Marion Boulton "Kippy" Stroud, 76, the seemingly indefatigable founder and director of the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia and the Acadia Summer Arts Program - a.k.a. "Kamp Kippy" - in Maine, died suddenly Saturday, Aug. 22, at her home in Northeast Harbor, Maine.

She was, said Timothy Rub, director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, of great significance both to the Art Museum, where she was a long-serving trustee, and to the world of contemporary art, where she championed textiles as a medium and, ultimately, all things fashioned by hand.

"She was of enormous importance for us in contemporary art, and for support of our work in that area," Rub said. "She was a donor of many fine works and, from time to time, of funds to acquire things we did not have the resources to acquire ourselves. Over the last 20 to 30 years, she had a really significant impact."

Her work at the Fabric Workshop, which she directed until the end of her life, resulted in hundreds of artist residencies and new works of art, dozens of publications, and exhibitions that traveled all over the world.

Patterson Sims, former director of the Montclair (N.J.) Art Museum and one of her many cousins, said she possessed the "soul of an artist."

"She also had a huge heart, a brilliant business mind, formidable organizational skills, and boundless energy and vision," Sims said. "It was all packaged in an utterly complex and layered personality that seldom, if ever, could acknowledge or be thanked for what she did for others, what experiences, programs, exhibitions, and publications she made happen, or for the myriad friendships that flowered through her extraordinary largesse."

Of the diminutive Ms. Stroud, he said: "In a world of exceptional people, she was a radiant giant, though she was the only person who did not believe that."

The board of directors of the Fabric Workshop and Museum issued a statement Monday afternoon mourning the loss of its founder and director, "one of the art world's true visionaries."

It continued: "For more than four decades, Kippy was a curator, author, editor, educator, administrator, and force for positive social change, all at the same time and always at the highest level of achievement."

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and obtaining a master's degree in art history, Ms. Stroud landed a job at the Art Museum as its first director of art sales and rentals. She roomed with another young museum employee, Anne d'Harnoncourt, who went on to become the museum's director.

"Anne wrote some of her best stuff sitting at Kippy's kitchen table," said Joseph Rishel, the Art Museum's curator of European art before 1900. Rishel and d'Harnoncourt, who died in 2008, were eventually married.

Ms. Stroud went on to become artistic director of Prints in Progress, a community organization that taught silk-screening to city children.

And in 1977, in the former work space home of Fox Slacks & Trousers on Arch Street, she founded the Fabric Workshop. (The museum came 20 years later.) The idea, she once said, was both straightforwardly simple and maddeningly complex. She invited artists "to explore, to take liberties," in what she conceived of as "a studio and laboratory of new design, unhampered by rules and precedents."

The Fabric Workshop introduced artists to a new medium, fabric, introduced them to unfamiliar techniques of printing, and turned them loose - no preconceptions, no demands.

The results have run the gamut. In the early years, the architect Robert Venturi designed neckties, and the sculptor Italo Scanga did napkins. In more recent years, the artist Cai Guo Qiang created an explosion event and fireworks at the Art Museum. Film, performance, concept - all have became fair game for resident artists.

Over the years, Red Grooms, Louise Bourgeois, Donald Lipski, Marina Abramovic, Claes Oldenburg, and many others have undertaken workshop residencies.

About 20 years ago, Ms. Stroud decided that there should be a museum attached to her operations, now located in the 1200 block of Arch Street, providing space for the many works created there.

Further back than that, three decades ago, Ms. Stroud founded the Acadia Summer Arts Program on Mount Desert Island, long ago dubbed Kamp Kippy. It has served as a kind of international think tank, where artists, critics, curators, administrators, and intellectuals gather, again with no demands or preconceptions.

"Half the things I learned about the international art world, I learned at Kamp Kippy," said Rishel.

Though her many friends considered her a visionary who, among other accomplishments, helped break down boundaries between craft and art, Ms. Stroud characterized herself as "a facilitator."

Rishel said that hardly described Ms. Stroud and the workshop. "It's the quality of everything," he said. "The catalogs are prizewinning. The attention to detail is amazing. She took things seriously."

Ms. Stroud was married to Clinton Swingle, who died in 2013.

A private funeral service will be held in Maine. There are no definite plans for a memorial service.

Contributions may be made to the Fabric Workshop and Museum, 1214 Arch St., Philadelphia 19107, or at http://www.fabricworkshopandmuseum.org/SupportFWM.aspx.

ssalisbury@phillynews.com

215-854-5594 @SPSalisbury