Life After the League

When Art League of Long Island’s first Executive Director Jeanie Tengelsen retired in 2002, she had accomplished everything she wanted for the organization. Over three decades, she advanced from volunteer to board member to leader, she expanded membership, classes and students, attracted excellent faculty and, most importantly, was instrumental in finding the Art League a new, permanent home with state-of-the-art facilities in Dix Hills.

After construction of the new building was completed (following a five-year capital campaign), the Art League honored Tengelsen by naming its beautiful new exhibition space for her. The two-story Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery is a fitting tribute to its namesake’s 30 years of service, and she could not be happier about it. “It’s so exciting and heartwarming to me,” Tengelsen said, noting that the Art League never had a proper gallery before this, and she’s glad to be alive to enjoy it. “Every visit is a thrill.”

Thanks in large part to Tengelsen, the Art League is now a fully realized organization offering hundreds of well-attended classes in a wide variety of media, including the newest techniques and technology. Along with the vast curriculum and full calendar of events, lectures and workshops, ALLI provides a place for artists to meet, share ideas and discuss and exhibit their work. Despite its massive growth, the organization continues to be a community of artists, just as it was in the beginning.

But Tengelsen said achieving this vision was a “tremendous undertaking” that required lots of hard work. “It was not just a job, it was a way of life,” she said, describing her transition from Art League member when she joined in 1965 to becoming the first Executive Director in 1972. “I guess I found my calling,” Tengelsen said. She first joined the League to work on her own art and to buy some paintings for her new Frank Lloyd Wright home in Lloyd Neck, but eventually found that she was destined for a career in art administration, not art making (though she still dabbles in Japanese Sumi-e brush painting and metal sculpture).

“I was involved with so many artists and helping their careers,” Tengelsen said. “It was very rewarding,” she added. “At the Art League I had a passion for my work.” Now retired for 10 years, Tengelsen maintains a lifetime membership at ALLI and a post on the org’s advisory committee. She also consults and curates for various art venues, including galleries and museums, and continues to work with emerging artists, helping with training and technique, career advice and introductions to her art-world contacts.

Recently, Tengelsen served as guest curator for Sandra Benny/Richard Vaux: A Working Relationship, a husband and wife show opening at her eponymous ALLI gallery in mid September. It is her second curatorial effort at the gallery, her first being the League’s 50th anniversary exhibition of ALLI’s founders and early members.

“My heart is still very much involved,” Tengelsen said, though she likes getting to pick and choose her projects at ALLI while spreading her wings elsewhere. “There is life after the Art League.”

September 16-October 28

Sandra Benny/Richard Vaux: A Working Relationship
Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, Art League of Long Island
107 East Deer Park Road, Dix Hills
(631) 462-5400,

oliver peterson

Oliver Peterson, Associate Editor, writes and helps drive the visual arts coverage at Pulse. He has a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and an MFA in writing from Southampton College. He is an accomplished painter based on the East End of LI, where he lives with his wife and two dogs.