FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

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SDR
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Post by SDR »

A pertinent question, one which I would be interested to see answered. However, I don't believe that showing student work intended to be consumed
by those students, as distinct from client work product from those students after graduation, gives a fair picture of their work---and their education.

The shelters at Taliesin West are decidedly of the former variety, aren't they ?

S

NickSpellman
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Post by NickSpellman »

From The FLLW Foundation Blog:

Stuart Graff, CEO 1/31/2020:

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 the Taliesin campuses entirely or use 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 and 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 wrote in the press, 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. And 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. ■

DavidC
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Post by DavidC »


DavidC
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Post by DavidC »


DavidC
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by DavidC »


DavidC
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by DavidC »


DavidC
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by DavidC »


Roderick Grant
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by Roderick Grant »

wrightasrain, I think that the quality of the structures is not that important. These are students, trying to figure out how to do things. They fail more often than succeed, but learn more from their failures than their successes. But one point may be made: The failures should be deleted.

DavidC
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by DavidC »


DavidC
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by DavidC »


Roderick Grant
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by Roderick Grant »

That's good news ... I think. Given Taliesin's shaky economics over the past few decades, it seems a long shot, but it sounds like something they would do. They will need a great deal of money to pull it off.

DavidC
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by DavidC »


outside in
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by outside in »

kind of a snarky response, no?

JimM
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by JimM »

I guess I simply don't completely understand the tremendous disconnect between the school and foundation. I've always felt the school to be a logical priority, and as part of a whole, almost justifying the marketing of Wright; the foundations primary stock in trade over the years. Without such priceless physical assets any organization would have difficulty finding its way, especially the foundation considering the unique situation with all things Wright (so how did TAA end up working out for you guy's?). It just seems strange that the foundation, with an erratic journey itself, doesn't appear to feel any symbiosis with an undeniably relevant appendage-regardless of all that financial independence and accreditation stuff. I don't know the whole story, but from what I've seen, much from the foundation does not ring of complete honesty or truth. In a quite business-like manner they come across as almost contemptuous of the school. Why? All I got out of the post was "hey, good luck finding a place for your school... rather than enable losers we'll continue to monetize Wright for all it's worth with anyone who will pay". Olgivanna would be proud.

Rood
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Re: FLW SOA - SOAT CLOSES JUNE 2020

Post by Rood »

The trouble is that originally the "School" and the Foundation were primarily conceived as one and the same ... one complemented the other. Today, lacking an architectural arm, which once largely supported both the Foundation and the "School", the Foundation has no real purpose, other than to make enough money to pay the 'help" and to maintain the buildings and grounds. God only knows if a solution will ever be found.

Bruce Pfeiffer once told me that the archives, alone, were worth "billions", but I doubt that was ever true.

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