The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust (FLWT) reopened outdoor tours June 11 but decided to delay reopening indoor tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 951 Chicago Ave., despite receiving approval from the village of Oak Park to resume inside showings.
“We decided, to observe maximum caution, that we would wait on that tour until we have greater clarity in guidelines from the state,” said Celeste Adams, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust president and CEO.
“Some of the guidelines are very general and we don’t want to take a step too quickly that people are not comfortable with or that we are not absolutely confident followed guidelines.”
The trust had previously sent to the village a proposed strategy to safely resume interior tours of Wright’s home and studio, which was approved.
“We spoke to the village; we submitted a plan and it was half-capacity. Eight guests.
The village said that was safe and that we could operate at half-capacity safely,” Adams said. “However, we decided that we will wait. It’s very important that our volunteers feel comfortable.”
Volunteer training began last week and will continue while the trust waits to reopen.
Volunteers train in small sessions with fewer people as a precaution against COVID-19. About 400 people volunteer with the trust.
During training sessions, volunteers became acquainted with new safety and operational protocols in accordance with phase three of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan.
“We walked everyone through the tour so there was a clear understanding of how social distancing would work. The narrative for the tour would only take place in the larger rooms,” Adams said. “It was a very carefully redesigned interior tour that allowed for social distancing and followed the guidelines.”
Due to COVID-19, all tours, including those taking place outdoors, are limited to eight guests only. Each group has one volunteer tour guide, bringing the total number of people to nine. All safety protocols and guidelines are available on the trust’s website.
“I think volunteers felt uncomfortable when we contacted them initially, describing the fact that we do tours for eight,” Adams said. “But once volunteers returned and we began the training, they could see how the tour would work, how social distancing would work, they were comfortable with it.”
Ticket sales for guided neighborhood tours have opened. The open-air shops have also opened. Wright fans can purchase recorded audio tours if they prefer to tour the site exteriors in solitude. All ticket and shop sales are credit card only to minimize contact.
The trust brought back the “Pedal Oak Park” bicycle tour this year and will open a brand-new neighborhood walking tour June 20, called “Wright in the Neighborhood.”
The Trust will offer the new tour only three days a week but plans to expand to more days. “We’re very excited about this new tour,” Adams said.
Like several other non-profit organizations, the Trust did not go unscathed during the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis; major cuts to staff had to be made.
“We furloughed 75 percent of our staff; a small core group remained, working at reduced hours and reduced pay,” Adams said. “We let go permanently 13 people.”
That 75 percent of staff on furlough have since returned to work at the trust.
This article has been updated to correct the date of the allowed reopening.