Last December, the school, which consists of Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisc., launched a campaign to raise $2 million by the end of this year to prove fiduciary responsibility and become an independently incorporated organization. The school is currently operated by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which has a multi-faceted mission of maintaining the two Taliesin campuses and preserving art and design collections of Wright’s. The school must become an independent entity in order to maintain its accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which is mandated by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, the agency that evaluates all U.S. master's degree programs in the field.
In 2012, the HLC passed bylaw changes that required the school to file for incorporation and granted the school up to three years to make the necessary changes. In order to comply with the HLC’s new policy, the foundation would have to continue funding the school, while ceding its governance of the school itself. The foundation's board refused to fund the school without retaining decision-making authority and launched the fundraiser instead. If the school is unsuccessful in its efforts, it will lose its accreditation with the HLC.
The goals when the fundraiser launched were $1 million by March 27 and another $1 million by Dec. 31. However, in March, when Aaron Betsky, an ARCHITECT contributor, became dean of the school, the foundation’s board of directors extended the March deadline to Aug. 27. In March, Betsky expressed confidence that the institution would meet its goals. “We believe we are on track,” he said, in a conversation with ARCHITECT.
If the campaign is successful, under the new structure, the foundation would contribute over $1 million annually in facilities-related expenses due to the school's use of the two Taliesin campuses. The foundation would also pay an additional subsidy of $580,000 to the school in 2015, with decreasing levels of such transitional support over the next five years.
"If we do not meet the Aug. 27 threshold, then the foundation is deeply committed to developing and launching new programs and/or partnerships with other accredited schools of architecture—harnessing the inspiration, impact, and legacy of students living, learning, exploring, and creating at Frank Lloyd Wright’s historic Taliesin and Taliesin West," said foundation president and CEO Sean Malone and school board chair Jacalyn Lynn, in a joint statement to ARCHITECT.
Read the March 2015 Q+A with Aaron Betsky on the future of the school here.