Visitors encouraged to experience Frank Lloyd Wright-designed synagogue in a whole new way

ByWendy Daughenbaugh WPVI logo
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
6abc Loves the Arts: Beth-Shalom
6abc Loves the Arts: Beth-Shalom: Karen Rogers reports on Action News at Noon, December 1, 2019

ELKINS PARK, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park is the only synagogue in the world designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright and, for the first time ever, The Beth Sholom Synagogue Preservation Foundation has asked a local artist to activate the space.

"We wanted to give the public an opportunity to experience this building in a different way," Foundation President Herb Sachs says.

The result is an exhibition called David Hartt: The Histories (Le Mancenillier).

Hartt is a professor of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. He traveled to New Orleans and Haiti, and his work explores ideas about culture, migration and the environment.

"We have five planters with tropical plants," explains Jill Rosen, the director of tours and marketing for the Beth Sholom Preservation Foundation, "We also have two tapestries that were made in Belgium."

Natural scenes are also shown in video, but music plays a big role in Hartt's exhibition with Le Mancenillier, a Creole-based piano composition written by American composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk in the fall of 1848 playing throughout.

There is also a special musical activation planned for Sunday, December 8.

The Frank Lloyd Wright designed synagogue itself is a work of art. It was completed in 1959 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007.

"Frank Lloyd Wright," Rosen points out, "is known for his leaky roofs."

So the exhibition plays into that, placing 172 orchids in the sanctuary.

"David really had the magnificent, creative idea to strategically place the orchids where the leaks are," Rosen says.

This exhibition, including the musical activation, is free. The foundation is hoping it will help people see the synagogue as more than a spiritual place.

"To come and see how the space has been transformed is remarkable," Rosen says.

David Hartt: The Histories (Le Mancenillier) | Exhibit Website | FB

Through December 19

Beth Sholom Synagogue

8231 Old York Road

Elkins Park, PA 19027

Musical Activation

Sunday, December 8, 2019, 1:00-2:30 pm

Mark Livshits, piano