Fresh Talk podcast producer Cathy Byrd talks about Change as a creative opportunity when she makes an appearance at Creative Mornings/Miami. She recorded this Fresh Talk episode with listeners in a secret garden at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Read more about her story of Change in notes that follow this photo gallery.
Cathy Byrd’s Story of Change
I’m feeling especially fortunate this morning. That’s because I’m recording one of my signature audio podcast episodes with you, Miami’s brightest creative community. We’re in a small garden just a few steps from the beautiful estate known as Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Our backdrop is a gorgeous living wall—palm trees, bamboo, and banana trees. Along the central walkway, there’s a wonderful little edible garden. I’m surrounded by friendly, open faces. Conditions are perfect for Fresh Talk!
Today’s theme is Change. Ever since Creative Mornings Miami invited me to spark this conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about how change can either paralyze you or set you free. Sometimes change is forced on us—it’s something we react to. But how does it feel when you choose to make a change?
What change turned your life upside down when you were a kid? You didn’t have a choice back then. Parents divorced, family moved, changed schools? Fast forward to the first years after you graduated from high school. Now, you’re in charge. What change did you choose to make? Move out of the house, buy a car, go to college? And what about these past 6 months? Did anything happen that changed how you see your future? A job loss? a new relationship? Health challenges?
We all know that change can be wildly exhilarating or deeply unsettling. When I look at my own life, I see how even the most difficult changes help me grow. They always open me up to unexpected creative opportunities.
I grew up small town in Texas. I always felt like I didn’t fit in, and I could not wait to leave home and start my life. I decided to do something non-traditional when I went away to college. YES, I went to a state university because that’s all my family could afford. But I made up my own study abroad program in my sophomore year and moved to PARIS! I lived on 100-dollars a month and hitchhiked across Europe.
You might not be surprised to learn that I join the Peace Corps. I drive a moped down dirt roads in Ivory Coast, West Africa, to teach English as a Foreign Language and French literacy. I teach farmers how to write their names! That experience forever changed my perspective on the world.
Two years go by and I’m back in the U.S. I dive into civil rights and equal employment work. I meet my first husband in an elevator. Get married in my living room. Learn to sail. Move to the coast of Maine. Open a bed and breakfast. Suddenly, it seems, I’m a boat person. I’m making pancakes on a camp stove for a couple of beautiful children and my handsome bearded husband. We live on our 28-foot sailboat for a year. I boat school my son. We write our own books. Grow butterflies. Take sun showers.
After that adventure, I can’t wait to go back to school. I complete a Master of Fine Arts degree, make experimental books, and begin to write about art and travel. The marriage? Well, that ended. We had both changed. SO, with two great teenagers and a dog named Lucky, I buy my first house and drive a gold convertible the size of a small boat. Legendary house parties, wine tastings, a book club, camping trips, and always, travel…
Job security? Who needs it? I take on mad amounts of freelance work—teaching, writing, and curating exhibitions. And one of my gigs is a dream job – luxury travel writing. All expenses paid—to New York, Los Angeles, and Victoria Falls, Istanbul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, Paris, and London. Then a huge change took me by surprise. A change that happened to a lot of us. The dot-com bubble burst, and all my clients disappeared.
I switch gears, and for a decade I play it safe—in a real job, as director of a university art gallery in Atlanta. The perfect spot for a change agent! I present exciting, edgy exhibitions with titles like: Strange Planet, Potentially Harmful, and Losing Yourself in the 21st Century. In 2009, I take the biggest risk ever. Talk about change! I move to Baltimore to direct a contemporary art center. I get a new car and rent a flat in the coolest neighborhood. I seem to be moving up! But, a year later, things begin to unravel.
On January 4, 2011, my position is eliminated. What a way to start the new year! Without a job title, I lose my identity. I find myself homeless. I total my car. After lots of crying, crippling back spasms, and a complete loss of appetite, I sell everything, practically give away my dear house, and reduce my possessions to 15 boxes. Ten months later, I am the PICTURE of positive change, literally. I’m photographed wearing a bright red dress, sitting on a park bench in Brooklyn, with no belongings except for my laptop. I launch my independent online media outlet Fresh Art International. Art Radio for the 21st Century! I teach myself how to produce audio podcasts and begin introducing the world to contemporary art, one voice at a time!
For a couple of years, I’m on the move. I call myself a creative nomad. I create a DIY residency program that takes me to Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam, Chicago, and New York. Today, I live in a bright little studio on Miami Beach. I practice yoga every morning and navigate the island on my bicycle. I make vegan feasts for my friends. My children are grown up and awesome. My boyfriend is a classical musician. I’m 21 years old in my art life. I’ve traveled to over 20 countries. I have 10,000 followers on social media and my professional network is global. I’ve produced more than 100 Fresh Talk episodes based on my field recordings with fascinating artists, curators, filmmakers, and architects from around the world.
My story is nowhere near ending. I keep evolving, continuing to grow—by turning each change into a creative opportunity. So, join me. Make change work for you. Open yourself up to all your possible futures!