COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – A history unknown is a history repeated, which is why a local artist is painting a portrait of Mary Lee Bussey, the first superintendent of Columbus Black Schools.
Steven Tette, a realist painter, was commissioned to paint an oil portrait of Bussey by former Columbus State University history professor Judy Purnell. Bussey originally came to Columbus in 1950 as the Jean’s Supervisor for African American schools. She served as supervisor until 1968 when the Jean program ended and school integration began.
Bussey was not recognized as a superintendent because she was African American and African American schools were not recognized as “real” schools either, Purnell explained. Tette told News 3 what happens in the education world can sometimes reflect what goes on in the everyday world.
“What happens in education kind of mirrors what’s happening in society. It’s a resistance for inclusion and we all know that diversity makes most things turn, especially the nation.”
Tette wants this painting to have a big impact on those who come across it. Most importantly, Tette wants this portrait to right a wrong.
“I want this painting to right a wrong that has taken place for many years and I want her to be seen. I want people who come to the Board of Education to take a minute, not only at this. Look at everything that’s on the walls of the Board of Education and then when you get to this, I want someone to hesitate, take the time and look.”
Tette has been in contact with Bussey’s daughter and he says she is very invested and excited about the portrait.
“She helps out with images, she’s very supportive of what were doing.”
Today was day one of the 4-6 week process. Tette said these next few weeks will be meditation for him.
“When all of the distractions go away, I put on my head phones and I put on music and I just become a professional athlete. I get in my zone and once I’m in my zone it’s really hard to pull me out.”
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