What do architect Louis I. Kahn Ar’24 Hon’71, artist George “Frolic” Weymouth and musicians Claude and Pamela Frank have in common? Aside from their connections to the Philadelphia region—not to mention reputations as masters of their respective art forms—they are all subjects in GEd’77 Alexandra Tyng’s current fundraising project, Portraits for the Arts.
“It’s amazing how many nationally known [artists] either live in Philadelphia or went to school here or worked in the city at some time,” Tyng says. “Over the years, I have painted many commissioned portraits and I enjoy the process of working with clients, but I kept asking myself what else I could do with portraits. It occurred to me that I could simultaneously create art and use art to reinvest in the arts.”
She’s created about 15 portraits for the project so far, including depictions of her filmmaker brother Nathaniel Kahn and her architect parents Louis Kahn and Anne Tyng, who she says inspired the project. “Most [of my subjects] are well-known nationally, though I’ve [also] painted a few young people with promising talent,” Tyng says. “It goes slowly because I have gallery shows and commissioned portrait work, too.”
But unlike her usual commissioned work, for which subjects approach (and pay) her, Tyng must track down her Portraits for the Arts subjects herself, then convince them to sit for her. To that end, Tyng says her “wish list” includes philanthropists Gerry Lenfest and Ruth and Raymond Perelman WEv’40, singer Patti LaBelle, dancer Judith Jameson, cartoonist Tony Auth and comedian Bill Cosby, among others. She also accepts nominations.
Tyng plans to exhibit her Portraits for the Arts series at the Gross McCleaf Gallery (no dates yet) and use the money from sales to “enhance the arts in Philadelphia.” She also hopes the works will help “raise awareness of the arts by [depicting] these people who have contributed to the arts. That way,” she adds, “I’m creating a work of art and also immortalizing the people I’m painting so future generations can look into their faces and understand their contributions to the arts.”