Museum Confidential Podcast Explores the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s Impact
Jeff Martin | Dec 7, 2020
Jeff Martin, host of the Museum Confidential podcast, visits Taliesin West during the pandemic and shares his experiences.
The trip was delayed by many months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but my journey to Taliesin West arrived at just the right time. Or, and please forgive me, the Wright time.
For the past few years, as part of my duties in the Communications Department at Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, I’ve had the great privilege to host the podcast, Museum Confidential. What began as a small project connected to an exhibition of the same name, quickly morphed into a show with a much broader scope and a following extending far beyond what we ever expected.
As the profile of our show began to grow, so did our opportunities. By the end of season two we were being invited to other cities and museums for live shows and remote recordings. In late 2019 we were invited by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to do a live show at Taliesin West.
Over the next few months I worked with the Foundation team to select a space, identify interview guests, and select a date. We picked a weekend in May before the serious summer heat set in. But you know what happened next, the world changed in March.
We scrapped the idea of a live show and made the decision to focus on the impact of the pandemic. I would spend a few days at Taliesin West and interview the CEO and several department heads. I would stay on the property.
But you know what happened next, the world changed in March.
I hadn’t flown anywhere since this all began. I was nervous. Flying into Phoenix, I rented a car and drove, the Sonoran Desert revealing itself more and more as the city retreated and the landscape emerged. This was Thursday, November 5, two days after the Presidential election.
Results were nowhere near determined. Arizona, for decades a very predictable state in politics, had suddenly become a “swing state.” There was a bit of electricity in the air, a palpable sense of nervousness.
Jeff Goodman, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s Vice President of Communication & Partnerships, met me upon arrival and showed me to my quarters, a lovely little area known as the “Apprentice Court.” The room I stayed in was originally home to architect Cornelia Brierly, the first female fellow back in 1934. I was tired from the early flight and general travel anxiety. But this place was almost instantly the remedy for that anxiety. It was hot. High 90s. A record in fact for early November. Luckily Cornelia’s place had a pool. I cooled my feet in the water, took a nap, and woke up refreshed, ready to explore.
The next two days were filled to the brim with tours of the property, our scheduled interviews, and research. But for me, personally, it was the in-between moments where I felt the true magic of the place.
But for me, personally, it was the in-between moments where I felt the true magic of the place.
At night, with no guests or staff around, I would walk the grounds listening to coyotes howl and winds blow. I knew that just miles away, at the Maricopa County Election Board, angry crowds were gathering with guns. But this was an escape, and an escape I didn’t realize I needed until it happened, from the pandemic, from political uncertainty, from the general madness of 2020.
And in the end, that’s what museums, public gardens, national parks, and other unique places like Taliesin West have to offer ALL OF US. Granted, not everyone gets to spend the night at Taliesin West, that’s a huge privilege, I get it. But we can all seek and find respite in cultural sites peppered throughout America. In this precarious moment, with so many in economic peril, that’s just one more reason to show support in any way you can.
The Museum Confidential Podcast features interviews with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in two episodes, titled “The Wright Time,” Parts 1 & 2. Be sure to subscribe to listen in to both on your smart device!