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A Wright Aficionado’s Kokoro Adventure: An Interview with Joan Pantsios

Elizabeth Maske January 12th, 2024
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Tea Ceremony in the Taliesin Living Room

A chance encounter with an article in the New York Times led Joan Pantsios to Taliesin’s Kokoro Workshop.”When I read about the workshop’s focus on the concept of ‘Kokoro,’ which I didn’t know much about, and dove into Professor Gunji’s writings, I was immediately drawn to it,” she shared. Her expectations were not rigidly defined but driven by her interest in the intersection of Wright’s work and Japanese culture. The weekend offered a unique opportunity to immerse at Taliesin, and she was curious to see how the workshop would approach Wright’s ties with Japan.

Joan, based in Chicago, was no stranger to Taliesin, having previously visited the property during a four-hour tour a few years back. Her connection with Wright runs deep, as she gives tours for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, guiding visitors through architectural gems like the Robie House, the Rookery, and Unity Temple.

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Tai Chi lesson outside of Hillside

The weekend unfolded with a vibrant blend of engagement and exploration. An evening reception in the living room followed by a tour focused on Wright’s Japanese art collection shaped a new interpretative tone for the house. Tai chi sessions brought participants closer to nature, enabling them to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of their surroundings. “Listening to birdsong and gazing at the trees, the sky, and the landscape during tai chi was an enchanting experience,” Joan said.

Lectures by Tim Gruner, curator at Anderson Japanese Gardens, “changed [her] entire perception of trees.” The group also dove into the relationship between the tea ceremony and the garden, examining the intricate connection between architecture and the natural world. Calligraphy sessions with Professor Kimiko Gunji added an artistic dimension to the experience.

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The "Kokoro Crew" enjoys lunch at the Riverview Terrace

Reflecting on her return to Taliesin, Joan emphasized the value of having access to stay on the property to fully appreciate the architecture, landscape, and natural world. “Staying at Tan-y-Deri for a weekend was a whole different way to appreciate what [Wright] did and what he was about,” she enthused. She recalled the morning rituals at Taliesin, which set the tone for each day. “Looking out the window and seeing the sunrise and the blues and corals and pinks was astonishing!”

One standout aspect of the workshop was the progressive dinner arranged by the participants during their free time. The dinner, where participants offered each other small bites at each of their lodgings, not only offered an opportunity to see where everyone was staying but also fostered a sense of community, resulting in the creation of a WhatsApp group titled the “Kokoro Krew.”

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Workshop presentation by Tim Gruner

When asked about the workshop’s impact on her, Joan highlighted how it deepened her awareness of living in the moment, a concept central to Kokoro. She expressed her gratitude for the warm and welcoming atmosphere created by Professor Gunji and Tim Gruner, whom she visited again shortly after the workshop for a tea ceremony held at Anderson Japanese Gardens.