green restaurant as windows and exterior trim are nearing completion.

Riverview Terrace-Spring Green restaurant-5-5.jpgThis detail view shows the gable roof and original open terrace shortly after Wright’s building was completed. The open terrace on the right was later enclosed and covered with a flat roof by Taliesin Associated Architects, the successor firm to Frank Lloyd Wright.

The young graduate student – he was 25 –  carefully filed his three dozen color and black and white negatives and Polaroid instant photos of the construction, and moved onto a career as an architectural and industrial designer. He opened his own practice in Racine in 1980. The negatives would remain unprinted until this year.

Hartmann never lost his passion for Wright’s work. He is a former board member and past president of Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin (Wright in Wisconsin). This past spring Hartmann learned that Erik Flesch, director of development for Taliesin Preservation, Inc., was looking for ways to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the structure. Turning to the notebook with his negatives, Hartmann told Flesch about his archival photos. They arranged for 24 framed prints of the construction and an early renovation to be exhibited at the visitor center through the end of the year.

Riverview Terrace-Spring Green restaurant-2-22.jpgHartmann is a meticulous craftsman. Although he shot each photo in perhaps 1/125th of a second, he spent an estimated 1200 hours digitizing and making archival ink jet prints for the exhibition. The prints are 11″x14″ matted and framed to 16”x20”.

Spring Green Hartmann Flesch LR.jpgHartmann, left, and Flesch review the installation of Hartmann’s photos.

Lady Bird Johnson, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife, attended the dedication on September 22, 1967. A free public celebration of the 50th anniversary of the dedication will be held Friday September 22 be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. with limited food service and a cash bar. A centerpiece of the anniversary celebration is the on-going exhibit of Hartmann’s photos which he never printed until this year.

 

Tan-y-Deri Porch Restored

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

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Completion of the multi-year comprehensive restoration of Tan-y-Deri was celebrated last Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony as a start to Taliesin’s celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday. The three organizations charged with maintaining the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin celebrated their collaboration on this project: Taliesin Preservation, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the School of Architecture at Taliesin. The porch, perhaps better referred to as a terrace since it is only accessible from the interior, was the final piece of the project. It has been reconstructed to how it looked between 1939 – 1956. I had an opportunity Saturday to photograph the first floor of the house before the Wright birthday dinner. The Romeo and Juliet Windmill is nearby, and is in some photos. The early evening light, at the end a rainy day, was particularly welcome and lovely that day. We had driven to Taliesin under cloudy skies, and I had been pessimistic about having good light for photos.

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Wright designed the house in 1907 for Jane and Andrew Porter, his sister and brother-in-law, four years before designing Taliesin. The name of the house is Welsh for “under the oaks.” Andrew Porter was then the business manager for the nearby Hillside Home and School, run by Wright’s aunts. Tan-y-Deri 2017 010.jpgTan-y-Deri 2017 017.jpg

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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.

Tour du Taliesin

(c) Mark Hertzberg

About 50 bicyclists chose between 38 and 100 mile routes Sunday May 22 during the first Tour du Taliesin bicycle ride. The fund-raiser began at the Visitors Center and ended with a cookout below Tan-y-deri, across from Taliesin.

Robert and Donna  from West Bend finish their ride:

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Ride 00Michael and Aaron Collins from Madison relax across from Taliesin:

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Ride 2A distinctive logo was designed for the ride that benefitted Taliesin Preservation, Inc.:

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Frank Lloyd Wright Trail signed into law.

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2016

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Commemorative pens that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will use to sign the bipartisan bill to fund a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail between Racine and Richland Center, are on Wright’s table in his drafting room at Taliesin, his home in Spring Green, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

The law provides $50,000 funding for highway signs and other marketing to promote Wright’s work in Wisconsin, from the Illinois/Wisconsin state line on I-94 through Racine, Madison, and Spring Green, and ending at the A.D. German Warehouse in Richland Center. Milwaukee is not included in the signage because Wright sites they are not open enough hours and it was thought it best not to divert travelers to sites they might find closed. Three sites in Racine will be included: the SC Johnson Administration Building, the SC Johnson Research Tower, and Wingspread.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker walks out on the cantilevered balcony outside the living room at Taliesin before he signs the bipartisan bill to fund the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, center, chats with the bill’s sponsors on the cantilevered balcony outside the living room at Taliesin before he signs the bipartisan bill to fund the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, right, chats with state representatives Cory Mason (D-Racine) and Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and State Sen. Howard Marklein (R- Spring Green), the sponsors of Assembly Bill 512, the bipartisan bill to fund a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail between Racine and Richland Center, in the living room at Taliesin, Wright’s home in Spring Green, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signs the bill to fund the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail between Racine and Richland Center, in Wright’s drafting room at Taliesin, his home in Spring Green, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is applauded after he signs the bipartisan bill to fund a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail between Racine and Richland Center, in Wright’s drafting room at Taliesin, his home in Spring Green, Monday March 21, 2016. Looking on are Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), left, Sen. Howard Marklein (R- Spring Green), Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), who introduced the bill, and State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), a co-sponsor / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed the bipartisan bill to fund a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail between Racine and Richland Center, in Wright’s drafting room at Taliesin, his home in Spring Green, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Sean Malone: A Retrospective

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg

Sean Malone, the president and chief executive officer of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, will leave his position in February, after four years. He had been at least the sixth CEO in a decade when he began his tenure in 2012. His departure came as a surprise to outsiders.

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Malone at the annual Wright birthday dinner at Taliesin, June 6, 2012

     Malone and the Foundation said in a press release that the position requires someone at Taliesin West in Scottsdale full-time. Malone has been dividing his time between Scottsdale and his home near Milwaukee, and wants to stay in Wisconsin for family reasons. He told me in 2012 that he did not foresee problems operating from Milwaukee because he would be traveling widely raising money for the Foundation, something he could easily do from Milwaukee.

There are three parts to this retrospective: My photo history of Sean during his tenure, my April, 2012 profile of him, written as he began his stewardship of the Foundation, and then, after you read the profile, highlights of our conversation July 13, 2015 when I asked him to reflect on his stewardship of the Foundation. I chose to let his 2015 words speak for themselves, rather than interpret them. He used one phrase repeatedly during our conversation, that looking back at his stewardship was taking a view “from 30,000 feet.”

Sean Malone

Malone tours the Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine, March 21, 2012 before our conversation which led to this profile of him when he began working at the Foundation:

The black Toyota Prius quietly rolls to a stop. Sean Malone, 42, steps out, a white straw hat on his head, an iPhone in his hand. Meet the new president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Sean Malone, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Wednesday March 21, 2012 in the Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine Wis. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Malone, who comes from Ten Chimneys Foundation in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, breaks the mold of what many people may have expected in the new head of the Foundation.

Architect? No. Professor of architecture of art history? No. Seen many Wright buildings before taking the position? No. Steeped in years of Frank Lloyd Wright? No. Lives at or near Taliesin? No. Lives at or near Taliesin West? No.

Bright? Yes. Affable? Yes. Thoughtful? Yes. Articulate? Yes. Successful record with Ten Chimneys? Yes. Enthusiastic about his new job? Yes. Confident that he is the right person to help the Foundation overcome its challenges and negative publicity? Yes.

It is clear why T-West would want Malone: he has a stellar record as a director of a non-profit organization. On the other hand, one might wonder why someone with no traditional background in the World of Wright would want to step into what has been somewhat of a revolving door at Taliesin West.

Malone tours Wright’s American System-Built homes on W. Burnham Street in Milwaukee with Robert Hartmann, then-president of Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin and board member Ron Scherubel April 18, 2012:

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Malone Burnham Street

Sean Malone, CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, left, tours Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin's Burnham Street project, Wednesday April 18, 2012 with Robert Hartmann, president of the organization.  / © Mark Hertzberg

Malone talks about his interest in Wright, “I have always been moved by his body of work. Because I am not an architect, I was not in a position that I could explain what it was that moved me. I found it invigorating. It’s just beautiful, balanced, intentional work, and so I started from a point of engagement with his art. The other piece that really excited me and brought me into the organization was the potential for the body of work and the philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright to inspire me.”

Malone’s tour of the Grant House in Iowa during the 2012 Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy tour is interrupted by a phone call:

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Malone Iowa

      There is much more substance to his vision about his new role than what some may fancy for him. His responsibilities are more than overseeing the preservation of Taliesin and Taliesin West, overseeing the Foundation’s architecture school, and racking in big bucks in donations, grants, and souvenir sales to fund the whole kit and caboodle.

Malone says that the Foundation’s “biggest challenge” is “to decide what the next decade or two will be about.” That is not a particularly startling answer. What is more interesting is the next series of questions he poses, and the way he answers those questions.

Malone welcomes conferees to Taliesin West October 29, 2014 during the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy annual conference:

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Malone BC 2014

      First, he asks, “Who do we exist to serve? That is a loaded question. It underlines my opinion that we exist to serve…it is something I believe all non-profits should do. That is what attracted me to the Foundation.

“Who do we serve directly? People who visit the two national landmarks we own, our publications…but also the people we exist to serve through indirect means. If we are inspiring people who are professionals who are part of the built environment, more than just architecture, our ability to inspire them, is not just about them, it is about what they then go and do.

“I am a real believer in both direct impact and indirect impact. Directly, I want to inspire architects and student architects, all people involved with the built environment (including writers, photographers, and city planners). All of them, if we inspire them, change peoples’ lives. If you take a look at the direct and indirect impact (of the Foundation on people), it’s global.

Then Malone asks, “What are the deep meaningful needs of those individuals and communities? Once we define who we exist to serve, what are their needs? Sometimes it is things they do not know they want yet. It is about needs, not wants. It has to be (something) unmet. If someone is doing it adequately, I don’t want to do it.”

Finally, Malone says he want to know, “Which of those needs do we agree we are uniquely positioned to meet, better than anyone in the world or that no one in the world can do at all?”

Malone signs the guest book at Burnham Street:Malone Burnham Street

Asking those questions, having “conversations” with people, is key to Malone’s approach to his new position. “That is the lens through which I look at the role of a non-profit. I don’t think that articulation is completely new or earth-shattering.”

While most non-profits might end up with a list of only two or three challenges that answer those questions, Malone has no illusion that there will not be many “opportunities” that the Foundation could take on. He has no doubt that there could be a daunting list of goals that some may offer as priorities. Malone wants to pare such a list down. “What is particularly exciting for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation…that is a big part of why I wanted to make this move and a big part of why I am so energized about the work that we are going to accomplish in the coming years.

Malone asks more questions. “Why do you think of his body of work and philosophies? Why do you think it is going to be relevant ten years from now. Why do you think it is going to be relevant a hundred years from now. Those are the questions I am asking people.”

He has a degree in business from the University of Wisconsin, but Malone sees his work as being more than just a dollars-and-cents guy charged with keeping the troubled Foundation solvent. “The idea of how we live our lives has been an important part of my career, because I think it matters. i think people find it relevant, and that we as humans have the opportunity to make that a decision…I think his (Wright’s) work has something very meaningful to say about our ability to choose the life we are going to live, to live an intentionally lived life, and that is a powerful thing. That is one of the handful of truly universal challenges…the sense that we don’t have to choose between being great one thing or another. We don’t have to choose between deep relationships with family and friends and connections with the nature around us. You can live an integrated life.”

Malone believes that one must do more than just read the plethora of biographies of Frank Lloyd Wright to understand him. One has to experience his work. “To get a sense of the universal truths, you don’t read a biography of Shakespeare, you read Shakespeare, and that is what draws me to the body of work of Frank Lloyd Wright. That is his legacy.”

It is surprising to some that Malone continues to live in Wauwatosa, a suburb of Milwaukee, rather than move to Scottsdale or even to Spring Green. “I think that it is reflective of an organization that is no longer Arizona-centric.” He has full confidence in the people who oversee Taliesin and Taliesin West, without feeling the need to be on site full-time.

“My job is to make sure that both are able to be successful in their day-to-day operations, both in public programs, like the tours, and in education, like the school of architecture, but the mission of the organization is, at the very least, national, so I think it makes sense that the CEO isn’t the on-site person at either place. We have very talented staff members. We didn’t need another COO in Scottsdale.”

He spends a bit more than half his time traveling. He anticipates that he will be traveling less frequently to Taliesin West as time goes on, instead traveling more across the country to raise money for the Foundation, “Great things cost money, part of my job is to connect people with those activities. It’s the donors who make it really happen. It’s my job to steward that investment. It’s my job to make sure their donation is well spent and makes an impact.”

Malone finishes the interview with a reminder of who he believes the Foundation must not lose sight of,  “We exist to serve, and only succeed because of the public.” Some people will certainly deem Sean Malone’s tenure a success if he retains his position – he is at least the sixth CEO in a decade. Others will consider his tenure a success if the Foundation’s finances are stabilized. Malone himself has a broader goal. He drives a Prius. It is reasonable to think that he will be satisfied only with results that will be harder to measure: that he is able to bring stability to the Foundation so that Wright’s work can continue to influence people to live Wright’s architecture, to better their lives and their communities.

Malone and Minerva Montooth at the 2015 Wright birthday dinner at Taliesin:Wright Birthday 2015

Malone Reflects On His Stewardship, July 13, 2015:

A collaborative effort: I am extremely proud of what the Foundation has accomplished in this time. It’s the Foundation that has accomplished it. All great things happen because groups of civic volunteers and advocates get together and make it happen.

The very significant increase in contributions comes from people coming together with clarity about the mission. This is something that is very exciting to me. I hope everybody connected with the Foundation is proud of it. It is something in which I take great pride.

I asked him if there was anything he feels has been left undone: I don’t look at it that way.

This organization has grown in capacity and reach, and the number and quality of its advocates to be able to continue moving forward. What’s exciting when you look at it from 30,000 feet, the organization is going in a great direction in multiple fronts, in every aspect of what its supposed to do.

On the “uncertainty” about the future of the School of Architecture: I feel like we have multiple constituencies working together …

On the preservation of both Taliesin and Taliesin West:  We just competed the first ever in-depth comprehensive preservation master plan that talks about what needs to be restored, at what level, and why. That’s not easy…Sixteen months of impressive research (about Taliesin West) thoughtfully put together…the cornerstone is done and that’s very exciting. Similarly good, last year we spend three times as much on the preservation of the two Taliesins as the year before I came. We went from about $1million to $3 million, and that’s not because the needs went up, but because there was a real investment in making this happen. That’s the 30,000 foot view of preservation. This organization embracing its responsibility to preserve the two Taliesins for generations to come.

On the sale of the archives to the Avery Library and to the Museum of Modern Art: That collaboration has been extraordinarily successful. We are already seeing everything affiliated with those archives taking the next step in terms of the preservation of those archives, the access to scholars, the quality of digital capture and in terms of public access, not just scholarly access. There was a remarkably well received exhibit at MOMA in 2014 and in 2017 there will be a very large exhibition as part of a celebration of Wright’s sesquicentennial; that’s another bright spot.

On public tours of Taliesin West: We’ve really overhauled and significantly increased visitor satisfaction of that tour, reducing tour size, continuing education with docents, and the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance (Before) you would come and sit and hope you got in eventually. Now 50-90% of tours are purchased in advance, depending on the week.

We are also in the process of doing a comprehensive evaluation of the tours and interpretive planning projects. What people expect and what they are going away with. What is it we want people to take away with them?

If you have 100,000 people touring, it’s not having a cash cow, but an obligation, an opportunity to inspire. How are we connecting this experience to peoples’ lives?

Programmatically, those are the bright spots from 30,000 feet.

The organization: Then there is the capacity, the institutional side of things. I am proud of the board, staff, and donors about  the evolution of the Foundation as an increasingly world class non-profit.

It was a family business when it started…the Fellowship, him and his wife. It had its era, but the organization is really focused on what is its impact. It is focused on being a professional. organization, that we have the discipline to make sure that when donors contribute that their philanthropic investment yields the best public impact.

In Arizona it is rewarding to see the development of the Taliesin Board of Stewards, local leaders embracing the critical importance and impact of Taliesin West in a way that we’ve never had that community engagement. That’s certainly important in terms of contributions and support, but it’s also the best opportunity for us to make sure we are serving our community. Having this group of Arizona leaders talk to us about the needs of tourism and residents, and connecting this international icon to an understanding of what Phoenix and the Greater Valley community is…It’s very much a symbiotic relationship. We can’t accomplish what they point us toward without support.

He is excited about the solar energy at Taliesin West, but does not take credit for it: The ball started before I came in.

On fund raising: We are changing the philosophy of the gifts program, making sure we are interacting with donors the way they want to be interacted with. Donors don’t want perks, they believe in the organization in which (they are investing). Instead of you get this many mugs, tickets, t-shirts…it’s all about engagement…here are ways for you to have more insider opportunities…not us taking a chunk of the money you gave and giving you trinkets. We have had an increase in people giving and in the average. gift size. We nearly tripled annual giving. That is really powerful and really rewarding. I certainly believe that is not about me, that is about the importance of this organization and the mission. Nobody gives to something they don’t believe in. I am very proud of the increased level of giving. It speaks to the promising future of the organization. Our preservation needs are significant. There is more work to do, it is critical work…it is exciting work and rewarding work.

In closing: I will continue to be a huge advocate for and fan of this organization, and working toward its success.

Celebrating Wright’s Birthday

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 148th birthday was celebrated at a traditional gathering at Taliesin Saturday June 6 and a day later at SC Johnson in Racine, Wisconsin. Wright designed the company’s Administration Building in 1936 and Research Tower in 1943/44.

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark HertzbergSean Malone chats with Minerva Montooth during the reception at Taliesin.

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Ron McCrea enjoys playing the living room piano when he visits Taliesin.

The reception at Taliesin was followed by dinner – including a birthday cake – and music at Hillside School:

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Prairie 50th Graduation

SC Johnson’s celebration was held in Fortaleza Hall, designed by Lord Norman Foster and partners. There were two sheet cakes and a large cake modeled after Wright’s buildings. The base below the model building was made from compressed Rice Krispie treats and chocolate mix.

Children played with Lincoln Logs, a toy invented by John Lloyd Wright

Bob and Jeanne Maushammer wanted their picture taken with a life-size cutout photo of Wright. The Maushammers, who have seen several hundred of Wright’s buildings, were in their hometown of Racine to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Mr. Wright’s Birthday Dinner at Hillside Dining Room

(c) Mark Hertzberg

Several hundred people celebrated Frank Lloyd Wright’s 147th birthday at an annual dinner given in the Hillside dining room following a reception at Taliesin, Saturday June 7. It is a joy and a privilege to be invited to this festive celebration. It is a time to see friends and professional acquaintances, and to meet new people.

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Mr. Wright was born on June 8. I graduated from high school June 8, 1968 (6.8.68). Sometimes I chuckle about the coincidence.