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News & Stories
August 16, 2023

"Learn to do something, and do it well" - Diocese of West Texas Receives Painting Honoring Dr. Artemisia Bowden

The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas has received an original painting honoring Dr. Artemisia Bowden from Terry Gay Puckett - local artist, member of St. Luke’s Church in San Antonio, and St. Philip’s College Professor Emeritus. On Thursday, July 27, the Rt. Rev. David M. Reed, Bishop of West Texas, hosted a reception in honor of Dr. Artemisia Bowden and to thank Puckett for donating the beautiful artwork. Representatives of St. Philip’s College, the diocesan Union of Black Episcopalians, staff members, and supporters attended the reception.

In 2019, Terry Gay Puckett was invited to contribute a painting to “Honoring Women,” a traveling exhibit celebrating women through contemporary portraiture, and she chose to honor Dr. Artemisia Bowden. Puckett shared, “I taught at St. Philip’s College for twenty-five years, founding the Art Department with Kathryn Morgan, then Dean of Fine Arts. Upon retirement I became a Professor Emeritus. The story of Dr. Bowden is often told at St. Philip’s College, and she is the ongoing light and spirit of the college, revered for her leadership, sacrifices, and steadfast determination to provide a college education to the Black youth of the community. Now diversified, people of all backgrounds have found it to be an educational haven.”

Artemisia Bowden was invited to come to San Antonio in 1902 by the Second Bishop of West Texas, to take over a small school in La Villita for young women who were descendants of enslaved people. As she traveled by train from Georgia, she could not have known the extent of the success that would ripple outward from her decision. She wore a dignified navy dress, her signature pearls, and as requested, a red bow on her shoulder for identification. Over the ensuing decades, Dr. Bowden would transform that small sewing school for a segregated few into a renowned college open to all.

“I have a feeling that Dr. Bowden’s spirit has been guiding me for a few reasons,” Terry Gay Puckett reflected. “We share the same birthday, August 18. Her favorite saying was taught to me by my mother when I was very young, and repeated frequently: ‘Learn to do something, and do that something well.’ Additionally, Her name begins with 'Arte.' She is an inspiration and example for many, and lived a life of service to others. I think she would be pleased."

In the painting, Dr. Bowden is holding The Episcopal Church shield. Two college student angels in graduation gowns hold her halo aloft, and symbols of St. Philip’s College are included as well. Puckett donated the painting to the diocese in gratitude for Dr. Artemisia Bowden’s recognition by The Episcopal Church and inclusion in Holy Women, Holy Men – Celebrating the Saints. Currently the painting is on public display at the Bishop Jones Center, which houses the diocesan office in San Antonio.

The congregations of West Texas are invited to share the history of Dr. Bowden's ministry and pray the following Collect in August. Additional resources about her life and canonization by The Episcopal Church are included below.

Collect for Commemoration of Artemisia Bowden

O God, by your Holy Spirit, you give gifts to your people so that they might faithfully serve your Church and the world: We give you praise for the gifts of perseverance, teaching and wisdom made manifest in your servant, Artemisia Bowden, whom you called far from home for the sake of educating the daughters and granddaughters of former slaves in Texas. We thank you for blessing and prospering her life’s work, and pray that, following her example, we may be ever mindful of the call to serve where you send us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses, 2015, p. 400

Supplemental information about Dr. Artemisia Bowden can be found online at the following links.

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