Blocks, Trucks, and Now, a Gallery

After four years in a trailer, four walls and a roof
Jeff Mayer and Angela De Vincenzo have expanded their Blocks, Trucks + Art workshops and programs for kids into their new BT+A Gallery in Sag Harbor. Carissa Katz

After operating their Blocks, Trucks + Art workshops and BMX programs out of a retooled 18-wheeler at the Hayground School for four summers, the husband-and-wife team of Jeff Mayer and Angela De Vincenzo have opened a brick-and-mortar gallery and workshop space in Sag Harbor where they can offer children’s programming all year long. 

Those who have visited the couple’s big rig on the Hayground campus in Bridgehampton, where it is parked alongside a dirt BMX pump track that Mr. Mayer helped design and build, will see familiar elements in the bright and boldly colored BT+A Gallery on Washington Street. 

“We’ve really transformed this space to be our 18-wheeler, basically. Everything that was on the trailer is in here,” Ms. De Vincenzo said on Jan. 17 as the couple prepared for their grand opening on Jan. 20. 

Ms. De Vincenzo, a learning specialist, and Mr. Mayer, a designer, D.J., and former BMX pro, draw on the seemingly disparate elements of their combined backgrounds to “inspire children to find their passion through creativity, academics, and physical activity,” Ms. De Vincenzo said. 

Blocks, Trucks + Art began with a question: “How do we give kids what they don’t get enough of during the school day?” 

The answer, in part, was to provide more “open-ended experiences for kids.” The block work, based on a model developed at the City and Country School in Manhattan, where Ms. De Vincenzo once taught, is so much more than simple play. 

“While they’re building and working together and creating structures, there’s also a lot of deep work that’s involved with social pragmatics, problem-solving, spatial relationships, mapping.” Children learn to express ideas and collaborate while also working on planning and organization skills. 

At the Hayground Camp, they offered BMX biking on the track and D.J. lessons, block-building sessions, and tutorials on the truck’s trailer. 

Much of that will now happen at the Sag Harbor spot, as well. While there obviously won’t be biking in the Washington Street location, a multiuse room at the back of the gallery will allow for bike mechanics lessons. There will be rotating shows on the gallery walls — the first one features Mr. Mayer’s art and design — and the artists will be tapped to lead classes for kids while their shows are up. Ms. De Vincenzo will lead block workshops and private and small-group academic tutorials.

“A big part of the program is going to continue at Hayground,” she said, “but since it’s mostly seasonal with our outdoor tracks and the 18-wheeler, which doesn’t have heat, we really wanted a place to extend that work in the colder months and serve the local community.” 

The 18-wheeler will be transformed into an indoor skate park complete with half pipes, and skateboarding will be added to next summer’s curriculum. 

“I’m really excited for the skateboarding to happen because I’ve been wanting that to happen for a long time,” said the couple’s son, Luca, a third grader who is already a sponsored skater. 

After living together on the truck for three summers, the family left Brooklyn and moved to Sag Harbor full time at the beginning of last summer. Ms. De Vincenzo left her job at the Packer Collegiate Institute, a private school in Brooklyn Heights, to make the move. 

“The living on the truck piece was really insane, that we wanted to do this so bad that we lived on a truck as a family for three summers,” Mr. Mayer said. “It was crazy, but it’s what got us here.”

They had already been raising money to grow their program and eventually package it and take it on the road when the former Grenning Gallery space, right below their Sag Harbor apartment, came up for rent. 

To raise money for it, they hit upon the idea of selling memberships. “From doing our summers we did really amass a wonderful, devoted clientele,” Ms. De Vincenzo said. “Of course, it’s the summer clientele, so these are families of means, so we reached out to them as we were opening this space . . . because we really didn’t have a ton of working capital.” 

“If you’re doing good work, and people believe in you, don’t be afraid to ask,” Mr. Mayer said. They weren’t, and enough people stepped forward to help them make the gallery a reality. 

Gold memberships cost $10,000 and give children unlimited access to year-round programming and the pump track at Hayground and indoor riding. They get their own BMX bikes and helmets, gear designed by Mr. Mayer, and invitations to special events. Built into the price is a bonus: Each membership bought by a family that can afford it also buys membership and all the trappings for two other children who might not otherwise be able to take advantage of the Blocks, Trucks + Art offerings. 

“It bothered us that our summer program was only for a certain element of the population out here,” Ms. De Vincenzo said. “We kept feeling like . . . it would probably feel more satisfying if we were serving the local population, so that was a big impetus for the space.” 

Starting in February, she’ll offer a block workshop on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon. After a walking tour of the village, kids will sketch and research the buildings and then go back to the gallery to “recreate the buildings with realistic detail.” The cost will be $300 a month. 

Mr. Mayer, who D.J.s most Saturdays at Tutto Il Giorno in Sag Harbor, will offer one-on-one lessons using the D.J. booth installation in the gallery. “I want to create a sound library where kids can come in and put headphones on,” he said. “There are so many fun things that we can do here.”

A zine-making class is on the horizon, and Ms. De Vincenzo, who is also an educational consultant, plans to host monthly talks for parents on such subjects as reading at home, how to overcome homework frustrations, and setting limits.

“I want the space to feel like a resource for the community of parents as well,” she said.