One of Scottsdale’s top tourist attractions and cultural centers is setting its recovery plan in motion. The Scottsdale-based Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation on Tuesday announced the hiring of a new dean for its architecture school and the start of searches for a new chief executive and several new trustees.
The foundation operates Taliesin West, which is the architecture studio, school, archive repository and residential enclave in north Scottsdale established by architect Wright in the 1930s.
The complex below the McDowell Mountains attracts more than 120,000 tourists a year, but its future has been on shaky ground in recent years due to leadership and financial problems.
Victor Sidy views his hiring as dean "as a leap of faith" by the foundation’s board "to accept a new generation of leadership."
He will leave a successful private architectual practice in New York City to join an institution "with a great deal of potential" to broaden its reach internationally, he said.
The foundation seeks to raise $250 million in the next decade to renovate its properties, including Taliesin in Wisconsin, and expand its facilities and commercial ventures.
A Chicago-based executive search company has been hired to find a chief executive whose job will focus on raising the funds, said Beverly Hart, chief operating officer.
Vacancies on the trustees board also will be filled with experienced fundraisers and organizational managers, Hart said.
She and others connected to the foundation said financial support declined due in part to a leadership void caused by philosophical differences between trustees and Taliesin fellowship members — architects, apprentices and others who live and work at Taliesin and Taliesin West.
"I would characterize us as a family that is paying its bills, but if something big comes along, then we are in trouble," Hart said.
New bylaws the foundation trustees adopted in June should help remedy the situation, said board member David Justice, a vice president at DePaul University in Chicago.
The bylaws set up "checks and balances" to govern decision-making authority among trustees and fellowship members, Hart said.
Justice said he is "excited about the prospects" for progress under the new rules.
Immediate challenges include meeting goals set by the agency that accredits the architecture school and increasing the school’s enrollment.
It’s expected to have 14 students in the fall, about half the preferred number, Sidy said.
The foundation also needs to fill six board positions, Hart said.