THE ROOTS OF TALIESIN
Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, was formally initiated in 1932 when twenty-three apprentices came to live and learn at Taliesin. The sources of this educational philosophy have roots that go back much further than the 1930s. The program of the School, while remaining remarkably true to its heritage, has evolved through experience and the need to address changing times.
In 1931, Frank and Olgivanna Lloyd Wright circulated a prospectus to an international group of distinguished scholars, artists, and friends, announcing their plan to form a school at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin to “Learn by Doing.”
“The fine arts, so called,” they asserted, “should stand at the center as inspiration grouped about architecture . . . . (of which landscape and the decorative arts would be a division).” Education at Taliesin would emphasize painting, sculpture, music, drama, and dance “in their places as divisions of architecture.”
Each of these elements of the fine arts, as the Wrights conceived them, would lead to broader learning: “Drama would be studied as the essential structure of all great literature;” while “Music would mean the fundamental study of sound and rhythm as an emotional reaction both as to original character and present nature.”
They anticipated a core faculty, “resident foremen,” at Taliesin supplemented by “a guest-system of visitation, consultation and criticism” and faculty from the “nearest university” who would make philosophy and psychology and other disciplines available “by extension work.” The “Wisconsin Idea” at the University of Wisconsin conceived of the entire State as a classroom, and the Wrights with close friends at the University proposed to make full use of it.
The students, or “apprentices,” would round out their education in the spirit of Tolstoy’s “What to Do.”
“The entire work of feeding and caring for the student body so far as possible should be done by itself . . . work in the gardens, fields, animal husbandry, laundry, cooking, cleaning, serving should rotate among the students according to some plan that would make them all do their bit with each kind of work at some time.”
The ambitious plan for an endowed school exceeded the Wright’s capacity to attract funds in the second full year of the Great Depression. So the next year, 1932, they issued a more modest circular announcing the formation of the Taliesin Fellowship and inviting young people to venture to Taliesin. The Fellowship would organize around the principles they had articulated in 1931, and the program now called the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, has generally evolved along these lines.
But the sources of these ideas go back much further than the early 1930s. They rested on the Wrights’ own experience.
Copyright 2016, Taliesin Fellows