Ma's House Restoration & BIPOC Artist Studio

Ma’s House Restoration & Shinnecock BIPOC Artist Studio

My name is Jeremy Dennis and I am an indigenous artist and photographer raised on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation at “Ma’s House” in the eastern end of Long Island, New York.  My grandmother, Loretta Silva, also known as Princess Silva Arrow of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, was affectionately called “Ma” by her children and grandchildren. She passed away in 1998 when I was 8 years old.  We still call the home where we lived with her “Ma’s House”, and it was always filled with so much love and warmth, welcoming all who came to visit and spend time with our family.  My mother told me that when she was young, Ma held mini-powwows with the whole family and other tribe members dancing and singing in our traditional regalia at the house.  People from everywhere, even foreign countries, would visit the house and also partake in viewing Native craftwork, handmade beadwork, and enjoy pony rides, archery, as well as eat traditional Indian corn, cooked in the earth layered under seaweed. 

It’s a huge financial and physical undertaking to restore “Ma’s House” and the Silva family home. With very limited resources my grandfather, Peter Silva, Sr., traditional Chief of the Hassanamisco Band of Indians, of Grafton, Massachusetts, scraped together what he could to build this unique house for Ma and their 6 children about 65 years ago. My mother found a picture of her father salvaging the wood and windows for the house from a Clergy house that was due to be demolished so the materials used for the home may well be over 100 years old.  My direct family as well as my aunts, uncles, and cousins have lived at “Ma’s House” and sustained it until recent years with its leaky plumbing, dry rot/mold areas, unfinished basement, and outdated furnace.

Ma had always wanted her house to be an educational museum space, a safe haven for all, and a place where arts and culture bring people together.    As Ma’s youngest grandchild, I’m determined to uphold my grandmother’s wishes.  All of the health disparities and economic injustice within minority communities that have become clear during the COVID-19 pandemic and rise of social justice activism against police brutality, bigotry, and systemic racism show, to me, a deep urgency for artists who identify as Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color (BIPOC) to have safe spaces for free creativity and healing.  I believe that “Ma’s House” can provide this space for BIPOC artists and all people who support and uphold moral values for equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

I’ve already exhausted most of my own funds cleaning out the house and debris around the allotment. I have a modest income that has been severely impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m unable to apply for a mortgage living on an Indian reservation, nor can I afford the upfront down payments on utilities.

I humbly ask for donations for the bare minimum to make sure I can restore my old family home on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation to live in, work in, and create an arts and body movement community in.  

Can you help?

With any financial or other assistance you can offer during these difficult times you will help to achieve the vision for “Ma’s House” to provide a dedicated space for BIPOC artists, a photo studio, body healing, and a welcoming space for friends and family. 

Why should you help?

I am hoping that you will resonate with one of the two following reasons:

1. This will not only be a livable home but also a place of community. “Ma’s House” will host community education programs for Shinnecock youth, the Shinnecock tribal community, and others interested in our history and photography, along with dreams of having a photo printer for all of our benefit.

2. “Ma’s House” will have rooms for an art studio, office, and dance space inside and/or outdoors where BIPOC artists and those that support them will have a safe environment to work and share their creative process with the public. In my life, I have never had a personal artist studio to share my work and invite art supporters to view my work. This would be a great opportunity to improve my potential as an artist and share this artist studio space with other BIPOC artists to do the same.

3. Since Ma always wanted the house to be shared among the family and become a museum, “Ma’s House” will feature a commemorative wall space to show our family history, the history of Shinnecock, and be a welcoming place as a museum would be.

What's in it for you?

In addition to donating anything you can, I would also like to offer ways we can also help you. If you donate a certain amount or a combined amount, we can offer:

$200 portrait/headshot

$350 paddleboard session

$500 Artwork purchase (See below or contact me directly for artworks)

For larger donations, we would also like to offer options to come to stay with us on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation when the house is complete!

$1,000 can come out for a weekend to Hamptons

$2,000+ Stay for up to five days at a time

Whatever amount you donate, you will be forever welcome to all of “Ma’s House” gatherings and welcomed as part of the community that we are building.

More details about the finances:

Many quotes to modernize/restore the house have been around $50,000. $32,700 was an estimate to completely restore the plumbing, oil heating, and furnace.  $3,700 will go toward pouring a concrete floor in the basement (which otherwise freely lets moisture/mold thrive). The remaining $13,400 will go toward the basics of having a working kitchen, cabinets, furniture, lumber, heat-efficient windows, and other finishings such as sealing the floors/walls.

So far, I cleaned much of the junk in the yard, cleaned the mold/insulation/junk in the basement for the cement pour, removed the molded/rusted appliances, and are working on removing drywall to reveal any bad wiring and insulation. With my family and some very handy Shinnecock tribe member volunteers, we are trying to do most of the work we are able to do without paying professionals, which is why the largest expenses will be for the heating system and plumbing.

I am currently saving every penny in an effort to raise even more for this great opportunity to save “Ma’s House” and have a welcoming place for everyone to one day visit and enjoy.
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Jeremy Dennis
Southampton, NY

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