Angela de Vincenzo and Jeff Mayer launch a camp at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton.
The “Brooklyn” front stoop of “Big Mama,” an 18-wheeler that doubles as a club house and classroom for the Hayground Camp for kids.
What do you get when you combine an 18-wheeler called Big Mama with a family of Brooklyn hipsters? You get a spacious studio on wheels that includes a set of turntables, a gallery of kids’ art, architectural feats made of wooden blocks, and a lounge area that feels as inviting as the chillest late-night club in Red Hook. Big Mama has been stationed as a campsite on the grounds of the Hayground School in Bridgehampton all summer, with its owners leading art and block workshops for campers and the public.
Angela De Vincenzo and Jeff Mayer bought Big Mama a few years back because it was the best thing they could do for their little boy, Luca, who was born with a cleft palate. They knew he had a hard road of surgeries ahead before he’d be able to verbalize his thoughts like other kids, but when his first sounds were inspired by rumbling trucks, they ran with it.
They would visit the firehouse in Brooklyn Heights regularly, and they started looking at trucks for sale, just for fun. De Vincenzo recalls, “I never thought that I, a city girl, needed a truck. But it made perfect sense that this was what our family needed.” They sprung for the 70-foot-long 1981 Kenworth semi. “The truck encouraged Luca to use his voice,” De Vincenzo says. “It gave him confidence.”
Educator Angela De Vincenzo and Brooklyn-based artist Adam Stennett with a group of children participating in the Blocks, Trucks + Art program.
What they were going to do with the truck was a work in progress—it still is. But when nascent, inspired ideas like this happen to land at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton, they tend to grow. Hayground is full of believers, and when founder and director Jon Snow got wind of the project from his daughter, Ella, he immediately opened the doors, and campers have been reaping the benefits all summer long. Mayer offers BMX lessons (he was a pro—photographs of him in action captured by a young Spike Jonze dot the walls). De Vincenzo gives tutoring lessons, all with the artful ambience of the big rig as inspiration.
“The only direction Jon gave us,” Mayer recalls, “was that he wanted the kids to have a sensory experience.” For Mayer, a designer, and De Vincenzo, an educator, this was the perfect mandate.
“Kids are using their hands,” De Vincenzo says, “and moving their bodies, getting down to great music while they’re building. Open-ended play is not always front and center, but this work capitalizes on kids’ multiple intelligences.”
Luca wakes up in is 18-wheeler, parked at the Hayground School.
The truck has been the family’s summer home: They sleep in the cab, they shower behind a screen in the open field, they eat alfresco. Scrawled across the side of the truck are the words “Keep on Truckin’,” which is exactly what they want Luca to absorb.
“It’s about not giving up,” says De Vincenzo, “like a big, heavy-duty truck.”
Small group Blocks, Trucks + Art workshops are offered Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday and Thursday, 1–2 pm and 3:15–4:15 pm; Saturday 10 am –12 pm. $100 per session. 151 Mitchell Lane, Bridgehampton, 537-7068