Sofie Paternite, Sports Co-Editor
Columbia High School’s (CHS) own beloved former art teacher, Bisa Butler, has excelled in her professional artistic career. She has been a beacon of hope to her former students, and inspired others to pursue their goals.
Butler’s career is one dedicated to influencing others to work hard and follow their dreams. Not only is she an up and coming force in the art world, but she has experience mentoring students at Howard University, where she worked with the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA) to produce art relating to the lifestyle of Black people in a positive light over the past few years.
Additionally, Butler motivated her students at CHS to always work their hardest.
One of her former students, Annabel Callahan, ‘21, said, “Ms. Butler let us actually truly express ourselves.” Callahan added, “She would always be available to help us, and she never failed to give us her input or to help us in any way that she could have.”
Butler’s specialty is quilted works, which tend to be centered around struggles people encounter because of race in an age of institutionalized racism. She displays work that dismisses innocence and uses its graphic manner to convey strong messages.
One of Butler’s recent accomplishments is her feature in The Smithsonian Magazine this past summer, which displayed her work for the world to see and provided major exposure.
Additionally, Butler was recently featured in the New York Times, where Ted Loos took an in-depth look at the true meaning and beauty of Butler’s work.
Butler isn’t only featured in print. Her large support base and fame propelled her into being published at the Art Institute of Chicago on Nov. 16, marking the art museum’s first inclusion of a Black female artist for a solo textile show. However, to many in Maplewood-South Orange (MAPSO), Butler’s impact on the CHS community is far greater than her professional accomplishments.
Callahan marveled at her success, as she explained, “She not only turned her enthusiasm in the classroom to her quilting, but inspired us to truly do what you love and to not quit until you get there.”
Butler’s impact has also extended beyond her students. CHS art teacher Kate Dodd has also expressed how much she admires Butler’s aura. “In some ways, Bisa’s presence at CHS was like her artwork – she wove a fabric of warmth and beauty that was uplifting every time she came to work.”
CHS art teacher Nicole Thomas added, “It’s inspiring to see her grow into a full-time studio artist, and she is a strong example of a career path that I would love to follow in the footsteps of.” Thomas continued, “I have so much respect for how she stayed active in her personal studio practice while also teaching, and that is the part of her story that I have the most personal connection to.”
Butler is certainly a model to all, and is someone whom the community misses having around the school. “She was the most caring, helpful, and comforting teacher that I’ve ever had at CHS,” Callahan concluded.
Her successes and character helped her become inducted into the CHS Hall of Fame in 2019, and the CHS community is awaiting her next influx of successes as her colleagues, students and friends are eager to cheer her on in her excelling career.
The Columbian editorial staff urges you to follow up with Butler’s accomplishments via her Instagram (@bisabutler).
Designed By: Albert Braka