Ma’s House – a safe place to create
Shinnecock artists have been giving the world creative energy for centuries. The ancients created beautiful pieces from the Earth’s gifts. Wampum carvings from quahog shells, buckskin paintings from berry-based dye, and woven baskets from birch and other plants. In the 1950s, David Martine Bunn was famous for his ability to sculpt beautiful, realistic duck decoys.
Today some of our artists include Citizen Courtney Leonard’s famous expression through clay, Citizen Justin Weaver has traveled the world photographing life and adventure for people like men’s diary magazine, Adidas, Toyota and victory diary to name a few. Citizen Gordell Wright’s wampum work is featured across the country, from Arizona to Philadelphia, Oklahoma to Indianapolis. Camille Seaman, Shinnecock descendant and world-renowned photographer, has graced the cover of more than five National geographic magazines and is a TED Senior Fellow.
Jeremy Dennis is another Shinnecock artist who is having a huge impact on the art world. Raised in Shinnecock territory, he is a contemporary fine art photographer. Jeremy holds an MFA from Pennsylvania State University and a BFA in Studio Art from Stony Brook University. In 2016, he embarked on a mighty journey to identify and elevate culturally specific Indigenous sites along Long Island. On this site uses an interactive online map and photographs to reclaim sacred and significant Indigenous sites on the island.
In June 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Jeremy embarked on another journey, to turn his grandmother’s former home into an art gallery and studio. Loretta Silva (Ma) was born in 1919 and always dreamed of her house, built in the 1960s, becoming a museum. With the help of many citizens of Shinnecock, outside artists and friends such as Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Ma’s House has grown from a once loving and nurturing home to a safe place where artists can explore their crafts and exhibit their works.
After many shows and exhibitions were canceled due to the COVID-19 virus, Jeremy was inspired to create a space where artists from minority communities could come and express themselves in a place built especially for them. Even in a field as creative as art, many artists encounter gatekeepers or people in the industry who aim to restrict or stifle true freedom of expression. Some agents and curators use their perceived power to uplift artists who only fit their belief systems, resulting in many artists being left without a place to work, express, grow, and be celebrated.
Ma’s House is a wonderful haven of freedom for artists. Being genuine and honest not only with themselves but with the audience, the viewers of said art. Inspired by social justice movements and activism in the areas of bigotry, systemic racism and police brutality, Jeremy hopes Ma’s House will evoke creative energy, healing and liberation.
Since December 2021, Ma’s House has included 10 incredible artists from across the country in its residency program, along with several exhibitions. The gallery and studio have received grants to contribute to its growth and sustainability and are quickly getting noticed across the country. This year, Ma’s House celebrated the addition of a library to the space thanks to the generosity of several donors, including the John Jermain Library and the Stony Brook University Library. Last April, American poet Joy Harjo paid a visit to space.
Making Ma’s House what it is today has not been an easy task, but its success and growth are a true testament to what happens when people come together humbly with good energy and good intentions . Providing a safe and healthy place for artists to thrive is such an important undertaking, and Ma’s House and the Shinnecock Nation are leaders in this space.
Christian Weaver (Shinnecock), Chairman of the Wampum Group and Program Director for the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, has worked in the development and strategic planning industry for nearly 20 years. Christian is passionate about improving communities and has dedicated his career to positively impacting the lives of others.