Repairs, Historic Status For Art Barge

Independent/T. E. McMorrow

These are exciting times for supporters of the Victor D’Amico Institute of Art, better known as the Art Barge, along with the D’Amico Lazy Point house.

Last week, the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a permit for needed bulkhead repairs for the iconic structure, which sits on the edge of Napeague Harbor, and is reached by artists and art lovers alike via a sandy dirt road from Napeague Meadow Road.

Now, the East Hampton Town Board appears poised to designate that structure, along with the Lazy Point property, as historic landmarks.

The Art Barge is owned by the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, and is funded by a not-for-profit, the Victor D’Amico Institute of Art/The Art Barge. Christopher Kohan, the executive director of the Art Barge’s board of trustees, gave a brief history of it when he addressed the ZBA at a hearing in February.

Victor D’Amico was the founding director of education for MoMA, and was a leader of the arts movement in East Hampton, teaching art classes in Ashawagh Hall in Springs in the 1940s. He purchased the barge in New Jersey in about 1960, then brought it up the East River and across the Long Island Sound before beaching it where it currently sits. D’Amico obtained a certificate of occupancy for the structure from the town in 1961, and it has been used as a summer arts school since.

First Coastal Corporation of Westhampton Beach has been contracted to do the bulkhead repairs. About 200 feet of bulkhead is involved, which will also be heightened by 18 inches.

All needed approvals have been obtained for the work to be done.

Kohan said in February that, after the needed bulkhead repairs are completed, fundraising will begin for the winterizing of the Art Barge.

But, that is not all that is happening.

Francis Bock, the presiding officer of the East Hampton Town Trustees, recently sent a letter from the trustees, indicating that they would approve an historic landmark designation for a Lazy Point property Victor D’Amico and his wife, Mabel, built their home on in 1940. In a 2016 article, Modern Magazine described the eclectic approach to building the D’Amicos took: “Owing as much to the couple’s sensibilities as to wartime shortages, they also purchased and dismantled another abandoned building to reuse its materials in their residence.”

They filled the house with objects of “found” art, many whimsical in nature. Today, that structure is a museum owned and funded by the same not-for-profit that funds Art Barge, the Victor D’Amico Institute of Art.

The town board is expected to take up the possible historic landmark designation of both the Lazy Point property, as well as the Art Barge itself, early next month.

East Hampton Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said, “Victor D’Amico was an important artist to the community, and continues to be important.” D’Amico died in 1987, his wife in 1998.

“You want to preserve the setting,” Overby said about the D’Amico properties, as well as other historic art locations in East Hampton. “The context is so important for understanding.” She said that the historic designation should help the D’Amico Institute of Art with its fundraising, as well.

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