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Home » News » Dr. David Gussak and Tallahassee Talks Interview

Dr. David Gussak and Tallahassee Talks Interview

Published August 28, 2015

Dave-Gussak2This Saturday August 29th at 9am, Florida State University’s Department of Art Education Chair, Professor, and Art Therapist Dr. David Gussak will be interviewed about his involvement with the finding of an amazing art collection.

Fifteen years ago, a discovery was made by Mimi Shaw in the most unorthodox of places. To her surprise, uncovered underneath a house in North Florida were worn, old manuscripts, sketches, and paintings that each told a story about the suffering and survival of a Russian  Holocaust victim. After purchasing this collection in an estate sale, Mimi, along with academics and historians, worked diligently to piece together what turned out to be a fascinating look into a turbulent time in history.

After translating the newly discovered artifacts, Mimi was able to discern that the works chronicled Teodora Verbitskya’s  experiences during Stalin’s Soviet Union and in a Nazi-run labor camp. She also learned that Teodora’s daughter, Nadia Werbitzky, was an artist who created powerful works documenting her experiences. Immediately, Mimi knew that this freshly discovered information must be shared with a larger audience.

In 2009, because of his work with the Florida State University Holocaust institute for Educators, Dr. Gussak was asked to assist in the creation of an $_35art show and later a book showcasing the works. Dr. Gussak has stated that, for him, this project was more passion than work. Those involved in this project are working on incorporating the artwork discovered by Mimi Shaw into Leon County Schools to teach K-12 students about the Holocaust.

With the help of Kelly Bowen, a friend that worked alongside Mimi, and the Foundation of Leon County Schools director Sheila Costigan, a $25,000 Culture Builds Florida grant was written and  approved by the legislature this summer. This grant will partially fund the restoration of more than 130 Werbitzky paintings, traveling school exhibitions, and musical puppet shows for students, from kindergarten through third grade.

In order to continue the project, an additional $25,000 is needed. At least $7,000 was donated from private groups in south Florida this summer, but the Foundation is still accepting contributions. To find out more about supporting the project, contact Sheila Costigan at 850-487-7881, or email

Be sure to tune in to 93.3 FM at 9am to hear Dr. Gussak and Sheila Costigan discuss this project.

For more information on this fascinating discovery, follow these links: