ALPENA – It started at Alpena, and it’s back for its “last hurray.”
Steven Bye grew up here and learned to love drawing and painting here, thanks to wonderful art teachers and unfortunate circumstances.
When he was four, Bye slipped and fell down two flights of stairs, landed on his face and broke his jaw, but it could have been much worse. He landed in a pile of snow that his father had shoveled, which saved his life.
At that time, his jaw had to be harnessed, so he could not speak. Not being able to write yet, his only means of communication was drawing.
“I’ve always loved drawing and things of that nature, and I knew I wanted to be an artist,” he said.
What started out of necessity became a passion, leading him to over 30 years of artistic creation.
“My formative years were spent at Rogers City,” Bye said. “My dad was an industrial arts teacher and head football coach. And then we moved here when I was in seventh grade, to Alpena, so I consider that my hometown.
The 1968 Alpena High School graduate is ending his career where he began, and he will be at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan from 5-7:30 p.m. today for the opening of his exhibit, “Travels of a Native Son”, on show all summer. A reception will also be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on July 9.
He was an art teacher at Alpena High School, while she was at the former Thunder Bay Junior High School on 3rd Avenue, which has since been demolished.
“I was an art teacher there from 1975 to 1977,” Bye noted.
Born in Marquette, Bye spent most of his early years at Rogers City. He moved to Alpena in 1962. After graduating from AHS, he spent three semesters at Alpena Community College before transferring to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Education. Four years later, he earned a Master of Arts from Central Michigan University.
“I ended up in Muskegon and spent most of my teaching career there, 25 years,” he said. “I also taught art at Aquinas College.”
He spent 39 years teaching art, English and science in Alabama, New Mexico, Michigan and Arizona.
He and his wife Nancy Bye have spent the past 17 years in Tucson, Arizona.
An active artist since the age of 21, Bye has also been an author for 15 years. His art has appeared in exhibitions in La Jolla, California, Daytona, Florida, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona, Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Muskegon, Michigan. His works have been purchased internationally.
Bye works in oil and will exhibit 30 paintings in his exhibition.
“I use the highest quality,” he said. “I actually have my paintings imported from London, which are made in France, which are the same as Monet and Van Gogh… they come from an original painting company outside of Paris, and it’s the highest quality. And what that means is that my paintings will be just as brilliant…a hundred years from now.
He and his wife have traveled extensively in Mexico, the United States and Europe.
He has written three novels, two of which will be available tonight for pre-opening.
“I’ve been a real active writer for about 15 years,” he said.
He has a lot on his mind, so he figured he might as well let it out in his novels.
“I have to tell you that I was very lucky,” he said. “I had excellent high school teachers in Alpena, here. My high school art teacher, Nancy Feindt, and my English teacher, Blanche Hockett. They were just awesome.
He added that his parents were also excellent teachers and that his brother, sister, brother-in-law and daughter became teachers.
“I guess it’s a family affair,” he says of teaching.
Bye’s wife and daughter, Sara Bye Winter, were instrumental in preparing for the exhibit, he added.
“What’s interesting about this is that the museum opened in 1965, when I was a sophomore in high school,” Bye recalled. “And they had the first exhibition of student art, in a real museum. And we were all excited about it. So my first paintings that I did were at the museum. So this is actually my last big hurrah. We did a lot of exhibitions, almost everywhere, but it’s exhausting, a huge amount of work. And I’m getting old… I thought, why don’t I end up where I started?