By Vilona Trachtenberg
Today we are thrilled to spotlight Anna Kaplan, a native Buffalonian who is beginning her third year as the Executive Director of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff Conservancy.
Anna grew up in the Elmwood Village and is a proud City Honors alumna. Her family was part of the Temple Beth Am community (now Congregation Shir Shalom) where she became a Bat Mitzvah and was later confirmed. Anna also spent a few summers of her childhood at Camp Lakeland.
With her education – a dual bachelor’s degree in history of art and architecture from Brown University, and a master’s degree in history of decorative arts, design history, and material culture from Bard – Anna’s passion for her work at Graycliff was immediate. She fell in love with the site, and knew it as her true respite at the pandemic’s height. Anna became Graycliff’s Executive Director in December 2019, a few months before she would have to divert their standard operations due to the pandemic. Though the pandemic brought difficulty, she believes the opportunity found her.
The Graycliff Conservancy was founded in 1997 to preserve and restore the summer home of Darwin and Isabelle Martin, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and built between 1926 and 1931. With Kaplan’s team, the Conservancy aims to achieve all its original preservation and restoration goals, returning the houses and grounds to their condition in 1931.
“It’s incredibly rejuvenating to spend time on the property, to see the lake on a daily basis and have that connection to nature,” Kaplan said. “The drive out to Derby…is in itself a really lovely experience and something that I grew to rely on as time to myself and time to decompress with the lake by my side…”
Starting in 2022, Anna and her team will be finishing the last phase of the most recent restoration, which includes the dismantling of the stair tower leading to the beach, and restoring a historic stone bench designed by Wright to define an outdoor area on Graycliff’s lakeside lawn. Anna is excited for this, as this project will help to make the back lawn safe and functional for programming.
Along with the restoration project, Graycliff will be partnering with the Albright-Knox Public Art Initiative. This will provide an exhibition with an exterior large-scale sculpture and interior smaller sculpture by artist Sarah Braman, and will be on view beginning in late July 2022.
“I’m incredibly excited to share my passion of contemporary art with Graycliff,” Kaplan said. “[This will have] a goal of encouraging new perspectives and engaging a new audience.”
She also realizes being a part of Jewish Buffalo adds an important layer to her role. She works with Graycliff’s board to run the operation, and believes the strong Jewish presence of the board has made for a diversified perspective.
“Relationships that I have from growing up in WNY’s Jewish Community have followed me to my current role,” Kaplan said. “It’s a strong, loving,
and generous community that I feel very fortunate to be connected with.”
Graycliff is open for tours all year round, with a current “Winter Tour” now available. For more information, and to books tours, visitors can check out experiencegraycliff.org, and can find Graycliff on Facebook and Instagram at @flwgraycliff.
Vilona Trachtenberg is a distribution coordinator at New Era Cap, a freelance writer, and a community advocate. She was also a Buffalo Niagara Partnership “Spotlight Professional” in 2020.
Photo Credit Tess Butera
Photo Credit Matthew Digati