In 2001, Barbara Bushey discovered Hillsdale. Now, 21 years later, she’s ready to retire.
Bushey, who currently serves as the head of the art department, earned her Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts from Eastern Michigan University.
Before coming to Hillsdale, Bushey taught various part-time teaching positions across southeastern Michigan. Since being at Hillsdale, she’s taught multiple art history courses — prehistoric art, medieval art, renaissance art, modern art, and non-western art — and basic design classes.
But what’s truly unique to Bushey’s artistry is her love of textiles.
“My work is an exploration of what is hidden and what is revealed, whether in a visual, emotional, or historical sense,” Bushey said in her art statement. “Working with layers, both physically and visually, allows me to explore this complexity. I celebrate the beauty of the natural world.”
Bushey’s work above, “Superior Meditation: In the Sun,” is inspired by Lake Superior.
“The majesty and power of Lake Superior intrigues and nourishes me,” she said.
Bushey has been working in textiles for over 25 years. Her work has appeared three times in Quilt National, and is in permanent collections at The White House, the University of Wyoming, and Hillsdale College. Her work has been published in Art/Quilt Magazine and Surface Design Journal. Bushey also serves on the board of FiberArts Network.
“I dye most of my own fabrics in order to have total control over my work,” Bushey said. “I hope that my work rises above mere craft to the level of communication we can justifiably call art.”
Bushey plans to keep creating textiles in her retirement, though she said she will miss the teaching community of Hillsdale.
“It’s good to work somewhere where everyone supports you,” Bushey said. “I’m a better teacher than I used to be.”
Sophomore Caleb Holm took one class from Bushey last year and immediately loved it.
“Bushey is incredibly funny, brutally honest, and dangerously witty,” Holm said. “I took one class with her at the beginning of sophomore year and right from her introduction of ‘Hello friends, let’s be kind to one another this semester,’ I was hooked.”
Rachael Reynolds ’18, who is pursuing her PhD in art history, said that she didn’t declare her art major until the second semester of her junior year. Bushey made it possible for her to stay an extra year and take nearly every class the art department offered.
“This opportunity was such a crucial pivot in my life, and I have her to thank for all it has made possible,” Reynolds said. “As an educator, she is willing to go so far above and beyond for her students, often at the cost of time dedicated to her own work.”
Reynolds said that Bushey prepared her for graduate school, and she even feels far more prepared than some of her peers who attended Ivy’s with twenty-plus faculty members.
“I talk to her at least weekly, often daily,” Reynolds said. “I am so appreciative that one of my most impactful mentors has become a close friend.”
Professor of art Julio Suarez, who has taught at Hillsdale for six years, will be taking Bushey’s spot as head of the art department.
“I feel grateful that I have the opportunity to help maintain the standards that Professor Bushey has set for the Hillsdale Art Department during her time as chair,” Suarez said. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and amazing students.”
For her parting words, Bushey offered simple, yet striking advice.
“Make the work you want to see. Hard work trumps talent every time,” she said. “Inspiration is for amateurs: Get to work.”