Victor D’Amico was the founding Director of the Education Department at the Museum of Modern Art from 1937 until 1970. While there, he developed inspiring art education programs for people of all ages. He created innovative learning environments for children, parents and children, high school students, and war veterans, as well as creating outreach programs for the community. His philosophy was based on a fundamental faith in the creative potential in every man, woman, and child. He believed, “that arts are a humanizing force and that their major function is to vitalize living.” Victor D’Amico was not only a remarkable artist and teacher, but a visionary and pioneer of modern art education.
In 1955, under Victor D’Amico’s direction, the Museum of Modern Art sponsored summer painting classes at Ashawagh Hall in East Hampton. Victor had a greater vision for these classes, some place “more dramatic and reflecting the character of the environment – sky, sea and salt air, either a boat, or resembling one.” In addition to teaching technique, his aim was to bring amateurs, children, adults, and artists and teachers together in a stimulating setting in a natural environment.
Victor D’Amico found his dream in a retired World War I Navy Barge. In March of 1960, with the help of local baymen, he anchored The Art Barge in place in Napeague Harbor where it still stands today. The second story was added, creating additional studio space with panoramic views of both Napeague Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. Originally named, Kearsarge, a Native American word meaning “place of heaven,” The Art Barge immediately attracted the attention of landscape painters and photographers. In the early years, studio painting and teacher training classes were taught by Victor.
Gradually other instructors joined him, including his wife, the artist and teacher, Mabel D’Amico. The program was gradually expanded to include classes in watercolor, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and workshops designed especially for young people. The Barge is open from the beginning of June through the end of September.
photos: Lois Berggren, Linda K. Alpern