Thursday, December 18, 2008

WHAT'S NEW: December 2008

I am a long-time fan of the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. For some time, I've admired his work from afar -- always reading articles and such about his works.

I recently completed a novel called Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, which has set my fascination for this modern marvel into a full-blown addiction. This romantic love story is about Frank's adulterous relationship with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, whom he met after building a house for her and her husband, Edwin. Full of romance and tragedy and all things that a love story should have, it inspired me to believe that true love does exist -- even if it extends beyond the traditional confines of marriage.

After completing the novel, I bought and watched the Ken Burns PBS documentary about FLW (who was actually born Frank Lincoln Wright...his middle name was changed to Lloyd after his parents divorce when he was a young child). This furthered my infatuation with this genius. From there, I purchased other books...including his autobiography.

Then, I figured it was time to actually set foot inside one of his magnificent works of art...something I couldn't believe I had never done before. In Grand Rapids, Michigan you will find one of the most amazingly restored FLW works -- the Meyer May House. Commissioned in 1908, begun in 1909 and completed in 1910, it was purchased in the 1980s by Steelcase and restored back to its original state. Frank was know for his simplistic approach -- no clutter, no extra frills -- which creates an ultimate grandeur that cannot be explained. After touring the home for nearly an hour, I was almost heartbroken to have to leave. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a docent class -- for those who want to volunteer to work offering tours -- was going to be offered in early 2009 -- and I immediatley put my name on the list. I also volunteered to help in any way with the upcoming centennial celebration.

Touring Meyer May only fueled the fire. I made an inquiry to Michigan History Magazine about doing an article on the centennial for an upcoming issue. I have considered myself a professional writer since 1985 -- when I was a columnist and repoter for a local newspaper -- while still in high school. After majoring in journalism, writing for various publications and teaching journalism, I consider my career to be very solid. Yet -- one of those "dreams" is to have an article published in Michigan History Magazine. And, having one on a topic so important as Frank Lloyd Wright's Meyer May House is even more exciting. The editors were warm to the idea (but also interested in another pitch I made...about an article on the 2009 centennial of Schuler's Restaurant in Marshall).

While in Kalamazoo this week, I decided to drive through Parkwyn Village -- a neighborhood that was commissioned by FLW in the 1940s (about the same time as one developed in nearby Galesburg -- which I have yet to visit). There was enough snow on the ground that it made it hard to really see how they fit into the natural landscape. I can't wait to go back in the see the houses and their gardens. From there, it was down to the Kalamazoo Public Library to see what kind of news clips they had about this development. It was quite interesting that when I approached the help desk in the Local History Room, the assistant there had the very files I wanted on her desk...because someone else had inquired about the same information. I guess I'm not the only one who is fascinated.

In May -- to celebrate my 40th birthday -- I will be headed to Oak Park, Illinois to visit 8 FLW buildings -- including his home and studio. From there, I'll head up to Racine to the Johnson Wax building...and then over to Taliesen -- Frank's famed home that was built for Mamah (and where she tied tragically with her two children and several of their hired hands). I expect it to be an inspiring pilgramage.