Marion “Kippy” Stroud (1939–2015)

Marion “Kippy” Stroud at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, c. 1980.

THE FIRST TIME I visited Kamp Kippy—shortly after the Fabric Workshop and Museum hosted an exhibition titled “Secret Victorians” that I had cocurated in 2001—I was immediately whisked into an expedition to Cranberry Island. “We ordered another sandwich. Get in.” The silver Volvo was apparently Kippy’s office—and kennel—on wheels. A spot was cleared for me to sit up front amid papers, faxes, FedEx envelopes, tide charts, timetables, boat and plane schedules, real-estate listings, maps, rolls of blue tape. Forrest Gump, Kippy’s giant pet retriever, sat caged in the back. Abruptly Kippy yanked the car to the side of the road—“The reception is always good in this spot”—and made a call. “Tell John that I want him to give his lecture tomorrow night after dinner,” she instructed. We drove to a dock where Eakins scholar Darrel Sewell was waiting with the sandwiches. We all boarded a boat that ferried us to the island. We walked up a hill to a trim modern house with a blue door, where Kippy’s friend the artist Edna Andrade greeted us. It was providential, as so many encounters at Kamp Kippy were meant to be: In 2003, Edna’s optical paintings were the subject of an exhibition I initiated with curator Debra Balken, whom I also met that summer in Maine. After lunch, we looked at Edna’s drawings of Maine’s rocky shoreline, rendered with all the extraordinary precision of Edna herself. “Try and get here when you say you will next time,” she told Kippy, clearly ready for us to leave so she could get back to work. Back in the boat, Kippy pulled out a ziplock bag full of bills. “I wanted to make sure you came back for us before paying,” she told the captain as he landed us back at shore.

Startling. Direct. Transactional. Visionary. Kippy’s support of artists, art historians, curators, architects, museums was a world unto itself. I am lucky to have visited the island where she created her summer camp in Maine—most recently and sadly this last summer—and to have worked in Philadelphia, where the Fabric Workshop and Museum has been a historic and singular space for artists to stretch, grow, and show their work since 1977. Her patronage was as profound as Kippy was unique. Through the works of Kara Walker, Richard Tuttle, Beverly Semmes, Laura Owens, Virgil Marti, Rick Lowe, Joan Jonas, Ann Hamilton, Terry Allen, to name but a few of the many artists whose projects she passionately believed in, as well as the countless exhibitions and institutions she funded, Kippy helped to build an art world that we inhabit today.

Ingrid Schaffner is a curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and curator of the 2018 Carnegie International.