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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theater reopens at Taliesin in Wisconsin

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theater reopens at Taliesin in Wisconsin

Hillside Theater in Spring Green, Wisconsin (Tim Long/Courtesy Taliesin Preservation)

After a lengthy $1.1 million restoration project, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theater at Taliesin is back open in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The endeavor was meant to preserve the iconic building while modernizing it for contemporary use. It was shepherded by Ryan Hewson, director of preservation at Taliesin for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Hillside Theater was first built in 1903 by Wright’s aunts as part of the Hillside Home School. It’s been a staple for the arts scene in Wisconsin’s Driftless area, otherwise known as Bluff County, ever since. Stuart Graff, president and CEO at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, called Hillside Theater’s reopening a “preservation milestone.”

The restoration project started five years ago in 2019. Some of the major improvements were resolving sub-grade water infiltration that had damaged the stage and surrounding areas. Conservation specialists also painstakingly restored two major Asian bodhisattva sculptures and the handmade theater curtain that was custom designed by Wright and sewn by the Taliesin Fellowship as a gift.

interior view of performance space inside the theater building
Conservation specialists repaired a handmade theater curtain that was custom designed by Wright. (Tim Long/Courtesy Taliesin Preservation)

The design team also added a new HVAC system to improve climate control and comfort; and they enhanced accessibility with new pathways and facilities. Major repairs were made to the building’s interior and exterior finishes, as well as the theater’s roof, electrical, and plumbing systems.

“Restoring the Hillside Theater has been a labor of love, preserving its historical essence while integrating modern practices to ensure the space can be enjoyed for years to come,” Ryan Hewson said. “The theater has always been a hub of artistic expression and community engagement, not just for Wright and the apprentices but also for the Driftless Area as a whole. By addressing structural issues, enhancing accessibility and updating the theater for present-day performances, Taliesin can continue to serve as a vibrant cultural site for future generations.”

The conservation project was funded in part by the National Park Service Save America’s Treasures program; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation; and other private donors and corporate partners.

To christen the grand reopening, musical performances and film screenings will abound at the theater all summer.

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