Susan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Taliesin Fellowship
September 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Taliesin Fellowship welcomed its first students in October, 1932. As conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright and his wife Olgivanna, the Fellowship was a school for architecture and the allied arts based on apprentice training. Shirley and Myron Marty, co-authors of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship, describe the Wrights’ unconventional intentions in this succinct way:
In a rural Wisconsin setting, free of the curricular and geographical constraints of colleges and universities, they [apprentices] would learn by doing.
Throughout her life Susan was interested in progressive educational concepts. Most notably she generously supported with her time and money the Hillside Home School of Wright’s aunts (see Chapter 16 of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House). Consequently, the following excerpt from a letter she wrote to Wright on August 17, 1933, is not surprising:
[I] am desirous of running up to Spring Green for a day to see what you are doing there. I saw a very major report in a paper article of some work or project you were working out there. It caught my interest so thought I would like to give it a look over.
In his response to Susan dated August 21, 1933, Wright’s inner salesman emerged. He opened the letter by assuring her that she would approve of the venture because it is a way to salvage what Susan and her mother encouraged “years and years and years ago.” Presumably he was referring to his genius. Wright’s next paragraph wistfully regrets that there is little of the Lawrence fortune left. If only Susan had some money, she could build a cottage at Taliesin on waterfront hillside property for $1200 and watch the Fellowship grow first hand while investing what talents and money she could afford.
Since Susan was struggling to overcome enormous debts at that time, Wright didn’t make a sale. However, he made a Friend of the Fellowship. In a December, 1933, brochure promoting the Taliesin Fellowship, 137 names are listed as “Friends of the Fellowship.” These are individuals who endorsed the revolutionary educational concept. It is a 1933 who’s who. The list includes such notables as Jane Addams, Chicago; Albert Einstein, Princeton; Buckminster Fuller, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Jens Jensen, Chicago; John Dewey, New York; Edna St. Vincent Millay, New York; Georgia O’Keeffe, New York; Dorothy Parker, New York; and Suzan Lawrence, Springfield, Illinois. I hope Susan gained some satisfaction with the inclusion of her (misspelled) name on that elite list at a low point in her life.