May 3, 2005
Power will soon be shifted on the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation board in an attempt to remedy the organization’s financial ills and fill its leadership void.
The Scottsdale-based nonprofit manages Taliesin West, the enclave established by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s that’s now one of Scottsdale’s top tourist attractions.
Board members recently came to "agreements in concept" about what’s needed to spark "a regeneration" of the foundation, said chairman Vern Swaback, a Taliesin West-trained S cottsdale architect.
The biggest change will end veto power over the board long held by members of the Taliesin Fellowship. The fellowship consists of the architects and apprentices who live and work at Taliesin West — and its affiliate, Taliesin in Wisconsin — and is charged with carrying on Wright’s legacy.
The veto provision and the fellowship’s additional power to elect or remove public trustees from the board are obstacles to attracting the kind of high-caliber fundraisers the foundation needs, Swaback said.
New bylaws under which the board will be restructured are to be ready in a few weeks, he said.
What some board members and fellowship members describe as years of internal political and philosophical friction has put the foundation on shaky ground.
The result: The chief executive post and four other senior management positions are vacant. Board membership has shrunk from 20 to 12.
The Wright architecture school is without a permanent dean and enrollment has dropped to less than half its usual roster of about 25 students.
Years of waning fundraising also have left the foundation unable to do needed renovations of Taliesin and Taliesin West, spokeswoman Beverly Hart said.
Taliesin West attracts more than 120,000 visitors a year. Revenue from tours and sales of Wright-related merchandise remains strong. It amounted to more than $1.4 million in the first quarter of the year, Taliesin West’s best quarter ever, Hart said.
"But we’re still not a financially healthy organization," she said.
Upward of $50 million is needed in coming years to preserve and expand facilities and programs if the two Taliesin centers are to remain economically viable, said Arnold Roy, a board member and longtime Taliesin West fellow and architect.
The foundation wants to build a visitors center, exhibit space, and an education and conference facility on part of Taliesin West’s 500 acres in the McDowell Mountains foothills, Roy said.