2016 Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter Jeremy Dennis (Shinnecock) is a fine arts photographer who explores indigenous identity, culture, and assimilation in his work.
Jeremy, who received his Master of Fine Arts degree in photography from Penn State in 2016, is featured in the latest edition of “Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers,” the university’s College of Arts and Architecture’s interview series highlighting alumni making an impact across the arts and design disciplines.
Jeremy used his $10,000 Running Strong Dreamstarter grant to pursue his project, On This Site, which uses photography and an interactive online map to showcase culturally significant Native American sites on Long Island, New York.
His Dreamstarter mentor, a Penn State professor of art, told us at the time that “The basis of his emerging work in representing his indigenous heritage immediately attracted our attention, given the professional interests and expertise of our photography faculty and the common interests Jeremy was seeking to address.”
In 2020, Jeremy founded Ma’s House and BIPOC Art Studio Inc., a communal art space and residency program on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation where he was raised and currently resides.
“The work that represents my portfolio today was really shaped in those two years (at Penn State). I would consider myself imitating other artists before that time, just trying to get the basics of my medium a little bit more understood or mastered,” Jeremy told Movers, Shakers. “But it was really during that two-year period, through attending art criticism classes and writing about my own art and writing criticism about other artists, that I was able to actually narrow down what resonated with me …”
In years since Jeremy received his Dreamstarter grant, he has received numerous awards and recognitions including the Creative Bursar Award from Getty Images in 2018 which allowed him to continue his series, “Stories – Indigenous Oral Stories, Dreams, and Myth,” which he began in 2013.
Also in 2018, Jeremy received the “40 Under 40” award from his undergraduate alma mater, Stony Brook University.
In addition, he has had numerous solo exhibitions throughout the state of New York and has participated in group exhibitions across the country and his photography is included in the collections of the New York State Museum, Center for Photography at Woodstock, and Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, among others.
In 2020, Jeremy was one of just five Running Strong Dreamstarter Gold recipients who were each awarded grants of $50,000 to continue and expand upon their dream projects.
Today, with his Dreamstarter Gold grant, Jeremy is continuing his 2016 project through “On This Site — Indigenous Long Island” to continue to preserve sacred and historical cultural landscapes surrounding his ancestral tribal territory using both photography and storytelling allowing the public to engage in indigenous history using maps, an interactive website, books and traveling exhibitions.
“I’ve always wondered how the Shinnecock people and reservation were able to remain on Long Island, so close to where one of the major arrival areas of colonization, and why we are where we’re located now,” Jeremy told us.
“The product of my work is influenced from my experience as a Native American, and how that reflects my perspective of history, identity, and community,” he says. “The goal of my work is to create empathy and understanding for indigenous people through utilizing and engaging and inviting didactic approach for issues that I try to resolve.
“I hope that On This Site can be a life-long project thanks to Running Strong for American Indian Youth®.” “Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers” was launched virtually in spring 2020 to give Penn State alumni a way to discuss their careers and accomplishments, in a format that could be shared broadly.