By Carrie Rodamaker
History surrounds us, each and every day. But what does it teach us? How do we use the past to guide our future? That was a common theme at the 2019 PastForward Conference in Denver, Colorado, where Taliesin Preservation received the Trustees Emeritus Award for Historic Sites Stewardship.
For over a century, Taliesin and the surrounding Driftless hills and valleys in southwest Wisconsin have served as a laboratory for living. This is where Frank Lloyd Wright spent over 50 years of his life, and where he created so many masterpieces like Fallingwater and the Guggenheim Museum. Taliesin was not only Wright’s home, but also his studio, farm, and school—all now a part of his legacy. At Taliesin Preservation, we look to the roots and ideas behind the meaning of Taliesin to help tell the story and guide our future.
Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site
2019 was a critical year for Taliesin Preservation, because it was included as part of a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural, Organization) World Heritage Site that included seven other Wright-designed buildings throughout the United States.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s ancestors emigrated to this area in the mid-1800s, in search of a better way of life, and as Wright spent much of his childhood in the valley; Wright grew to love and appreciate the world where nature, art, community, and work are integrated.
This worldview informed what became Taliesin, an 800-acre estate (three-fourths of which are a National Historic Landmark that was owned by the architect) south of Spring Green, Wisconisn. At Taliesin, Wright established the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932, a progressive architectural program that attracted apprentices from around the world to explore ideas for a better way of life. This model of “learn by doing” continued through the rest of Wright’s life and had an incredible impact on the lives of many generations, that still continues today.
Wright’s Vision Lives On
Taliesin lives on as a vision of Frank Lloyd Wright. A place and an idea; transposed from history to the present. The power of place is manifest in our actions—building a laboratory for living and convening a community—all for the betterment of a shared future that transcends time. We strive through our public programming to tell the whole story of Taliesin through each one of those entry points. Knowing that, just as Wright planned, it is the integration of all these points, which make the whole.
In 2018, Taliesin Preservation launched the Food Artisan Immersion Program. Built on Wright’s apprenticeship model, the Food Artisan Immersion Program is a vision of a healthy environment that seeks to integrate architecture, art, food, farm, community, and the land. Participants complete the program more knowledgeable about sustainable and locally sourced food, the route between seed to compost, artisanal culinary skills, and gardening practices. Our students are learning the true ‘taste of place’ by coming to appreciate the value of the farm, the value of our soil, and the value of our collective communities.
Taliesin’s programs include educational immersions and convening a diverse and global community. Like Wright, we look to continually ask the shared questions about life, and how to build a better way of life for future generations. Programming consists of opportunities for learning and teaching, experimenting and innovating, and gathering and questioning.
Taliesin is not only about embracing the past, but imagining and celebrating collaborative missions for ourselves, our communities, and our world. So whether it’s through architecture, the land, the arts, education, nature or farming, this is a place to experience, explore and express—in an integrated way—perspectives and questions such as “How might we live now?”
For more information on Taliesin Preservation and supporting our mission of preserving the natural, built, and cultural environments and public programming, please visit our website. Like most historic sites around the country Taliesin has been closed to visitors in response to the pandemic, you can learn more about their reopening plan here.
Involved with Taliesin Preservation for 18 years, Carrie has worked within multiple departments, gaining a full understanding of the intricate operations within the organization. In December of 2015, she began her role as Executive Director. Carrie works with her highly skilled team to develop public tours and engaging programs that invite visitors to return to Taliesin time and time again to discover Wright’s legacy in its entirety through meaningful experiences.