We had the good fortune of connecting with Stacey Byer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stacey, why did you pursue a creative career?
Growing up in the Caribbean, oral literature was an integral part of my culture. From a very young age I was fascinated by the stories my grandmother told me. They were not just exciting they became a precursor to developing my imagination and growing my critical thinking skills. Our traditional school setting was not the best fit for me so I turned more and more to art as a form of learning, self- expression and exploration. As an adult, one of my career goals has been to help make learning more fun for ALL students, but especially those in my region. Inspired by the rich cultural mix that is so quintessentially Caribbean, I wanted to see more of who we are reflected in stories for children. Illustration allowed me to communicate that unique culture, the community, relationships and imagery. Caribbean children should be able to see themselves in the stories they read as this will boost self- esteem and encourage innovative thinking. For students to become future leaders in society they need to be empowered and confident. A skillset that includes creative collaboration, problem solving and conflict resolution can be developed through art education.
My creative career allows me to explore what it means to be Caribbean, as well as highlight the importance of diversity, art education and create culturally relevant material especially for Caribbean kids.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I always loved art as a child and growing up painting and writing introduced me to a world of free -thinking, problem-solving and innovative learning. After art school I returned to my island with big ideas but could not get a job as an illustrator. This field was not as developed as graphic design or fine arts at the time. So I started painting portraits and landscapes, doing way too many free jobs to advertise my work and continued to push myself as an illustrator. I started creating and collaborating on initiatives like WOMA (Women Make Art) helping create new art spaces to foster inclusion and support for other Caribbean artists. After a few years, I finally got my first illustration job with a grass roots organization (People in Action) to illustrate sustainability posters. From there I went on to work with different organizations such as UNDP, Room to Read and Harper Collins UK to create culturally relevant literature for kids in our region. I wanted to make learning fun, accessible and approachable to all types of students. I worked with my local government, art teachers in elementary and high schools and international non-profit organizations to center art in the curriculum. As an islander, conservation was also a very important topic for me and I started working on many climate change projects. I love promoting environmental awareness and encouraging kids to become stewards of the earth. I tried to support these initiatives by volunteering at eco camps and painting public murals about ocean conservation.
While most of my career goals are focused on supporting youth development I have sporadically taught art classes for adults. It’s important to create spaces where people can practice self-care and reconnect with their inner child. My ultimate goal: continue sharing art so everyone can reap the benefits.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Firstly, I would encourage them to visit when there’s a specific event or festival like The Grenada Chocolate Festival or our annual Carnival. They’re both a great introduction to the island’s history, culture and celebrating life. I would definitely take them on a hike to one of our glorious waterfalls (a popular one is Annandale,) and for an afternoon dip, drinks and sunset on Grand Anse beach. Other sea activities should include a snorkel or scuba trip with Eco Dive or Volunteer for Leatherback Turtle Patrol with the Ocean Spirits organization. I also highly recommend a visit to the Tower Estate to walk through the lush tropical gardens and sample their special blue tea. Learn about the bean to bar process of making chocolate at the Chocolate Museum located in our town St. George. Must have souvenirs from local enterpreneurs: original yummy food products like cocoa crunch and pineapple pepper sauce from Debbie Mason, sustainable jewellery from Tamara Prosper or handmade journals and unique papers from artist Roland Benjamin. Grenada is a really small island but there are so many immersive experiences to delight the senses!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout is for family. To all the strong women who raised me, my grandmothers, mother, sister and aunts, who are all great storytellers. And a special shoutout to my father, who encouraged me to strive and thrive. I also would like to shoutout the Kweli organization which actively supports BIPOC in the Publishing Industry.
My bio photo was taken by Andy Johnson.