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The Art of Cheese Festival: Part III

Elizabeth Maske October 16th, 2023
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Erin Crowley speaks to arriving festival guests

Taliesin’s Tragic Tale: Love, Loss, and Legacy

Erin Crowley, Taliesin Preservation’s Visitor Experience Manager, met the festival guests in the Taliesin Orchard, where she introduced agricultural operations at Taliesin, which played a crucial role in Wright’s, a self-proclaimed farmer’s, life. Crowley points to a decorative red grate marking the spot of a former pigpen and, next to it, a chicken coop converted to apprentice housing. Coinciding with the dairy theme, she detailed Wright’s preference for Guernsey cows, appreciating their aesthetics even over a more milk-producing Holstein. “[Wright] felt the Holstein cows looked like a crumpled-up newspaper on the landscape, and if you had to have them because they produce more milk, you should put them at the back of your property.”

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Luke describes the history of Wright and Taliesin on the Taliesin Hillcrown

As guests arrived on the hill crown, the beloved spot where Wright once took refuge from farm work on his Uncles’ homestead, Zahm reminisced about a past winter spent here, braving the elements. He shared the story of We Must Be Bold, a group that also advocates for the dairy industry, recounting how they convened creatives from across the nation for immersive workshops on the property and the tragic loss of their leader and Taliesin Preservation’s first Creative in Residence, Hugh Weber. Using convening creatives at Taliesin as a thread between present and past, he delved into the concept of Wrightian Fellows, apprentices committed to learning from Wright, and their role in cultivating food on the estate as part of their holistic education.

The narrative then turned to Taliesin III, standing as the third incarnation of Wright’s original architectural vision. The air grew heavy as Luke recounted the Taliesin fires, tying the narrative to how the house has bore witness to love and loss. He noted it was here that Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick had initially sought refuge in their shared affection, crafting a haven for themselves; and here, how those scars echo in the architecture itself. 

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Luke mingles with guests en route to exploring the house

His narrative wove through Frank’s tumultuous personal life, encompassing marriages, familial ties, and profound losses, highlighting Wright’s evolving architectural philosophy despite personal tribulations. He mentioned how Wright’s third wife, Olgivanna, became a guiding presence, as well as the arrival of Svetlana Stalin, adding a surreal touch to the tapestry of personalities that once populated the estate.

As guests prepared to explore the house, they were urged to take in the diverse artworks and intricate designs and to pay specific attention to the humbleness of Wright’s bed. In a moment of introspection, Luke shared that Hugh Weber once showed him a photograph of the placement of Wright’s bed by the window, which he believed was positioned there so he could gaze upon Mamah’s final resting place, Unity Chapel, from his bedroom. In doing so, Zahm ties the story back to sentiment:

“Personally, I believe in the transformational power of love. Every time before I step in front of a camera, I have a mantra that I whisper to myself. And it’s based on neuroscience. Behavioral contagions mirror neurons. If I put out love, you’ll feel love. In the Jungian scope, if I put out fear, you’re more than likely to feel that fear. With that in mind, I’m going to ask you, walk through the architectural space, walk through the home of one of the foremost geniuses in architecture, and open your hearts to feeling the love.”

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Buttermilk pound cake with Organic Valley whipped cream, Crave Brothers mascarpone, and strawberries.

With hearts open, the guests began venturing into the courtyard, but before they dispersed, Luke offered a final invitation: “Have a snack before you go,” inviting them to try the third course, one boasting an award-winning Crave Brothers Farmstead mascarpone, strawberries from Reedstown, Organic Valley whipped cream sweetened with just a bit of vanilla and maple, and topped with a touch of lemon balm and anise hyssop. 

In the idyllic surroundings of Taliesin, “Breaking the Mold in Cheese and Architecture” uniquely merged the realms of culinary indulgence and architectural appreciation. Zahm’s unwavering commitment to celebrating the skilled artisans of the Driftless Region, both past and present, left attendees with a heightened understanding of the enduring creativity that is, has been, and will always emanate from the heartland of America.

Breaking the Mold in Cheese and Architecture