Tylden W. Streett
World War II veteran was a sculptor, a longtime teacher
at Maryland Institute College of Art and a jazz musician
Tylden W. Streett, a noted sculptor who successfully combined careers as an artist, musician and longtime teacher at the Maryland Institute College of Art, died Thursday of lymphoma at his home in Richmond, California.
The former longtime Roland Park resident was 96.
“He was a wonderful sculptor and teacher who had a dry sense of humor. He was a Renaissance person from whom I learned something new every day,” said Francesca Schuler Guerin, a Baltimore artist who heads the Schuler School of Fine Arts on East Lafayette Avenue that had been founded by her artist parents, Hans Carl Schuler and Ann Didusch Schuler, in 1959.
“He knew so much about so many things,” she said.
Robert A. Copskey, a nationally known figurative sculptor, who teaches at MICA’s Rinehart School of Sculpture, was not only a former student but also a friend of Mr. Streett’s who recruited him from Montgomery College to teach at MICA.
“We worked together and we visited museums together and always had a good rapport,” said Mr. Copskey, who lives in Red Lion, Pennsylvania. “He was someone I always looked up to. He had a wealth of knowledge and it was like a library closing with Tylden’s passing. For me, he was always a rock.”
Tylden Westcott Streett, who was the son of Dr. David Corbin Streett, a physician, and his wife, Ferebe Streett, a musician, was born in Baltimore and raised near Mount Vernon Place.
Something of a child prodigy, he was 5 years old when he began drumming with the Kornerstone Kindergarten Orchestra. He took drumming lessons and as a student at Boys’ Latin School, often cut classes in the 1930s to go to the Hippodrome Theatre to watch live performances of such favorite musicians as Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa and Frank Sinatra.
Mr. Streett left Boys’ Latin and enrolled at City College, where he joined a jazz band with fellow students and by the time he was 18, was drumming for Sam Hudson’s Orchestra and the Rhythm Ambassadors, the Sportsmen and the Dukes of Rhythm.
In 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he was trained as a fighter pilot in Texas, but World War II ended before he could fly in combat.
He attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a year, and then studied at Johns Hopkins University for a year, followed by two years at St. John’s College in Annapolis, where he decided he wanted to study art.
In 1954, he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art from MICA and three years later earned a master’s degree from MICA’s Rinehart School, where he studied with Hans Schuler, Sidney Waugh and Cecil Howard, and worked after graduation for several years as an assistant to sculptor Lee Lawrie in Easton.
While working with Mr. Lawrie, he modeled architectural sculpture that was used in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and the Eisenhower Monument at West Point.
He taught sculpture at MICA from 1959 until retiring in 2009.
“He was always held in the highest regard by his colleagues and was an outstanding mentor to students who wanted to study figurative sculpture,” his daughter, Ferebe Streett, a sculptor, who lives in Richmond, wrote in a biographical profile of her father.
Michael Lasell, who had been Mr. Streett’s assistant at MICA for two years, had studied figurative sculpture with him from 1973 to 1977.
“He was a bastion of traditional knowledge when it was out of style and somewhat denigrated by others in the sculpture department,” said Mr. Lasell, a Boston sculptor. “Of course, figure sculpture if nothing else is a unique and valuable way of observation.”
Gary Siegel, owner of New Arts Foundry in Hampden, has cast much of Mr. Streett’s work for more than 40 years, with one of the first being a sculpture of a boy in a garden that is displayed at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
“He tended to look at a figure as a series of profiles that he turned until he found what he was looking for,” Mr. Siegel said, “It was an interesting approach that commanded both anatomy and physiology. He was a very good and accomplished sculptor.”
Mr. Siegel had also been a student of Mr. Streett’s at MICA.
“He was a very good and nurturing teacher who was positive when giving criticism, and you never felt as though you were being condemned,” he said.
Said Mr. Copskey: “He wanted you to learn the basics and then you could go from there. That was his philosophy. He contributed so much to his students over the years.”
Louise Freedman, a Boston and Barnstable, Massachusetts, sculptor, had been a student of Mr. Streett’s in the 1970s.
“I can (candidly) say he was the best sculpture teacher I ever had and he was the kindest. He was never dismissive of anything you wanted to study,” Ms. Freedman said.
“He would give anything of himself to help a student who was interested in sculpture, and, of course, I was smitten with sculpture. He was a fabulous sculptor who downplayed his own talent,” she said. “He said little about his own work, but showed you everything he knew.”
Mr. Streett was also known for his arcane sense of humor and being quick-witted.
“And Tylden was fascinating and funny. I still tell his many stories. He was a noted raconteur,” Mr. Lasell wrote.
“He once saw a Timex watch completely flattened into the tar of a busy intersection. He waited until there was a break in traffic and dug the knife out with his penknife,” he wrote in an email. “He sent I back to Timex and they sent him a new one no questions asked as their ads proclaimed. That made me laugh.”
He recalled Mr. Streett’s first cooking experience in his first studio and apartment when he placed an unopened can of tomato soup on a hot plate.
“He continued working on artwork until the can exploded and covered the room with a thick red spray,” Mr. Lasell wrote.
One day while Ms. Freedman was at work in the studio, a colleague referred to her as a “sculptress,” a term to which Mr. Streett took great umbrage.
“Tylden did have a great sense of humor, and in a deep and booming voice said, ‘There is no such word. A female painter isn’t called a paintress or a doctor a doctress. Sculptress is used only for the purpose of discrimination.’ Tylden always was very supportive of women,” Ms. Freedman said.
Mr. Streett had a parallel career teaching from the 1990s to retirement in 2011 at the Schuler School.
He created the instructional film “Plaster Casting with a Waste Mold,” which received several awards at the Baltimore Film Festival and helped students better comprehend the complex process.
“He had a number of his own commissions,” Mr. Lasell wrote, “but his great legacy is his many students.”
Mr. Streett’s work included the John O’Donnell Monument in Canton, the Firefighter Memorial statue at City Hall Plaza, stone gargoyles on the National Cathedral in Washington, the seal of Kuwait at its embassy in Washington, along with many private commissions for fountains and portrait busts, and many commemorative medallions, including one for former Baltimore Mayor Clarence “Du” Burns.
Since the early 1970s, Mr. Streett lived in the old Evergreen Methodist Church on Keswick Road, which he had purchased and converted into a home and studio where he even built an ultralight airplane.
He never gave up flying and flew his own plane that he owned for years.
And he continued drumming. In the early 1960s, he formed the Submarine Six, with radio music host Harley Brinsfield, which was one of the first racially integrated bands in Baltimore, his daughter said.
In later years, he was a member of Bertha’s Rhythm Kings, Pier Five Jazz band, Bourbon Street Ramblers and the last Chance Jazz Band.
He often played gigs at the old Martick’s Restaurant Francais on West Mulberry Street.
“We played together with the Bourbon Street Ramblers that we put together in 1972,” said Ed Goldstein, a founding member of the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble and principal tubist with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.
“We played the Maryland Wine Festival in Carroll County for 30 years together,” said Mr. Goldstein, a Lutherville resident. “And we did hundreds of gigs together at Bertha’s in Fells Point.”
He described Mr. Streett as being a “pretty cool guy who played the drums with something of a sculptor’s and artist’s touch. And when he played, there was nothing superfluous and certainly no ego. He always had that twinkle in his eye and 100-watt smile. He got life.”
Plans for a memorial gathering celebrating Mr. Streett’s life to be held at Bertha’s Bar and Restaurant in Fells Point, are incomplete.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a son, Byron Shepherd of Boston; a brother, Pete Streett of Richmond, California; and three grandchildren. Marriages to Lauretta Lauchner and Renee Lewman Powers ended in divorce.