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To Taliesin and Back Again: An Interview with Beth Gelhar

Elizabeth Maske February 2nd, 2024

To some, Wright’s iconic estate is an enigma, tucked away waiting to be discovered. Beth, a Madison, Wisconsin native, shared her journey of uncovering Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture during a recent interview about her experience at Taliesin Preservation’s Kokoro workshop.

“I didn’t know much about Taliesin until the pandemic hit,” Beth confesses, “It’s funny because I actually ended up seeing a house of [Wright’s] in Arkansas, so totally across the country, even though Taliesin is so close.” For Beth, the pandemic provided the opportunity to discover the work of the renowned architect. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to look this person up. I don’t know much about him.’ Then I discovered he was very local, which was kind of funny but also really cool.”

With her curiosity piqued, Beth embarked on the four-hour estate tour at Taliesin, an experience deepening her connection to Wright. “You know history comes alive, just being in a place like that with all of these things that had happened. It was such a great experience that I visited Taliesin a year after that, too.”

When news of the workshops reached her through Taliesin’s e-newsletter, Beth was hesitant. It wasn’t until a friend alerted her to a New York Times article that she decided to take the plunge: 

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“Initially, I was like, ‘This looks cool, but that’s quite a financial investment, so I’m just going to sit on this for a little bit.’ Then one of my friends ended up texting me and saying, ‘Oh, well there is an article about this in the New York Times.’ I actually heard about it before it ended up being in the New York Times and at that point I was like, ‘Okay, I probably need to make a decision,’ which was the right call.”

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Professor Gunji Introduces Kokoro to the Workshop Participants

Beth, especially excited by the sheer quantity of this year’s offerings, selected the Kokoro workshop due to her particular interest in the Japanese influences in Wright’s work. The immersive experience into Wright’s world offered an array of activities, though, for Beth, access to the estate was paramount. “Everybody was super excited about this weekend. I think these workshops are really generous.” She underscores the difference in experience from a regular tour: “The way the workshop was oriented, I felt more like a guest of the estate, versus when you’re on the tour, it’s regimented because there are many tour groups.” The diversity of participants added a special dimension to Beth’s experience:

“The group was very diverse. It was older people, younger people, people from—in one case one lady was from France—and people all over the country came, so it was really cool to just kind of bond with people and see what had drawn them, not only to the workshop but Frank Lloyd Wright’s work… Because Frank Lloyd Wright has been gone for a long time now, it’s the kind of thing I don’t get in my frequent life—an opportunity to discuss [Wright] with other people.”

Beth’s reflections on the workshop experience are both perceptive and appreciative. She underscores the importance of approaching the workshop with an open mind, recognizing the potential for enriching encounters and new perspectives. Her gratitude towards the organizers is evident, as she acknowledges the amount of work taking place behind the scenes to make things appear seamless:

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Calligraphy Lesson in the Hillside Drafting Studio

“I know that people put a ton of work into this. And that was a great thing about it too, was that it all felt very effortless and I am very appreciative that there were structured activities and free time, too… I was recognizing that with every single thing I was doing.”

As the interview draws to a close, Beth reflects on her investment in the experience: “It was a great experience and definitely a financial investment, but I really felt like I got my money’s worth,” she concludes. “It’s definitely something that I would consider doing in the future, even more so because it was a very unique opportunity that I feel a lot of people just don’t get.”

Beth’s journey, from a casual visitor to Wright enthusiast, highlights the impact of Wright’s architecture and the immersive experiences offered at Taliesin. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the most extraordinary discoveries are waiting just around the corner.