September 3, 2004
Leadership is changing for the second time this year at one of Scottsdale’s top tourist attractions, and its downtown satellite operation will soon close.
Robert Harr this week stepped down as interim chief executive officer of the Scottsdale-based Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, five months after the previous chief executive, James Goulka, was released.
The foundation runs Taliesin West, the architectural studio, school and residential enclave started in the 1930s by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The facility, which houses Wright’s archives and is on the National Register of Historic Places, draws about 125,000 visitors a year.
Unrelated to Harr’s departure, the foundation has decided to shut the doors of Wright Downtown, said foundation spokeswoman Beverly Hart. The retail outlet and visitor information center for Taliesin West in Scottsdale’s downtown commercial district opened with assistance from the city last fall.
Wright Downtown was one of several projects the foundation began last year with help from $517,000 in city tourism development funds.
Hart said the center was planned as an "experimental’’ venture and might return in the future.
"It’s not a concept that’s being abandoned forever,’’ she said.
Harr, a retired chief executive for a large Ohio nonprofit nursing care business he started, has been involved with the foundation and Taliesin architects for much of the past 30 years.
Shortly after being made the foundation’s interim chief executive in April, Harr told the Tribune he wanted to take the position full time.
But "there’s not anything bitter’’ involved in his departure, Hart said. The foundation’s board of directors and Harr "were just going in different directions’’ in their management objectives for Taliesin West, she said.
Hart and chief financial officer Sarah Stuckey will be interim administrators.
The foundation also is searching for a new dean for the architectural school. No target date is set for filling that position or naming a new chief executive, said Vern Swaback, chairman of the Wright Foundation board and a Taliesin-trained architect.
"The focus is on getting the right person, not on getting somebody in a hurry,’’ he said.
The change won’t derail improvements under way at Taliesin West, Swaback said. Expansion of the bookstore and refurbishment of the pavilion and visitor reception area are in progress, along with renovation of Wright’s living quarters, which are to open as a new tour exhibit in the fall.
City tourism funds are helping pay for those improvements as well as expanded marketing campaigns for Taliesin West.