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Get to Know T.K. McClintock, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s New Board Chair

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation | Aug 28, 2019

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Board of Trustees voted to elect T.K. McClintock as the new board chair during its meeting in New York City this summer.

T.K. McClintock, whose involvement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation began in 1979, was recently named Chair of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. His dedication and support of the organization have grown consistently over the years. With a vast expertise in the conservation of fine art and historic works, McClintock’s contributions to the Foundation have been invaluable.

“T.K. has a long association with the Foundation, including work on the conservation of our collections, and this gives him a deep understanding of our mission,” Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation President and CEO Stuart Graff said.

“He also has a sterling reputation within the world of museums, which ensures that our peers and supporters understand that the Foundation has stepped up its work. At this exciting moment, when the Foundation is accelerating the preservation of the two Taliesin properties and expanding its other programs, we couldn’t ask for a better leader for our Board of Trustees.”

McClintock follows Maja Wessels as Board Chair, a role she has held since 2017. “Maja was a tremendously accomplished professional that lent a critical level of administration expertise to the organization as it developed and needed that level of guidance,” said McClintock. “Through her leadership, she established a template for how the Foundation can fulfill its mission in a way that is much more professional and farsighted.”

As T.K. begins the next chapter of his service to Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy and the Foundation, we spoke with him to learn more about his connection to Wright and what he hopes to accomplish in his new role.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was raised in Pasadena, California, and Lausanne, Switzerland, where my father was an engineer with Alcoa Aluminum and my mother a home economics teacher. I returned to the United States to go to Boston College, where I studied art history and chemistry because of my interest in graduate school for Conservation of Fine Art and Historic Works. I practiced as a conservator of works on paper for 40 years in both museums and regional centers and directed a private studio for the last 30 years.

I enjoyed this work enormously, and still contribute through professional organizations, and consulting. It was also how I was introduced to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in 1979 when I began working on their drawing collection. I continued to work with the archives after I established a private practice in 1990. After working with the Foundation for many years on a variety of projects, and in anticipation of retiring from the direction of my firm, I joined the Foundation’s Board of Trustees in September of 2015.

When did you first encounter Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, and how did you become a supporter and fan of his work?

I was of course aware of the Guggenheim Museum and Fallingwater, but I became more exposed to his work when I was a college student visiting New York and Chicago. I began to seek out the buildings in locations where I happened to be. That accelerated particularly after 1979 when I began working on the drawings and really made a point of seeking out his buildings along with the works of other modern masters.

T.K. McClintock presenting the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Award to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy at Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th Birthday Gala, accepted by Larry Woodin. Photo by Terry Rishel

What is it about Frank Lloyd Wright’s work that you most connect with?

My intimate involvement with the drawings was such a large part of my professional life. As a student of drawing connoisseurship, I always viewed them as phenomenal exercises in both architectural exploration and draftsmanship – in their execution as well as the materials that were used for their creation.

He was a very sophisticated and prescient observer of modern and Asian art. He digested the movements that existed in his lifetime and introduced them into his work with singular creativity. While Wright’s drawings are a big part of what resonate with me, the buildings do as well, of course. He had great understanding of the qualities of different volumes and their coordination that people look for in the course of using a building, including the fluidity of interior and exterior spaces.

Because of my interest in Japanese art and architecture, I see the very well recognized influence in Wright’s work, and that integration appeals to me. He was able to highlight what architecture can do for people who may not otherwise have given it much attention as a subject of interest.

What drew you to the work of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in particular, and what inspired you to get involved with the work on this level?

Taliesin and Taliesin West are two phenomenal sites that offer visitors a chance to experience architecture in a way that inspires them to look around and find where beauty can exist in their own lives. The first time I visited Taliesin West in 1980, I followed a tour around and was absolutely amazed at how people were engaged by what they were seeing. They didn’t seem to be professional architectural observers or aficionados, yet you could see how inspired they were in their expression; they were just marveling in what unusual space solutions and material combinations they were encountering. I continue to feel that way every time I visit Taliesin and Taliesin West.

In light of that experience my paramount motivation is the preservation of the two sites we steward. Frank Lloyd Wright himself was an absolutely remarkable man and had many insightful, clever, inspiring things to say about how we live, and this legacy of thought continues to have enormous value for how we enhance the world we share, but I’m still most inspired by the evidence of his buildings and his observations about what makes for great architecture.

Another connection of course is the work on the drawing collection as it was so instrumental to my professional development, and to the studio that I founded. For that I am indebted to the Foundation and to Bruce Pfeiffer, the archives’ founder, in particular, that I was entrusted with the conservation of that extraordinary collection.

Tell us a little about some of the work you’ve done at Taliesin and Taliesin West over the years.

In addition to the drawings, I assisted with the conservation of Whitman Square at the entrance to Taliesin West, where visitors are introduced to the site with a passage from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” chiseled in concrete. More particularly, from 2014 to 2019, my firm conserved the Asian paintings in the Living Room, Guest Room, Loggia, Loggia alcove, and in Mr. Wright’s bedroom at Taliesin, as well as in the Dining Alcove at Taliesin West.

Because it was so clear both Taliesins would be enriched by having the original paintings conserved and on display, instead of the photo reproductions that were used by necessity because of the poor condition of the originals, my colleagues and I were determined to see them conserved.

It was a really fun project technically and aesthetically, it was important to the texture of the buildings, and as a pro-bono project, it was a way of contributing to the Foundation and its dedicated staff for introducing me to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

What do you look forward to working on in your new role?

My primary goals are to enlarge the opportunities and enhance the appeal of participating in the endeavors of the Foundation, whether it’s by visiting the sites, participating in our programs, membership, staffing or volunteering, purchasing a licensed product, or donor support of our mission “to preserve Taliesin and Taliesin West for future generations, and inspire society through an understanding and experience of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas, architecture, and design.” These works and the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright remain alive and lively when people recognize how meaningful and far sighted they are.

If you had to choose, what is your favorite Frank Lloyd Wright building?

Apart from Taliesin and Taliesin West, my favorites are the Jacob’s House and its Usonian derivatives. They’re such pioneering works meant for a wide audience that illustrate, and now take almost for granted, how space can be configured to foster the pleasure of a home.

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