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Clark Street students reimagine Frank Lloyd Wright

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School Spotlight

Clark Street Community School students display their projects for Monday's exhibition. Students are Jude Kunkel, left, with Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired lamp; Tate Huizenga, front, with Wright-inspired model home; Bailey Mosling, center, with “Faces of Frank” portraits; and Aaliyah Razvi, with “The Dress Was Taliesin.”

High school students studying Wisconsin’s famous architect took on projects easily described as “Frank Lloyd Wright reimagined.”

They reflected aspects of Wright’s work and love of Japanese prints as they crafted a house model and also created face makeup, dress and lamp designs.

It was the culmination of a class, which is called the Frank Lloyd Wright Seminar, at Middleton’s Clark Street Community School. It included time spent at Taliesin, Wright’s 37,000-square-foot home, studio, school and 800-acre estate in Spring Green.

The annual seminar is open to students in grades nine through 12 who attend Clark Street, an innovation lab school located inside Middleton High School.

The students visit Taliesin to start their research before visiting other sites, depending on the year. The culmination of their research is the development of independent projects, which will be on display with projects from other classes, at the school Monday . Exhibition nights are held twice a year and feature collaborative pieces and individual projects, and sometimes students create interactive displays.

Junior Bailey Mosling, who was crowned Miss Wisconsin Youth Entertainer as the teen drag queen “Nemo,” said he decided to come up with makeup designs.

“I wanted to do something only I would be able to do,” he said.

His designs, which will be displayed through photos taken after he applied the makeup to his face, represent Wright’s interest in Japanese block prints, the life of Mamah Borthwick and her role in the feminist movement, and how Wright’s work inspired the Art Deco movement.

Senior Aaliyah Razvi had thought about drawing some dress designs but decided to make three designs and then choose one to make into an actual dress. She researched fashion from the early 1900s and then created her own pattern.

Razvi put a lot of thought into the dress so that it would reflect Wright’s work and interests. She purchased fabric from the color schemes he used. The brown ribbon running vertically down the dress mimics the wood ceiling trims in some rooms at Taliesin, while the skirt has six panels to represent the six-panel Japanese folding screens found in the home.

Razvi added pockets because she figured they weren’t popular in the period of the dress but would represent Wright being ahead of his time in architecture.

“It was really fun,” she said about the dress project.

Senior Jude Kunkel, who has done woodworking and construction in classes and with grandparents, said he knew he wanted to make something out of wood and decided to recreate a floor lamp that he saw at Taliesin.

“When we visited the property, it just kind of stuck out,” Kunkel said.

He said the asymmetrical lamp called for odd measurements, and he was worried it would look cobbled together but was happy with how it turned out.

Senior Tate Huizenga made a model of a house with a design inspired in part by Wright. He created it so the roof can be lifted, with thoughts of furnishing it in the future.

One of the first outings by his family when he moved to the area as a seventh-grader was to visit Taliesin, Huizenga said. But the school visit was more in depth, he said, and he didn’t know about the murder of Borthwick, her children and workers at Taliesin and being there again made that seem more real.

While students do some writing as part of the seminar, senior Lawson Moxness chose to write a paper for his independent study on the murders because he was captivated by the subject and he thought fewer people know about that aspect of Wright’s life.

“I’m into spooky and mysterious stuff,” he said.

The class was designed by Robyn Acker, one of the school’s educators, who received literacy support in the past from another Clark Street educator, Corinne Neil. The class starts by having the students read “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan, which always gets them excited to learn more about Wright, Acker said. It’s a novel based on the real-life love affair the architect had with Borthwick.

This was a typical year in which students spent a day in Downtown Madison, where they visited the Wisconsin Historical Society and looked at newspaper articles, architectural drawings, various records, photographs and other artifacts. They also visited the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, designed by Wright, and walked past the Robert M. Lamp House, which is another example of Wright’s work. Sometimes students visit other sites, such as the First Unitarian Meeting House, which also was designed by Wright, but it was difficult to get a bus this year.

“Local is key in this experience. Part of the reason for that is I think it helps the kids connect to their place,” Acker said. “It really makes history come alive. It helps them find other avenues to get engaged in their community.”

“One of the things I find magical about the class is kids who have had trouble getting into the school experience become very engaged,” Acker said. “They start finding evidence of him in their own world.”

Caroline Hamblen, director of programs for Taliesin Preservation, said she likes letting students know that a World Heritage Site — which is legally protected by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — is in their backyard.

“We make it a whole immersive day. We are really adamant about not being perceived as a museum,” she said. “We let them just be in the house with their cameras, their sketchbooks and their journals so they can take notes, focus on a detail.”

She said the students also walk around the grounds with their teachers.

“There is so much we can talk about and connect to their teaching in the classroom,” Hamblen said.

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