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Kay Conner

West Lafayette, Indiana

A Conservancy member since 2007, Kay Conner was born in Palo Alto, California, and grew up in an ordinary tract home near the Joseph Eichler-designed community Greenridge. “I didn’t know that Joseph Eichler had been inspired by Wright,” Conner says, “but I knew I loved the houses and wished we could live there.” After visiting the Marin County Civic Center and V.C. Morris Gift Shop in the 1960s with her Wright-admiring mother, Conner didn’t see another Wright-designed building until 1980, when she moved to Indiana to complete her graduate degree in chemistry at Purdue University and first visited Samara, the John and Catherine Christian House (1954) in West Lafayette. While working in the chemistry department at Purdue advising chemistry majors, teaching freshmen and running programs to encourage girls to pursue math/science careers, and in addition to organizing West Lafayette’s annual art fair and garden walk and volunteering at the local art museum and nature center, Conner has been an important volunteer at Samara.

What was your first experience or earliest memory of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture?
I remember my mother admiring Wright’s architecture. We lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and visited the Marin County Civic Center and the V.C. Morris Gift Shop in the ’60s, but I never saw another Wright building in person until I moved to Indiana in 1980.

What work of architecture that was demolished really affected you in a personal way?
Watching the Taliban blow up the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001 made a huge impression on me. I had visited many ruins in the Americas, Europe, Asia and North Africa and the emphasis was always on preservation. Seeing those shrines destroyed for religious/political reasons drove home to me the fragility of our built environment and how important it is to protect.

Is there one work of Wright’s that has touched you more than any other?
Samara, the Frank Lloyd Wright home in West Lafayette, Indiana, was my real introduction to Wright’s architecture. John Christian, the original client and owner of Samara wanted to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2006 and I was invited to be on the planning committee. This is when I met Linda Eales [associate curator at Samara], and my experiences that summer of 2006 made me realize I wanted to stay involved and spend as much time at Samara as possible. John sent me and Linda Eales to all the Conservancy’s annual meetings and Out and About Wright events to represent and promote Samara, and we’ve had a wonderful time traveling around the U.S. with the Conservancy.

What have you enjoyed most about being a part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy?
Meeting fellow enthusiasts and learning so much from them and the sights we’ve seen together. I have enjoyed every annual conference and Out and About Wright event I have been to. Maybe because it’s the most recent, but the San Francisco conference was just about perfect—from the talks to the buildings we visited to the fabulous scenery and weather.

Posted on February 24, 2017

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