Taliesin West
Greg O'Beirne/Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons license Taliesin West

To become financially autonomous, the Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) School of Architecture is launching the Campaign for Independence, a fundraiser with the goal of raising $2 million by the end of 2015. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation approved a possible path towards independent incorporation of the school at a board meeting on Dec. 5 and officially announced the campaign on Dec. 12, stipulating that autonomy relies on successful fundraising.

To achieve independence, the school must receive gifts and pledges for an initial $1 million by March 27, 2015, and gifts and pledges for an additional $1 million by Dec. 31, 2015. The ultimate goal of $2 million is about twice the amount of money that the foundation raised in 2013—which more than doubled its annual giving over the previous two years—to support all the projects that it funds.

The FLW School of Architecture, which includes campuses at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Taliesin in Spring Green, Wis., is part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which also runs the two Taliesins and helps maintain collections of Wright’s work. The school has about 20 students currently enrolled.

A pending accreditation loss due to bylaw changes established by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in 2012 forced the school to consider its options for remaking the institution. HLC accreditation is required by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, the agency that evaluates all U.S. master's degree programs in the field.

The HLC's bylaw changes require the school to file for incorporation as an institution with a primary purpose of offering higher education. HLC offered the school a two to three-year time frame for it to make the change necessary to meet the requirement.

In order to comply with the HLC's by-law changes, the foundation would have to continue funding the school, while ceding its governance of the institution to the school itself. After two years of consideration, the foundation's board concluded that it would not agree to fund the school without retaining decision-making authority, especially considering that the organization must "find funding for tens of millions of dollars (at least) for critically needed preservation work in the coming years and other components of the foundation's mission," according to a press release.

The school's longtime supporters suggested the possibility of raising the funds needed to create and support an independent institution. The foundation’s board agreed that if funds could sufficiently cover a new institution then "spinning off the school would not present the same obstacles," and the new, autonomous school "would take ultimate fiduciary responsibility for itself," according to the press release.

As part of the new plan, the foundation would donate more than $1 million in facilities-related cash expenses annually, due to the school’s extensive use of Taliesin West and Taliesin as its campuses, at no cost to the school. Additionally, the foundation would contribute a subsidy of $580,000 to the school in 2015 to aid in the transition, and subsidies for the following five years that decrease in level of support annually.

If the fundraising campaign is successful, "the Foundation will proudly and enthusiastically commit to independently raising funds to match that giving 3.5 to 1, with support of more than $7 million over the next five years," said Jeffrey Grip, chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees, in the press release.

"There is an exceptionally bright future possible for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture," said Maura Grogan, chair of the School’s Board of Governors in the press release. "But that future is only possible with the generous support of donors, right now. Without significant and immediate support, there will no longer be a stand-alone accredited Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. This campaign is the only opportunity to save the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture as we know it – and to ensure its success and impact for decades to come. I urge people to join us in this critical endeavor."

This past year saw the highest number of new students in the school’s history, a 100-percent student retention for the third consecutive year, and the launch a Teaching Fellowship program that has added five distinguished international architectural educators and practitioners to the school’s teaching ranks.

Check out ARCHITECT's Q+A's with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation CEO Sean Malone and Frank Lloyd Wright School Board of Governors Member Jerry van Eyck.