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Wingspread Blog

Take Your Team to New Heights

Our goal is to provide you with truly meaningful content full of insights and guidance to assist you in making the most of your next meeting, conference or retreat. Please enjoy and be sure to check back often for the latest content.

How NPR was Conceived at Wingspread

This Is (the Story of) NPR

Fresh Air. Car Talk. Morning Edition. If you’re feeling warm and fuzzy, then you’re probably a fan of National Public Radio. While you may know all the programs and can actually hear the voice of Terry Gross or Steve Inskeep in your head right now, you may not know that the concept for National Public Radio was born within the storied walls of the Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center, in Racine, Wisconsin.

In the late 60s, the radio industry was struggling to remain relevant. In 1967, the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television concluded a successful two-year campaign to acquire public funding for educational television when Congress, under President Johnson, passed the Public Television Act. Challenged yet again by the seemingly insurmountable visual appeal of the flourishing medium of television, the fate of radio seemed sealed.

Shortly after the launch of the Carnegie campaign in 1965, hope for radio prevailed in the passionate leadership of its own Jerrold Sandler. Then Director of National Education Radio, Sandler began an effort to convene a meeting of radio’s finest for a conference he entitled “Educational Radio as a National Resource.” Intending to match the prestige of the Carnegie-led television movement, Sandler enlisted the support of The Johnson Foundation and requested space at the Foundation’s own Frank Lloyd Wright designed venue, Wingspread.

Sandler’s project matched perfectly with the Foundation’s mission and purpose: “The Foundation shall be an instrument for creative programs which serve man….”  Supporting education, growth, freedom, and community were part of the Foundation’s early statement of purpose. Preserving the communication shared over the country’s airwaves was a project the Foundation could easily embrace.

The three-day meeting took place at Wingspread in September of 1966. What resulted was a set of specific action steps designed to convince members of Congress that radio deserved equal billing with television in the pending Public Television Act. The eventual result of the Wingspread meeting: congress issued and passed an amended bill. The Public Broadcasting Act authorized the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to act as a funding and policy making agency. National Public Radio was incorporated in February of 1970. A meeting that ended very well – All Things Considered.

If you'd like to learn more about how Wingspread can be the perfect venue for your next meeting or retreat, click here!

Past Articles 

Recreation Around Racine

History, nature, art, fishing, hiking, shopping…welcome to Racine, Wisconsin.

This community is site of not just one, but two Frank Lloyd Wright architectural masterpieces, including the Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center. While secluded on a 36-acre wildlife preserve, conference guests at Wingspread are surrounded by a wide array of incredible leisure attractions. Fill on-property leisure time in the fitness center, with an art or flower tour or hiking on the trails.

Enjoy art? The Racine Art Museum, just a few miles away, features two floors of contemporary crafts that include wood works, textiles, metal, and more. See more here. 

If water is your thing, begin with a walk to the Wind Point Lighthouse, where you can stroll along the rocky shore and learn more about this historic structure. Enjoy the boats at Reefpoint Marina and stop in the Brew House for craft brews, fresh sea food and live music. Take on the water with a sailing experience at Tall Ship Red Witch – plan ahead, as they cater to private experiences.

Traditional leisure-time options are here as well – with lake beaches nearby, rounds at the Shoop Park Golf course, wild life gazing at the Racine Zoo, and a thrilling group experience at Seven Keys to Escape.

History, art and great stories — this is what you can expect on the guided tours of both Wingspread and the SC Johnson Corporate Headquarters. Both designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, they are a treat to experience, inside and out. Wingspread is on the National Register of Historic Places.

See and experience all you can while meeting at Wingspread in the lovely lake community of Racine. Then return to your meetings refreshed and ready!

Enjoy Better Ideas and Lower Stress During Your Next Meeting

Person outside with computer

In 2012 David Strayer, a researcher from the University of Utah, did what we all used to do – he went outside and played. Of course he brought a group of friends. Together they took a four-day backpacking trip. During the course of the journey they found that their ability to solve puzzles increased significantly. Strayer’s group performed an amazing 47 percent better at solving puzzles than the control group did over the same amount of time while in pre-hike mode. Could it be that the answer is, in fact, blowing in the wind?

Numerous scientific and psychological studies have repeatedly demonstrated the value of time outside – specifically, in nature. Hikes in the woods, strolls across fields, quiet contemplation by a lake or pond may have once been viewed as recreation only or “downtime.”

In fact, your brain is actually “up” when you’re outside. Stress and fatigue give way to creative problem solving, more positive attitudes, and the ability to relate better to others. Depression, anxiety, and stress all melt away when we take walks in nature. Walks in urban areas do not yield the same results as do strolls among the birds and the bees.

Where can you and your team immerse yourselves in nature? Look to Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center in Wind Point, Wisconsin. Tucked away on a 36-acre wildlife preserve and practically an incubator for creativity, the property offers nearly a dozen flower gardens, lushly vegetated ravines and hiking trails that lead through lofty trees. There is also a large and impressive bronze statue collection – and at the center of it all, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wingspread residence, designed in the 1930's.

During a walking meeting or on downtime, we encourage attendees to enjoy the grounds to their hearts’ content, pausing by Wright’s reflecting pool for, well, reflection. Energetic hikers will be rewarded with fabulous views of Lake Michigan and a historic light house at Wind Point, an easy-to-traverse one-mile journey.

Better ideas, smarter solutions – when you need to make a meeting successful, surround yourself with the world’s oldest and wisest source of inspiration: Mother Nature.

Why Green Matters to Meeting Planners

Why Green Matters to Meeting Planners

Did you know that a typical five-day conference of 2,500 people will generate 2,000 plates, 87,000 napkins, 75,000 disposable cups or glasses and 90,000 cans or bottles? 

The importance of hosting green meetings continues to grow in the conference industry. Reusable water containers rather than bottles and cups, more outdoor meeting spaces to reduce energy consumption, easy access to recycling bins, biodegradable food containers, conservative housekeeping practices and organically based cleaning products are just a few of the practices environmentally conscious meeting planners are looking for when choosing a venue. But their most important asset in their green meeting efforts? Venues with a culture of conservation.

 

Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center, located in America’s Midwest, is a Johnson Foundation-owned and -operated property with a long legacy of true environmentalism. While the meeting spaces can accommodate larger groups, the property’s Sam and Gene Johnson guest house features 40 rooms. Since 2010, these accommodations and meeting spaces achieved and have consistently retained LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council. By encouraging intimate gatherings, we keep our environmental footprint small. 

Both Wingspread and The Johnson Foundation exist today, in no small part, due to the efforts of third generation patriarch, Herbert F.  Johnson, Jr., who was also one of corporate America’s first conservationists. In the midst of the Great Depression, Johnson’s thoughts turned to carnauba, the key ingredient for the Johnson Wax Company’s main product. Concerned about the security of his company, Johnson headed to the rainforests in northeastern Brazil to learn more. This trip inspired Johnson to pen a book encouraging corporate environmental responsibility and to form The Johnson Foundation.

His accumulation of property on the Wind Point Peninsula in Wisconsin culminated in the formation of a wildlife preserve. Eventually amassing 36 acres, Johnson often brought his children to the property to spend days reveling in nature. The preserve became home to the family with the construction of a prairie home, Wingspread, designed by renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wright himself kept his architectural works in harmony with nature, and his design for Wingspread is no exception. Taking direction from the land, Wright used natural materials – including fine grain, first-cut rich white oak, Cherokee red brick and pink sandstone. Tidewater cypress composes the exterior, upon which the seasons cling as vines and snow.

The next generation of Johnsons has continued the cause of corporate environmental responsibility. In 1975, Sam Johnson removed chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from his company’s products. It was another three years before CFCs were banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a dozen years before they were banned worldwide. Sam Johnson was a founding member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and was named by Fortune Magazine as “Corporate America’s leading environmentalist.”

Meeting planners can and should seek partnerships with conference venues striving to keep nature close and making every effort to conserve it. Working together, the members of the meeting industry can become diligent stewards of the careful balance of wildlife, plant life and human life. 

About LEED

“LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.” – US Green Building Council

One of the Most Energetic Meeting Trends for 2019

One of the Most Energetic Meeting Trends for 2019!

 

Meetings in Motion, Part I: Nature

“Nothing happens until something moves.” – Albert Einstein

Did you know that one of the most energetic meeting trends for 2019 is the walking meeting? Designed to heighten the awareness of participants through physical activity and sensory stimulation, walking meetings remove both real and perceived barriers of communication for meeting attendees.  

The most frequent purposes for businesses and organizations to convene meetings are to plan change or progress, to discover new paths that achieve forward momentum, and to achieve agreement. It seems only natural, then, that physical movement of some kind should be part of all meetings.  

The hierarchy of authority, for example, is shed when everyone steps out from behind the table and takes a stroll. The walking meeting also releases chemicals in the brain that result in positive attitudes and enhanced creativity. 

The best outdoor walking meeting venues engage attendees in both natural and man-made landscapes. Last year meeting planners found a venue perfect for meetings in motion – on Wisconsin’s Wind Point Peninsula in Racine at Wingspread’s Executive Conference Center. Historically a private property, this conference venue was opened for public bookings in early 2018.

Located 30 minutes from Milwaukee and 90 from Chicago, Wingspread’s conference center is surrounded by none of the distractions of traditional meeting and convention spaces. No traffic, auto or otherwise, no streetlights, urban noise or random pedestrians. The physical centerpiece of the property, Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Wingspread,” reaches out toward all four corners of the earth, evoking a sense of movement and energy.  

Enveloped by nature year-round, Wingspread itself changes through the seasons, focusing attention on the surrounding 36-acre designated wildlife preserve. Here your group can traverse the wide, pea-gravel footpaths that lead through the property’s wooded area, populated by sugar maple, American beech and birch trees.

Your walking meeting will take you past the man-made ravine, where ash, cottonwood and black willows keep their “feet” wet. Local wildlife – both fowl and mammal – entertain near the man- made stream and ponds. This journey also will allow your group to fully appreciate Wright’s inspired design of the Wingspread building from every angle.

In peak season, the historic property is in bloom with flowers. There are dozens of planned flower beds as well as wild- flowers – marsh marigold, trillium and trout lily brighten the landscape surrounding the ravine. The planned beds frame the walkways and structures throughout the grounds. In harvest season, you’ll enjoy the aroma of the grape vines heavy with fruit in season that, after more than 100 years, still drape the exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture.

This year, give your meetings movement in the great outdoors. Wingspread’s experienced team can plan your walking meeting to include brief or extended pauses on the property’s lawns and patios, giving everyone a moment to contemplate the dialogue and leadership a perfect opportunity to summarize progress, secure consensus and introduce new paths of discussion.

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