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Taliesin is a Way of Life

April 22nd, 2021

Taliesin is a Way of Life

By Caroline Hamblen

Like many unique places worldwide, Taliesin brings people of all backgrounds and interests together around a shared belief in a greater purpose. This purpose has always been to explore how the natural environment, human-made structures, and humans come together to create beauty. This beauty is dependent on each element existing in a “harmonious” way, enhancing its counterparts as if “Nature had intended for it to be there.”

The driving force of Taliesin culture is the creation and experience of beauty. Cultivation of beauty manifests in so many ways. There is beauty in an unexpected interaction with a co-worker, in sharing the buildings with visitors who enter the living room for the first time, or in seeing students’ faces light up during their visit. There is beauty in picking sun-ripened tomatoes alongside garden volunteers or in sharing a home-cooked meal with fellow residents; beauty in having inspiring conversations with neighbors, or in hosting visiting artists, friends, or professional partners.

The Hamblen children work in the kitchen garden. 2020. Taliesin is a Way of Life.

The Hamblen children work in the kitchen garden. 2020

There is a stunning beauty in the natural setting of Taliesin, embedded in this unique corner of the Driftless Region with its farmlands, wetlands, orchards, prairies, and woodlands. Endless beauty, regardless of the moment of the day or the time of year: a gentle fog, rising from the farm fields on a crisp fall morning; starry night skies revealing the Milkyway and the Big Dipper; the contrast of snow-covered branches of century-old oaks against a blue sky; the first calls of Sandhill Cranes returning to the valley;  dancing fireflies (“night fairies,” as my sons would call them) in the grasses on a steamy summer evening. And let’s not forget the beauty of Wright’s organic architecture itself.

Culture is the growth of a group identity fostered by social patterns unique to the group. It is a learned behavior.

If Taliesin’s culture is living, experiencing, and creating beauty, and if culture is a learned behavior, how is that culture being discovered, taught, or perpetuated? And what may the future of Taliesin’s culture look like?

Caroline Hamblen playing the violin in the Hillside Drafting Studio. 2020

Something I know from experience is that “Taliesin is a way of life.” Wright says so himself in his 1933 Fellowship prospectus. He calls the Taliesin Fellowship (Taliesin’s original shared-culture community) an “experiment that must depend on the quality of our membership and upon the spirit of co-operation felt and practiced by every member.”

Wright’s quote is a compelling statement. It implies that the ‘Taliesin Way of Life’, which encompasses that shared culture, depends on each of us to embrace and practice the creation and cultivation of beauty in its harmonious sense.

Taliesin’s culture is also a giving culture. The beauty of Taliesin’s natural setting and buildings and the richness of its culture exist for us to experience for as long as we are willing to see, experience, share and invest in it.

Wright puts it bluntly: “If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life”.

Caroline teaching students. 2017. Taliesin is a Way of Life.

Caroline teaching students. 2017

The decision to embrace Taliesin’s culture rests with each of us. The more we actively seek to learn, understand and invest in it, the more we will be able to make it a part of our lives. In this way, it is no different from experiencing the culture of a foreign country. Maybe we spent a year abroad or spent a short vacation: the deeper we engage with the culture, the more we become immersed in it. We can take a piece of it home with us in the form of a recipe, a new language, rituals or traditions, celebrations, or simply memories of time well spent.

Taliesin’s culture will always be there for us, but only if we actively receive and cultivate it. Regardless of our country of origin, skin color, age, background, capabilities, or interests, Taliesin will be there to inspire, shine, stun, challenge, and move us. So long as we invest in it, it will “remain with us all the days of your life.”