Membership Spotlight – Phyllis Griffard

June 24, 2024

Phyllis Griffard (right) with her husband Pete

Phyllis Griffard

Profession: Biologist and educator, retired from UL Lafayette Biology faculty.

How long have you been a member of AcA? Since moving back to Lafayette in 2015.

What books are you reading? Right now my stack includes Indigenous Continent by Pekka Hamalainen, Restoring Biodiversity by Johnny Armstrong, and Charlotte’s Crossing by Marty Thompson Arnold.

What music are you listening to? Whatever is on KRVS when I’m driving.

Do you have a favorite pastime? If so, what is it? Playing Cajun fiddle at jams or with my friends.

What trade do you believe everyone ought to learn? Cooking from scratch.

What’s the first concert you ever attended? John Denver in Baton Rouge.

What has been your favorite vacation or place that you’ve traveled to? Why? We have traveled extensively so I can’t pick a favorite. A homestay and Spanish immersion in Guatemala in Summer 1991 was especially meaningful.

Have you lived outside of Acadiana? Where? What makes Acadiana a special place to live? I went to high school and college in Acadiana but moved away for grad school and didn’t return until my spouse retired in 2015. I lived in Indiana (Purdue), Mali in West Africa (internship with an NGO), and New Orleans. After I got married, we lived in New Orleans, Houston, China, Japan and Qatar. What makes Acadiana special is that we have a strong community of people who are caring for our local cultural and natural heritage, and I am part of it.

Do you frequent any Downtown establishments? Which ones and what’s your go-to cocktail or lite bite? My default downtown destinations are Hideaway on Lee or Spoonbill. Or Reve for a daytime meeting over coffee. But, dang, I’ve had some wonderful teas and beverages at the AcA coffee bar.

Are you an artist? I’m not an artist but am working with filmmakers, animators and photographers on another documentary film.

What mediums are you most drawn to? Textiles, sculpture, and multi-media.

What inspires your current body of work? The natural history and heritage of our land, water, flora, and fauna.

What are your artistic goals for 2024? To get our film about the Cajun Prairie ready to release in early 2025.

What is an accomplishment that you are most proud of? Witnessing the fruits of my labor as a biology educator (teaching awards, local recognition for outreach and film) and an advocate for native plants and habitat conservation. I’m also proud that the Louisiana Certified Habitat Program that I launched with the Louisiana Native Plant Society in 2021 has put over 300 habitats to the map.

What do you do in a nutshell? Before retiring, I taught university biology everywhere we lived, most recently at UL Lafayette. It has always been important for me that my students connect what they were learning to the world around them, and develop the agency to make the world better. Now I have extended that work to connecting the public to their natural heritage and inspiring them to make our region better for wildlife and precious flora and fauna that live here or migrate through.

What are your favorite aspects of your job and company? Right now most of my volunteer work is with the Acadiana Native Plant Project. My favorite aspect of working with ANPP is that every day and interaction is a new opportunity to learn about the natural world in Acadiana and to connect with others who share my passions.

If you could mentor someone who is just starting out in your field, what advice would you give them? Meet your audience where they are. Find out what they already know, what they want to know, and what drives them. Look for a way they can take action on something that matters to them that can help them find meaning in what they are learning.

Why did you join AcA, and do you recall your first experience with AcA? We joined AcA when we moved back to Lafayette in 2015 because we wanted to stay connected with the community of doers and to the epicenter of culture in Downtown Lafayette.

What has been your favorite performance or event hosted by AcA? Gosh. Lake Street Dive and St. Paul and the Broken Bones were especially memorable. But I so appreciated seeing a full house for the premiere screening of the documentary I co-produced with Conni Castille, “The Quiet Cajuns.”

What’s your favorite part of being a member of AcA? Feeling welcome at everything happening there.

Has your work benefitted from your affiliation with the AcA? YES! I’ve been the lucky recipient of two Louisiana Project Grants to support the production of the documentary film about the Cajun Prairie. Gwen and Anna could NOT be more wonderful to work with. True professionals, true advocates, true supporters.

Become an AcA Member today to join the community that supports the arts!

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