Kippy

Phong, you asked me to ruminate on Kippy’s “aspirations,” how the Acadia Summer Arts Program (ASAP) evolved into the seasonal intellectual hub that it became. Kippy never had a mission statement, but she did have a plan, one that grew amorphously over nearly three decades and drew on a loose-knit group of artists, curators, and writers whom she brought to Mount Desert Island from June through Labor Day weekend. There was never any conscious effort to balance these disciplines: she invited those whose work interested her and acted on a few of our recommendations. Kamp Kippy, as her project was affectionately known, represented a high-octane salon, an exhilarating retreat where ideas were exchanged over dinner, before lectures, and on boat trips, walks, and off-nights with fellow guests. It was never charted as a 501 © (3) organization with a foundation to support it. In short, ASAP was the outgrowth of her phenomenal largesse, of her desire to bring extraordinary people together. That’s what made it so special, the idiosyncratic place that it was. 

“The Stroud Cousins,” from Schoolhouse Ledge, standing from right to left: Lynn, Clara, Sydie, Ann, Kippy. 1952.

Because Kippy was a remarkable curator of people, the program could never be institutionalized, let alone duplicated. That is, it could never transcend her and retain its unconventional mix of talent, as well as the mayhem and circus of intrigue that she always managed to engender. (So many Kamp Kippy tales!) 

I was a guest for almost two decades, and became very close to her.  Even so, I am left wondering if—for all the pleasure that she gave us from congregating in one of the most idyllic locations in the world, along with the new friendships that we forged—her own enjoyment in the program was matched and equal. She adored attending our lectures—the best of us, after all—but there is a lot I’ll never know.

Contributor

Debra Bricker Balken

DEBRA BRICKER BALKEN is an independent curator and writer who works on subjects relating to American modernism and contemporary art.

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