On January 25, the Taliesin School of Architecture suddenly faced its end when the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation deemed it was financially unfeasible to continue the 88-year-old operation. The abrupt closure sent shockwaves through the school, spurring students to write letters to the school’s board and to set up a Change.org petition that’s now gathered more than 10,000 signatures.
Due to the outcry, Taliesin’s board of directors has rescinded its previous decision to close the facility—and the foundation has announced that it is willing to entertain a rebuttal.
A statement issued issued by the foundation on Friday reaffirms the terms: "If [we] allow for the use of Taliesin and Taliesin West by any independent organization, it is imperative that the work that will occur on these two campuses reflect both financial soundness and professional programmatic content that can advance the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright."
The statement shows the foundation’s skepticism over the school’s income sources, "which remain to be vetted by the school’s accreditors, its lawyers, and its own finance committee," it says.
Aside from low enrollment numbers this past semester, the school’s dean, Aaron Betsky is perplexed over what isn’t financially sound about the school—or promising about its future. "We pay for every leaf of lettuce," he says. "And we have the largest class of incoming students in the history of the school."
The foundation is also concerned about whether the program will be able to course-correct in the wake of the departure of Betsky. Since joining the school in 2015, he has raised $2 million for its financial independence. This spring will be his final term at the school, which presents a significant question mark punctuating the pending closure.
As deliberations take place over the future of the school and the Taliesin estates, both the foundation and the school share an interest in proliferating the teachings of Frank Lloyd Wright. To do so side by side, the school’s plan must be deemed sound by the foundation. No progress has been announced since Friday’s statements.
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