Victor D’Amico was the founding Director of the Education Department at the Museum of Modern Art from 1937 until 1969. 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 developing outreach programs for the community. His philosophy was based on a fundamental faith in the creative potential of 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.
Beginning in 1955, under Victor D’Amico’s direction, the Museum of Modern Art sponsored summer painting classes at Ashawagh Hall in the Springs, East Hampton. Victor had a greater vision for these classes, someplace “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 within a natural environment.
Victor D’Amico found his dream in a retired Navy Barge. In March of 1960, with the help of local baymen, he beached The Art Barge in place at the head of 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. Named Kearsarge, a Native American word meaning “place of heaven,” it became known as The Art Barge, immediately attracting 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 Art Barge is open June through September.