start of enrichment programs - art at sea

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:15 AM

My boyhood was divided between Antwerpen, Flanders and Amsterdam, Netherlands. Both rich in art and culture. So you could say I grew up surrounded by masterpieces of the classic European schools.

Three years after the war, I joined Holland America Line as first-class dining room steward. Some of our passengers included Hollywood movie stars, amongst others.

A lengthy period of TB put me in a sanatorium for a few years. Here I began to paint. Nowadays it’s called Art Therapy. Not then. It was a must to keep from worrying about being ill.

Art became my career, or as my mentor later told me, “my vehicle to unfold”. In 1957 I emigrated to Canada.

Because of my previous experiences o/b ocean liners, I knew well the daily routine of shuffleboard, clay pigeon shooting, horse and turtle races, ballroom dancing and bridge. And, the bars opening at 9 am and closing well past midnight. Not to speak of ever-present food.

Nothing in the way of art, or introductions to the cultures of various ports-of-call.

This gave me the idea of teaching art and lecturing aboard ships. My vision was taken up by the 5-star Royal Viking Line in 1974. RVL offered us an inaugural world cruise, four months aboard their new vessel Royal Viking Sky. In exchange for superb room and board, I was Artist in Residence. Plus, we got to see the world, at a speed of 17 knots.

Enrichment programs are now a household word, but the concept was created by me.

In such a manner we’ve made three circumnavigations over the years, plus numerous shorter 30-day sailings. The latter mostly o/b venerable QE2 and other real ocean liners such as Marco Polo. (Not those mega-floating resorts called cruise ships.)

The photo here is aboard a Holland America vessel, sitting with grand masters of the Netherlands whose work I got to know so well as a boy. It was taken on my 75th turn around the Sun, aboard a visit to Oosterdam. Signing off, Henri

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