Work presses on to preserve Miss Lassie’s house

| 24/11/2009

(CNS): As work continues on the project to restore and preserve Miss Lassie’s House as a national monument and museum, a team from the Cayman National Cultural Foundation gave the house a facelift recently in preparation for Christmas. The house, located at the intersection of Walkers and South Sound Road, was painted and the yard cleaned to give the property a fresh look while refurbishment continues. The original shutters adorned with Miss Lassies famous nurals have been replaced with plywood shutters for protection and security during the hurricane season, but the originals are being stored in order to preserve them.

Replica shutters with murals will eventually replace the original shutters, as the murals on the originals can no longer stand up to weathering. Steve Hawley, a local contractor who is working on the project, is making replica shutters that have an aged look.

Gladwyn Bush, who was better known as Miss Lassie, passed away on 24 November 2003 at age 89 having only started painting when she was 62 years old.  Driven by voices that inspired her to paint every available surface inside and outside her home, she also produced almost 200 pieces on canvas in a style described as “intuitive”, an art form which is an emotionally raw expression lacking a formal perspective.

The Cayman Cultural Foundation (CNCF) holds around 122 pieces of Miss Lassie’s work, while some are in private hands, including in galleries across Europe and the US.

It was more than five years ago that the CNCF Artistic Director Henry Muttoo, who knew Miss Lassie, began campaigning to preserve the 48 South Sound Road property. The dream became a reality last year when the previous government invested $1 million in the project to buy the house and the surrounding land. 

The preservation project involves the National Gallery, the National Museum and the Ministry of Culture, and a fund raising effort is also continuing to raise a further $1million to cover the costs of the refurbishment and preservation work.

The goal is to turn the site into a National Heritage site and to hold the property forever in trust for the people of the Cayman Islands. When the project is complete, the building and its interior will be renovated to museum standards, able to handle thousands of visitors and the local climate, and the larger building at the rear of the property will be turned into a shop, small restaurant and service centre.

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  1. Jenna Jameson says:

    So, maybe someone needs to clarify something for me . . .

    If CNCF has plans for Miss Lassie’s home that are "designed to honour and remain true to her vision", then why did they strip her entire house of all of her "markings" that made her house so important to Cayman’s history, heritage and culture? I doubt that she saw that in her mind’s eye.

    What’s next? Are they going to remove the wattle and daub and replace it with concrete? That would be another great way to preserve Miss Lassie’s house.


  2. Henry Muttoo says:

    We thank the writer for the suggestions.

    CNCF has plans for Miss Lassie’s home that are designed to honour and remain true to her vision. Miss Lassie was not simply an artist but, more importantly, an intuitive artist whose mind accomplished the rare feat – of growing into discerning adulthood while retaining the innocence and freedom of the child – uncluttered the strictures of the formal world of art. She managed, in her life and ‘markings’, to harness the singular elements of Caymanian cultural tradition, leaving her people a defining cultural iconography. 

    In January the NationalGallery will be taking up temporary residence in the duplex at the back of the property. Upon completion of the Business Plan – which is being prepared pro bono for CNCF by Atwater – the details of the project will be revealed. We can say at this point that it will be known as "MIND’S EYE – The Visionary of Miss Lassie". Miss Lassie would always say about any one of her paintings, "I see it in my mind’s eye."

    CNCF has has received much assistance from many individuals and businesses including; Thompson’s Home Depot, Miss Berna Murphy, Steve Cummings, Steve Hawley, Dart Foundation, The Department of Tourism, John Doak Architecture, Alan Veeran, CNCF Chairman, Martyn Bould, Cogent Communications, and Atwater Ltd. We are, of course, grateful to the Government of the Cayman Islands for their foresight in acquiring the property for the people. To make donations of any sort, please contact CNCF at 949-5477 or email us at either: or


    Henry Muttoo

    Artistic Director



  3. Anonymous says:

    I mean no disrespect to the loving memory of Miss Lassie or to her work (having met her and appreciated her art firsthand years ago at Gov’s Art Show), however, it seems millions are spent on preserving obscure snippets of Cayman’s history while there’s scarcely a dollar to replace the rusty swings and jungle gyms donated by DART for the children of the island? 

    Parents and grandparents have watched those wonderful parks steadily degrade since installation and it’s a crying statement to our nation’s misguided sense of priorities. 

    Can we not find a hundred grand in some ministry’s budget to adequately maintain a couple dozen swingsets, before launching into a grandiose beachfront campaign to save Miss Lassie’s house?

    We should be mindful to return a sense of proportion and priority to our spending in these hard times.

    • Henry Muttoo says:

      Dear writer,


      While you never mention CNCF, it is obvious to everyone that CNCF is the driving force behind the conservation of Miss Lassie’s house and art. You begin with a ‘smoke screen’ declaration of not meaning disrespect to the ‘loving memory’ of Miss Lassie and then go on to disrespect not only her but the importance of the history, heritage and culture of the Cayman Islands and the people who work so assiduously to keep something of this country’s heritage for the very children you are so concerned about.

      Parks are wonderful; children (and adults) need recreational areas but as noble as your cause may be there is no need to make a comparison to Miss Lassie, her works or the history and culture of the Cayman Islands. 

      You may not know Miss Lassie, after all, as much as you think you do. 

      Henry Muttoo

      Artistic Director


  4. Anon says:

    After the restoration, how about allowing one of the service clubs to run the place. They could set up a refreshment stand to raise money for their causes and in turn keep the place clean & tidy. Persons who make arts & crafts could also be allowed, far a small fee, to exhibit their work for sale on a rotation basis. The public, residents & tourists, would visit the facility to access the beach, partake of the refreshments and purchase art & crafts. In addition the facility could be leased out for corporate events. Maybe it could be self supporting.