Neighborhood Place

Neighborhood Place

Taliesin West boosts events to draw locals

By Niki D’Andrea

From Shakespeare plays and pottery classes to tours and a speaker series, events and attractions are ramping up at Taliesin West, the winter home of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and site of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and School of Architecture.

Established in 1937, the 620-acre complex has long been considered a draw for fans of architecture and desert ecology, mostly from out of town. For locals, there has been the perception that once you’ve visited Taliesin West and taken a tour, there’s nothing more to see and no reason to go back regularly.

The team at Taliesin West would like to change that perception. Sure, a variety of tours are available, including the popular “Insights Tour” ($34-$36) that takes visitors on a 1.5-hour journey through Wright’s private living quarters, as well as the garden room, music pavilions and cabaret theater; the “Desert Shelter” tour ($45) that gives guests a glimpse of the student-built shelters and residences dotting the desert; and a “Night Lights Tour” ($40, reservations required) that takes place under starry skies and includes a fire-breathing dragon sculpture. There’s also a tour of Wright’s private art collection and a guided garden walk. But there’s so much more happening on the property, says Jeff Goodman, director of marketing and communications at Taliesin West.

“This is one of the most important architectural sites in the world, and it’s right here in Scottsdale,” Goodman says. “We want people in Arizona to know it’s here, to come here, and to be proud of it.”

There are two theaters on the property, a music pavilion and a cabaret, and each space hosts various events. The newest is the “Taliesin Next” Speaker Series, which launched in March and continues through early May (see sidebar). The series features experts speaking on a range of topics, from sustainability and Wright’s interchange with Japan to the importance of historic houses and the petroglyphs of Paradise Valley.

“As we embrace the rich history of innovation and social good at Taliesin and Taliesin West, we also explore what this can mean for our future,” says Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. “With Taliesin Next, we’re inviting the community into this conversation about how to live better. With this array of discussions hosted by both the school and the foundation, we’re thrilled to welcome the community to Taliesen West, Wright’s desert laboratory for engaging, forward-looking dialogue.”

In addition to the speaker series, Taliesin West also hosts performances, including some special engagements by Southwest Shakespeare Company, musical performances by string and chamber ensembles, and classes on everything from architecture to photography. “Even if you don’t care about Frank Lloyd Wright and you come here for a play or a class, you’re going to care about Frank Lloyd Wright when you leave,” Goodman says.

Events and classes fit with the hands-on, in-the-moment approach guides take to the tours. Guests are encouraged to actually use the rooms – to walk across the floors, sit in the chairs and look out the windows to see Wright’s brilliantly designed panoramic views of the surrounding desert, particularly the McDowell Mountains, which are fantastically framed throughout the property. “The cost of letting people sit on the furniture and walk on the carpet is that things need to be replaced,” Goodman says. But it’s worth it, he added.

“We don’t want it to be a house museum; we want it to be a living site,” Goodman says. “We don’t want to keep this place to ourselves. We want to share it with the community.”