Local artist Lauri Kaye’s “A Tucson Portrait Story” series will be displayed in the Upper Link Gallery at the Tucson International Airport from Feb. 6-March 16. The drawings depict iconic Tucson people, places and events, from the Loft Cinema to street musicians to monsoon rains, in a graphic journalistic style.
Kaye, who grew up in Yardley, Pa., worked as assistant art director at Rolling Stone Magazine while studying at Parsons School of Design in New York City. After graduating in 1992, she worked at NSI Design in New York before launching her own studio, Sun Design, Inc. In 1998, Kaye moved to Tucson and opened Create Café & Catering, Inc., which she ran for 13 years.
She is now the artist behind Create for the People Ventures. Each time her portrait stories are exhibited, Kaye chooses a local nonprofit to receive all profits.
Kaye says her parents helped foster her philanthropic spirit.
“My parents were always active socially whether it was through our synagogue, the Hebrew school my mom started in her basement or the Boy Scouts where my father spent much of his time volunteering and teaching. My father grew up very poor with a single mother and Boy Scouts was a great equalizer. Helping those less fortunate and in need was a natural part of our lives.
“As a family we spent Friday nights at services and always showed up at Sunday school with pocket change divvied up for tzedakah (charity) and Fig Newtons.”
Her mother may also be the source of Kaye’s artistic talent. After growing her Mah Tov Hebrew school from six to 50 students, “the artist in her woke up and she began silk painting tallit (prayer shawls) for her students,” Kaye says.
Kaye spent summers at camps run by Habonim Dror North America, the progressive labor youth Zionist movement, and a gap year in Israel on two kibbutzim. She has returned to Israel often, and drew her first portrait story, “Barbed Wire Flowers,” after a 2014 visit to a child her family has sponsored in the West Bank through SOS Children’s Villages, an international organization.