The Conservancy welcomed five Thorpe Fellows, who joined with building stewards, scholars and others Wright enthusiasts for our 2023 conference in Minneapolis. These fellows, all either students or professionals early in their careers in the fields of preservation or architecture, applied for and were awarded free registration through the competitive John G. Thorpe Young Professionals and Students Fellowship. After the conference, we asked them to share their reflections on the experience.

Bridget Bartal:

First, I want to say a huge thank you for the opportunity to attend the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy’s 2023 Conference in Minneapolis. The Thorpe Fellowship offered the experience of visiting several awe-inspiring masterpieces of the early Prairie-Style. The conference’s theme and programming were incredibly curated, and it was an honor to present my research on the women of the Taliesin Fellowship to the group.

Beyond the programming itself, the conference offered me invaluable networking experience. As a young scholar conducting ongoing research on the Taliesin Fellowship, the FLWBC Conference facilitated me to connect and re-connect with many curators and scholars in the field. These scholars offered insightful feedback and advice on my research, and it was wonderful to connect face-to-face with several people whose work I have admired for quite a while.

Additionally, many former Taliesin apprentices approached me to share their invaluable, intimate first-hand experiences, which greatly enriched my understanding of the quotidian experiences of Taliesin Fellows. It was an enjoyable and informative trip that completely reinvigorated my own scholarship!

Dariel Chaidez:

I am so happy to have participated in the 2023 Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy annual conference. From beginning to end, the experience was once in a lifetime for someone like me. I have always had a keen interest in architecture, especially that of Frank Lloyd Wright and in recent years, an expressed focus on historic preservation. Up until this point, I had not much to do with my interest other than fawn over his buildings that litter the streets of Oak Park where I live. I received notification of this conference and the Thorpe Fellowship from my professor and thought that me being a historian and teacher had little chance to attend given that I had thought it was reserved for serious architects and preservationists. I applied on a whim and I am grateful that I did because the experience was one of a kind.

There were so many highlights from this year’s conference. The lectures were truly extraordinary. The slate of speakers were diverse in background but similar in their passion for upholding and preserving the Wright structures. Access to this wealth of knowledge is not something I take lightly, being able to speak with knowledgeable people from literal different corners of the globe about a topic I am passionate about was wonderful to say the least. The tours themselves were incredible. Hearing about the stories of these structures and then getting on the bus to go see them in person was like meeting a celebrity having just researched them incessantly for days. I will not forget the feeling of walking into the Purcell-Cutts House and looking out at the perfectly placed fountain in the front yard, or sitting on the uniform bricks in the backyard of the Willey House. These memories are ones that will stay with me and will influence my career. I am beyond grateful for this experience and for all that I learned. I am excited to take this knowledge back to the classroom where it can transform and grow into something beautiful.

Inga McGuire:

To say the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy 2023 Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was better than I could have ever expected would be an understatement. I was surprised when I found out I had been picked as one of the five 2023 Thorpe Fellows and feel honored that I was able to participate. I truly enjoyed all the events and tours, including the pre-conference tour, and especially appreciated the focus on how women played a role in the creation of Wright’s work throughout his 70 year-career. I thought the Conservancy beautifully wove this narrative into the tours and presentations.

Whether in the conference room during the morning presentations or out at our site visits, I was amazed at how approachable many of the board members, homeowners, long time Conservancy members, fellow Thorpe Fellows, and other first-time participants were. Meeting with other preservationists was a highlight of the conference and I appreciate the advice and suggestions that many in the field shared with me. I hope to be as passionate in my career post-graduation as they are. I left the conference with a plethora of new friends, colleagues, and connections that I would not have made without the generosity of the John G. Thorpe Young Professionals & Students Fellowship.

Overall, I learned so much during the conference, and really value the connections I made. I am already looking forward to hopefully attending next year’s conference and continuing my relationship with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.

Mojtaba Saffarian:

The fellowship provided me with a fantastic opportunity to attend the conference and learn a lot from the presentations and tours. After having engaged with Taliesin Associated Architects’ legacy in Iran around 8 years ago, participating in this event allowed me to see the other aspects of Frank Lloyd Wright’s style and his principles that flowed throughout his colleague’s works as well.

Besides having the chance to share my thoughts and story with the people at the conference, meeting some architects and preservationists was another opportunity that helped me to create new connections for my future career.

In the end, I want to appreciate again this unique opportunity that the Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Conservancy provided me with.

Daichi Shigemoto:

The experience I had as a Thorpe Fellow in the five days of the conference was totally new to me. I was not even aware that there was a community like this, in which all kinds of Frank Lloyd Wright fans, including Wright homeowners, preservation architects, scholars, museum curators, docents, and archivists, convene regularly and interact with each other. I talked to many people at the opening reception, during the tours, on the bus, and at the gala and learned a lot of things that I could not learn from books.

Visiting the houses where people still live was also a precious opportunity for me. Most Wright houses I had visited before were like a museum, in which no one lived. Houses like a museum and actual homes lived by someone are entirely different. I can sense the design intentions and attractions more clearly from real homes. It was also my first time visiting houses designed by Wright’s apprentices such as John Howe.

I thank all the staff members, homeowners, and presenters who organized the conference. This time, I only received values from those people, but next time, I would like to give the community some value as a scholar. I will contribute to the knowledge of Wright’s work and influence in Japan, which is still little known in English.

Donations are accepted year-round for the John G. Thorpe Fellowship. You can make a gift in support of the program online here.

Posted November 16, 2023