Part I in a two-part series regarding a recently announced four-year studio project between the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and Globe-Miami, Arizona, beginning in 2016 and extending through 2019.
The unlikely pairing of an internationally recognized school of architecture and a small rural mining community over the next four years will undoubtedly cause a stir and pique interest in a long-term project that might be called The Grand Experiment.
As 2015 drew to a close, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture—also known as Taliesin and Taliesin West—agreed to establish a never-been-done-before, four-year studio project in Globe-Miami focused on revitalization and community engagement. The agreement comes about after the community was instrumental in raising nearly half of the funding necessary to secure Taliesin’s future, which had been in question because of a federal ruling that affected their funding – which has always been closely tied to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
“Many people wrote us off,” says Jason Donofrio, the Director of Development for Taliesin, noting articles in the press in early 2015 that raised questions about the school’s future. What these predictions failed to factor into the equation was the strong support that would come from those in the architectural community who did not want to see the school go away—and the incredible, albeit unlikely savior that came in the form of the Globe-Miami community.
A meeting of like minds
Molly Cornwell, a business owner in downtown Globe, was at her shop last January when a group from Taliesin first came to Globe to look around.
“They showed up on Super Bowl Sunday,” she laughs – and as anyone who has been to this small town would guess, few businesses were open. So the group, which included both instructors and students, wandered into her shop and struck up a conversation.
“They were interested in the Copper Corridor and seeing if it would make a good studio project for the school,” she says.
Cornwell was one of the best people they could have bumped in to. She was not only familiar with Taliesin, and Frank Lloyd Wright – she had been at the heart of Globe’s Main Street Program and downtown district for over ten years. They hit it off right away, and Cornwell knew that what the group was talking about could be a huge opportunity for the area.
She quickly got ahold of Kip Culver, the Director of Globe’s Main Street Program, who was taking one of his rare days off. He agreed to come down to meet the group and soon moved their discussion to the Train Depot, where they pulled more people into the meeting.
Nearly a dozen people came to the Depot that day, many who had worked on Main Street projects in the past, like former mayor Fernando Shipley, who was willing to leave the family Super Bowl Party, according to Cornwell, to brainstorm yet another potential project for the area.
That one session turned into a six-hour discussion on visions that had been realized, attempted or stalled in the area. The Taliesin group left with promises to return.
Then they came back. Again and again.
Cornwell laughs again recalling those earlier sessions, and says many of the ideas that the Taliesin students would think of – such as a river walk, making bikes available for use by visitors downtown, drawing the eye downtown with landscaping, and creating visitor-friendly signage by embedding directional signage into the street – were all ideas that had been discussed and/or implemented before, as part of Globe’s Main Street program or M.O.B. (My Own Backyard) – the group of downtown stakeholders formed in 2010 when the Main Street program received a $98,000 grant for streetscaping in the downtown district.
Far from discouraging the Taliesin group, the plethora of ideas that had already been envisioned or launched in the community confirmed for the school more than ever that this was the place they wanted to be.
In Part II, we’ll explore how Globe-Miami became the focus of a Taliesin four-year studio project.