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Centenarian’s Work Serves As A Gallery Of Memory

Photographs hold time still. At 102 years-old, Marian Busey could have walls clad with copious snapshots. Instead, the artists’ memorable moments were captured by her own hand with paint and paper.

Indicative or her approach to artwork, Busey often recites a George Bernard Shaw quote: “I believe in Michael Angelo, Velasquez, and Rembrandt; in the might of design, the mystery of color, the redemption of all things by beauty everlasting.”

That quote comes from Shaw’s play The Doctors Dilemma and continues: “and the message of Art that has made these hands blessed.”

Starting from an early age, Busey, born March 24, 1912, has kept her hands busy.

“Well, I didn’t have siblings and very few playmates,” said Busey. “I guess I got drawing. I was always drawing.”

The walls of her home, in Manitou Springs, are lined with artwork; water color paintings and hand-pulled prints Busey created while traveling with her late husband Jim.

Credit Courtesy Marian Busey
Busey, at age 35, with her husband Jim and son Philip.

Theirs was a combination that yielded a 65 year marriage and one son, Philip.

Well before that, Busey grew up on a small farm in Parma, Ohio. The lone daughter of a Postal Superintendent and a homemaker, Busey obtained both a bachelor’s’ and master’s degree in the 1930s and 1940s, a time when few women did either. She taught art in public schools in several states before eventually moving Manitou Springs in 1965.

Over the next two decades Busey helped found the Arati Artists Gallery and was a charter member of the Pikes Peak Water Color Society.

In recent years two of her favorite pursuits – water color painting and reading - were stymied by deteriorating eyesight. Undeterred, she now listens to audio books and makes hand-pulled prints. Despite macular degeneration, she cooks, cleans, and declines assistance when traversing steps or climbing into vehicles.

Although long retired from teaching, Busey remains committed to edification, said friend and fellow Arati Artists Gallery member Marilyn Kirkman.

“She was a teacher. She still is a teacher. Anybody that comes in [to the gallery] gets taught,” Kirman said. “We always have something to talk about. It’s not chit-chat and it’s not gossip. It’s talking about art.”

When discussing creative process, Busey often asks people interested in water color painting if they like cats.

Credit Courtesy Marian Busey
Busey traveled the world and painted. She and her late husband enjoyed hiking the Colorado landscape.


“There does seem to be a correlation,” explained Busey. “You can’t control a cat and you can’t control water color. You have to go with it.”

The quick-witted Busey sometimes attributes her longevity to red wine and chocolate. Short of that, she’s not keen on pinpointing. Although she adds everyone should have something that sparks self-confidence and joy.

“Something perhaps very special that they are competent at doing,” said Busey.

For Busey, that’s art.

Arts District is a collaboration of KUNC, RMPBS, and KUVO.

A native of Stamford, VT, I call(ed) the Berkshires of western Massachusetts my home. The Berkshires are a culturally rich area -- I’m talking pass the butter and heavy cream -- rich.