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A Look at the Women Whose Work Shaped the Wright Legacy

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation | May 28, 2021

For the upcoming issue of the Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly magazine, we spoke with architecture curator Ashley Mendelsohn, on her recent experience guest curating our 2021 spring edition titled “‘Hers is a Good Spirit Here’: Women Working with Frank Lloyd Wright.”

As an architecture curator, Mendelsohn is focused on engaging and strengthening communities by demystifying the barriers to access and understanding. Mendelsohn previously held positions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Curatorial, Exhibition Design, and Visitor Experience. During her tenure, Mendelsohn supported the organization and design of various exhibitions along with representing the museum during the final stages of the Frank Lloyd Wright building’s UNESCO World Heritage designation process and played a pivotal creative role as the featured voice in the 99% Invisible-produced building audio guide.

What did you learn in creating this amazing magazine that surprised you?

I knew that there were untold stories about women who worked with Frank Lloyd Wright—but once I started digging into the research—I was overwhelmed with the options of who to include. It was important to me to demonstrate range, from historical to present day, from architect to patron. I hope that readers are inspired by the individuals that we’ve highlighted and use this as a jumping-off point to learn more about women in architecture.

How did you come up with this edition of Quarterly’s topic?

Countless women have been instrumental in shaping Wright’s body of work. The stories of his personal relationships have been told many times over, in part to construct and support the myth of the singular masculine genius acting alone. I wanted this edition of the Quarterly to complicate that story by focusing on the professional roles of the many women stakeholders of his work. We celebrate trailblazers past and present—women who have played a formative role in crafting the social, cultural, and political values that define Wright’s continued relevance.

Photo by Ren Reese

Patrons Alma Goetsch and Katherin Winckler walking through the 1.7-acre wooded site in Okemos, Michigan, c. 1939.

Do you have a favorite trailblazer you highlighted in the Quarterly?

I really fell in love with Alma Goetsch and Kathrine Winckler, a pair of university professors and practicing artists who pooled their resources to commission Wright’s second built Usonian house. It’s incredible to compare the final documentation of the home to the original correspondences and see how much Wright catered the design to the unconventional lifestyle of these self-made women. Alma and Kathrine’s sharp wit and zeal really come through in all of those documents, specifically in their initial commissioning “Idiosyncrasy Letter.” I’m so excited that we were able to publish the text in full alongside the feature. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

What do you think is leading the future of Wright’s legacy?

Women! In this edition, we spotlight a curator, a historian, a designer, a licensing specialist, and women at the helm of Wright sites and organizations to demonstrate that there are a number of ways to make a meaningful impact on the field of architecture. I am proud to dedicate this issue to the legacies of women at the forefront of the field!

SUBSCRIBE TO THE QUARTERLY

To be among the first to see the spring 2021 issue of the Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly magazine, subscribe to the magazine by becoming a member. 

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation members receive the Quarterly as part of their membership benefits. The Quarterly offers readers an innovative look into the past, present, and future of Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy through thoughtful graphic and written explorations of the legendary architect’s work and the community it has created.

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News and updates from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation