Among the nearly 300 attendees of the Conservancy’s 2020 virtual conference were eight graduate students and young professionals who applied for and were awarded free admission through the competitive John G. Thorpe Young Professionals and Students Fellowship. After the conference, we asked the fellows to reflect on the experience and share thoughts:
Hosted virtually in the wake of COVID-19, I expected this year’s conference to go much differently. I was beyond excited to network and discuss the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright, along with the impressive preservation efforts of the Conservancy, face-to-face. However, much to my delight, I was still given the incredible opportunity to meet countless amazing participants during each online session. As a relatively new member of the Conservancy, I also did not anticipate such a large display of diversity among its members. I knew Wright’s work was encompassing, but this conference really gave me the chance to experience how his work has rippled out tenfold around the globe and how his creative spirit has charmed its way through generations of us in the field.
Although difficult to narrow down, I believe my favorite session from the conference was Wright Sites x PechaKucha. This session was a lightning round of information, discussing the innovative projects by which members are dedicating their time to preserve Wright’s work. The Homeowners & Public Sites session was a close second that hosted virtual tours of a few Wright designs, as well, which gave me an insider’s perspective on how preservation is accomplished every day. While it is unfortunate that I missed many in-person tours, nothing can compare to the unique, wonderful experience I had attending this conference virtually. I cherish the dedication of John G. Thorpe to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and I appreciate the legacy both of these gentlemen have left for me to learn from as a fellow and member.
I am so honored that I was able to attend the November 2020 Saving Wright Now virtual conference as a Thorpe Fellow. It was a great experience to learn from the many individuals in the Frank Lloyd Wright community, as well as virtually meet fellow students and young professionals with an interest in architecture and preservation issues. The wide variety of academic backgrounds was impressive. I was especially pleased hearing from individuals across the nation who have a passion for preserving Wright’s legacy. Many have committed to being stewards of his many homes, which at times entails making hard choices (the Bachman-Wilson House’s move from New Jersey to Arkansas comes to mind). In my historic preservation graduate program at Goucher College, we regularly discuss the importance of long-term stewardship of the built environment, so it was inspiring to see this in practice.
The conference also confirmed, once again, the high caliber of Wright. His genius never ceases to amaze me. I will always remember the first time I visited his home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois and being in complete awe. It ignited my interest in his buildings that has carried onto this day as I have sought out his craftsmanship, from the Hollyhock House to Fallingwater. It also created a passion for visiting other cultural resources around the nation. It is important that individuals, young and old, are able to visit his sites, as it makes them better stewards of our nation’s many historic and cultural resources. Finally, despite Wright’s ingenuity, I appreciated Justin Gunther’s keynote address and his mentioning the need to tell “more inclusive” stories, which is something I strongly believe in. I think it is fantastic that we can take one man’s legacy and from that branch off to tell many diverse stories. This documentation is not only important, but it also engages a wider audience across many different communities.
Thank you for making my participation at the conference possible. I am excited to be a Thorpe Fellow, as well as a member of the Wright community of stewards.
Robert Louis Brandon Edwards:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to join the long list of incredible fellows this year. Through your generous scholarship, I was able to take part in meaningful, thought provoking and educational conversations with preservationists, architects, scholars, other historians. As a cultural and architectural historian and preservationist, I am inspired and interested in not only the design of built environment but also the maintenance, preservation, history, and the people involved. I am interested in the parts of the stories that are often forgotten or ignored and to echo what has been coming to surface around the world, I was thrilled to have some honest conversations and critically re-contextualize Frank Lloyd Wright and his work in the varying cultural landscapes in this country.
Although the conference was virtual this year, I am still grateful to have had the opportunity to listen in on some enlightening talks by the owners, property managers, and preservationists of Wright’s designs. I learned so much about their day to day experiences. As someone who has worked at a Wright site, it was nice to connect with other people who have similar experiences and are members of a very special club.
I met many wonderful people and saw some familiar faces— all I hope to reconnect with soon and keep in contact with.
I wanted to extend my sincere thanks for the opportunity to attend this year’s Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy Conference through the John G. Thorpe Fellowship.
Though participation in the fellowship this year is undoubtedly different than in the past, the passion for Wright’s work was made apparent in many ways throughout the week. The conference presenters did an amazing job of highlighting the breadth of work being done to explore Wright’s legacy and the novel ways in which that legacy can be shared with the general public.
As a recent graduate and a new member of the historic preservation field, I believe it’s imperative that young professionals gain exposure to the problems facing the preservation of cultural heritage and the cutting edge solutions that are implemented in response. The 2020 virtual conference did just that. The events that stood out in particular to me included the virtual tour of the Imperial Hotel, the relocation of Wright structures roundtable and the future of the public site roundtable. Respectively, these events presented compelling studies into how Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy intersects with digital technology, building technology and larger shifts in the role significant sites play in our contemporary culture.
Finally, I was very impressed with how attentive the conservancy staff was towards creating a network for the 2020 fellows, both through the virtual lunch meet-up and the creation of a Google group for future discussion amongst fellows. I really appreciate that effort and hope to utilize these resources as I enter the professional world.
Thank you again for affording me the opportunity to attend the FLWBC 2020 Virtual Conference.
I am grateful for the opportunity of attending the Saving Wright Now conference as a Fellow for the 2020 Conference. While the traditional conference is held in person, I was absolutely amazing at the virtual setting this year. The presentations, roundtables, and house tours were all extremely information and interesting. Some of my favorite moments from the conference include homeowners’ stories of restoration and the Booth Cottage presentation. While I have never heard of a PechaKucha presentation style, I greatly enjoyed the images presented in a fast manner with a story being told to follow those images.
This conference has allowed me to see even more Frank Lloyd Wright structures, especially those in private ownership, that I would not have seen otherwise. When I was little, my parents believed in visiting historic homes and sites all over the United States, some of these being designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. My two favorites are Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater. With all of these trips to historic places, my parents thought that they had scared me away from Historic Preservation. After completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Mary Washington, I worked in plaster restoration on the historic Old Petersburg Hotel in Petersburg, Virginia. I am currently a first-year student at the Clemson University/College of Charleston Masters in Historic Preservation Program.
By attending conference, like the Saving Wright Now conference, I am able to learn more about influential people of our past and make connections with people who share my same views on preservation. Thank you again for this opportunity and I hope to attend the conference when it is in person.
Sowmya Poosapadi Subramania Raja:
It is a great delight for me to be a part of the FLWBC Thorpe Fellowship. I am overwhelmed and grateful to the Organisation and the team for giving all the fellows such a friendly and welcoming environment into the FLWBC family. It was a blessing in disguise to interact and be amongst the International Architectural and Conservation Fraternity, researchers, Co-fellows, Experts, Emerging Professionals, Budding students.
As a Heritage Enthusiast, the Nature-Culture Linkage was a splendid journey. The virtual platform has given immense heartfelt content and satisfaction. It has given the vibes of living in the FLB and his principles. It was a revival of an architectural student’s memories of studying FL Wright’s work in History of Architecture. The context and perception transformation from student to young professional with virtual tours and interactions was a great pleasure.
The passion for conservation geared up with the session, and it widened the perception of Conservation.
Xi Nancy Zhao:
Thank you so much for the generous scholarship from the Thorpe Family and Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. Even though this year the conference was held virtually, it was very exciting and educational. Especially, I enjoyed attending the virtual lunch meet‐up, where all the fellows got together and stay connected. During the conference, I learned how to preserve Wright legacy now considering time of change. During the homeowners & public sites preservation Happy Hour, I saw members discussed methods for construction and maintenance.
Everyone in the world needs to be grateful for the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and Thorpe Family because of their great commitment for preserving Wright’s legacy which is an important part of architecture history.
Donations are accepted year-round for the John G. Thorpe Fellowship. Just make a donation and specify in the notes field that it is for the Thorpe Fellowship.
Thanks to support from the Keepers Preservation Education Fund, five staff members from public Wright sites were also able to attend the conference free of charge: Mary Beth Peterson of the Laurent House; Gina Miano of the Martin House; Kristi Jamrisko Gross and Sylvia Winterling of the Pope-Leighey House; and Heidi Ruehle of Unity Temple Restoration Foundation.
Posted on March 4, 2021