Southampton Arts Center provides a platform for Indigenous voices
The Southampton Arts Center is on a mission to build community through the arts. It’s latest exhibition Outcropping – Indigenous Art Now, celebrates artwork from the Shinnecock Indian Nation and beyond. The show is on display from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays through the weekend until April 9 at the Southampton Arts Center.
Host Sabrina Garone spoke with Shinnecock member and curator of the exhibit Jeremy Dennis as part of the WSHU podcast After All Things.
WSHU: So, let’s start with the name of the exhibition, which is Outcropping. Could you give me a little background on where the idea for the name came from, and why the center thought it was the perfect fit?
JD: Outcropping comes from a reference about Shinnecock itself. Outcropping is an Algonquin word. It’s a place name that translates to people of the stony shore. So, I wanted to reference Shinnecock as host.
Shinnecock has always been the host of Southampton. We gave them a place to live when they first came here in 1640, and I still think that’s true in the 21st century for the Southampton Arts Center and the Outcropping show. And just like Outcropping, the natural phenomenon of erosion and the revealing of rock, I wanted to reference Shinnecock’s connection to the landscape, and try to make the connection that Shinnecock itself — we are a people that have endured outcropping, or that erosion, and we need healing.
I’m a big believer that art allows individuals to heal. It allows communities to heal. And I thought that Southampton Art Center’s immediate mission of serving the community and being all-inclusive was the perfect opportunity.
WSHU: What can visitors expect to learn from the exhibit, and what kinds of issues or moments in history are these artists trying to bring to light with their work?
JD: Well, surprisingly it was an open format. I did some special invitations to artists, and I also did an open call. At the end of the application, I worked a little bit with artists to select works that I tried to fit together in a theme.
I think the theme is looking back into history and pulling it forward, and telling stories that are overlooked. Other artists chose to include community based work, some that mixed together different nationalities, different cultures, and different ceremonies. And a lot of artists also went with a theme of win-back initiatives, pointing out the fact that Shinnecock is part of a larger landscape and we’re still pursuing that larger landscape today.
WSHU: You touched on this a little bit before — Indigenous people have a really long history on Long Island. The Shinnecock Indian Nation is located right there in Southampton, so could you speak a little more to the history of the Shinnecock in the area and their impact on the region?
JD: I and the other tribal members will tell you that we have evidence of our presence dating back 10,000 years. We are part of the Algonquin people. Our people on Long Island have had a presence from Brooklyn on the west coast, all the way to Montauk on the east coast. So wherever you look on the surface of the landscape, you’ll see our presence in some form.
We were actually the ones who helped shape the environment, how to live in balance with it, and help create the ecosystems that allowed us to live here. For us here, especially at Shinnecock, we thought that was a way to connect with these new people who came. We taught the English how to whale, how to cultivate corn, how to use the land in modest means, but really everything in every aspect ran out of control.
I think we as Shinnecock people are really trying to regain our voice and perspective and make it widely accepted just so we can return to that moment of balance.