by Shelbe Hunsaker | July 27, 2017

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Vanity Fair & New York Times Among 25 Publications To Cover Event

For more than 20 years, HighGround has strived to work on the big issues that directly impact our community and our quality of life in Arizona. While some of those have been through the scope of a campaign, lobbying or public affairs effort we have learned that the way we communicate and talk to one another, or don’t, is rapidly changing. Over the past two and a half years, our team has been afforded the opportunity to work with the David Wright House and other cultural, philanthropic and historical organizations to help educate others about Arizona’s rich and diverse cultural landscape.

On June 8, the David & Gladys Wright House and grounds was formally gifted to Arizona’s oldest graduate school of architecture, the School of Architecture at Taliesin, formerly known as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. “This kind of architecture allows us to understand who we are in relation to the mountains that anchor us, the canals that give life and the whole spread of human civilization that has been in the Valley for millennia,” said Aaron Betsky, Dean of The School of Architecture at Taliesin. “The David Wright House helps all of us to better understand where we come from, where we are and where we’re going.”

Over the course of the four-day cultural tour 6/8 – 6/12, the David Wright House totaled 3.3 million impressions and was featured in over 25 publications such as Vanity Fair and The New York Times. As a result of the successful social media attention we cultivated for the tour, we have, in turn, created a win - win scenario for the community, Phoenix, Arizona and The School of Architecture at Taliesin. HighGround was honored to be a part of these events and have the opportunity to help tell our story of “How to Live in the Southwest.” In fact, we were able to grow the David Wright House social media audience by 110% using #FLW150, which was recognized by the Guggenheim Museum in New York for the most growth on Instagram of any house designed by Wright.

This campaign would not have been possible without the creative leadership and expertise of Steve Yazzie and his team at Digital Preserve. Steve and his team documented the 150th Birthday Celebration and Cultural Tour on behalf of the David Wright House and participating sponsors in order to share this experience with you.

For many, Arizona is a vacation destination with resorts, spas, golf courses and great restaurants scattered across the Sonoran desert, giving visitors a perfect getaway when things get chilly back east.  The post WWII economic boom has given our State much to be grateful for, but it has also had the unintended effect of diluting our own story – of “How to Live in The Southwest” as seen through the lens of America’s most famous architect: Frank Lloyd Wright. 


Frank Lloyd Wright designed and constructed the Arcadia home in 1954 for his son and daughter-in-law David & Gladys Wright. It is one of Wright’s late work masterpieces, which was nearly bulldozed in 2012, to make way for new homes.  Photo Credit: Pedro Guerrero

“Through the lens of the David Wright House, we have the opportunity to educate the world about how we live sustainably in the Southwest,” said Alison King, Founder of Modern Phoenix, which hosts Arizona’s most comprehensive open-source database and fact-filled source material that helps audiences understand our region’s design history. “Being a part of the team that recognized the cultural and historical significance of the David Wright House has been a turning point for me, our organization and Arizona.  The potential loss of this home has helped all of us focus on what makes Arizona and the Southwest so unique and so important for what America can become in the next century.”

The question to us here at HighGround was how we tell that story without diminishing or questioning the economic success that has made Phoenix the largest desert city in the world today. Too often, historical projects get pitted against economic progress in a win – loss scenario.  In fact, as we see today, much of our political discourse is dominated by we win, you lose scenarios which divide communities and stall economic and social progress.

On June 8th, the anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th Birthday, the Royal Palms Hotel, the Salt River Project, the O’Connor House, the Heard Museum, Modern Phoenix, Roosevelt Row Community Action Association, Taliesin and the School of Architecture at Taliesin worked collaboratively to provide a first-ever, four-day tour of the Southwest to New York City lifestyle and social media influencers Marni Harvey, Tessa Barton, Gergana Ivanova, Lindsi Lane and Lisa Richov. 

During their stay, these young social media influencers experienced and shared the origins of culture and 20th century investment in Arizona that made it possible for Arizona to become the last state in the continental United States to join the Union and become the 14th most populous state in America today – all in a little over 100 years.  

The David Wright House was honored to partner with State Forty Eight to bring exclusive “David Wright House’ designed T-Shirts for the anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th Birthday. 

The first stop in the cultural tour, of course, was the David Wright House. On the same day that the Museum of Modern Art in New York City opened its 150th anniversary retrospective of Wright’s career, The David & Gladys Wright House Foundation announced the intent to gift the home and the surrounding six acres to Arizona’s oldest school of Architecture; the School of Architecture at Taliesin.  

To celebrate the gift, the David & Gladys Wright House Foundation asked Geronimo Balloons installation artist Jihan Zencirli to wrap the home in balloons to recreate how Mr. Wright himself used to fill his children’s playrooms with balloons to celebrate their birthdays.


With a particular focus on sustainability the influencers were taken on a tour of the Salt River Project watershed, which was made possible through the vision of America’s 26th and youngest President and former New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt.

“Since the passage of the Federal Reclamation Act in 1902 and the formation of our canal network, SRP has been a leading voice for innovation and sustainability,” said Peter Hayes, Associate General Manager and Chief Public Affairs executive at Salt River Project. “SRP is honored to be a community partner in this first-ever cultural tour of Phoenix and to help educate the public about how to live today and tomorrow in a sustainable American southwest.”

These social media devotees immersed themselves in the creation and development of Phoenix, Arizona, learning about the history of the earliest Native American settlements and the American Southwest, as told by the Project and celebrated by the Heard Museum.

“We are fortunate to live in Arizona, a state of vast natural beauty and rich history,” said David Roche, Director of The Heard Museum. “The Heard Museum plays an important role in educating audiences about the Indigenous cultures of the area and their many contributions, past and present, to the diverse and thriving community we are today.  The Heard looks forward to working with the David Wright House, and other cultural organizations, in celebrating the remarkable heritage of the place we call home.”

“When the David Wright House team shared their vision for their inaugural cultural tour of Phoenix, we were thrilled at the prospect of partnering,” said Geoff Gray, General Manager of Royal Palms Resort and Spa, part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt. “Originally built as a home in 1929, our historic hotel across Camelback Road shares a great history with the David Wright House. We understand and celebrate the significance of both landmarks as integral to the fabric of our community.”

We urge you to visit to sign up as a supporter and stay informed about the David Wright House and the exciting new partnership with The School of Architecture at Taliesin. 




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