We salute those who are making a difference in our lives and in the life of our city
Spirited people inspire us with their leadership, involvement in the community and excellence in their field of work. They are goal-oriented, enterprising individuals who strive to do more. In our post-Katrina city, people who embody this ideal are more important to our lives, and to the life of our city, than ever. With our second annual Spirit Awards, we salute these 20 outstanding men and women from across the state of Louisiana who possess spirit and all that it means.
This past year has taught me… “That I can’t live in Houston or Birmingham or anywhere but New Orleans.”
Charter member of the Krewe of Muses and the original innovator of the decorated shoe throw, Alina Pagani’s pastimes are not all fun and games. Born in Rosario, Argentina, raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a New Orleans resident for the past 16 years, Pagani is an associate at McAlpine & Cozad where she handles insurance defense, workers’ compensation and admiralty and maritime litigation. She is the director of the Young Lawyers Section Board, co-chair of the New Orleans Bar & Grille and active with the Public Service Committee of the New Orleans Bar Association. Being surrounded by people she admires, including her mentors, whom she describes as “some of my closest friends, whom I value and love for their own unique talents,” helps her continue to find her inspiration in the city of New Orleans– “its soul, its music, its food and above all, its people.” Helping to raise her three brothers, “and later learning how to become their friend as opposed to just their sister,” has been her most important personal achievement. She continues to care for children by participating in the Children in Need of Care program, where lawyers represent the interests of children who have been removed from their homes by the state in order to protect them from abuse. In October 2006, Pagani and three other attorneys started Random Acts of Cultural Kindness (RACK), a grass-roots organization designed to support the culture of New Orleans after Katrina.
Frank A. Glaviano, Sr.
This past year has taught me … “Leadership is all about having people follow you to a better place.”
In the summer of 1974, Frank A. Glaviano, Sr. began a lifetime of work for Shell as an intern while still in engineering school at Tulane. As the grandson of illiterate Italian immigrants and having grown up in the Ninth Ward, Glaviano “thought that was an achievement in itself.” His father had always taught him to set goals for himself, so the day he started to work for Shell he set a rather lofty one: To become the vice president of production. In 2004, almost 30 years to the day of his first assignment with Shell, he was appointed vice president of production for the Americas, with responsibility for Shell’s assets in the United States, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, and given an office on the 34th floor of One Shell Square, only a few doors down from his very first office in 1974. Glaviano believes that “no matter who we admire, in the end we must be ourselves … but we can improve upon the person we are by emulating the best of others.” His inspiration begins with prayer and his faith in God, “then shifts to personal reflection aimed at who I am and what I am attempting to accomplish in my life.” Glaviano has also studied Mother Teresa’s life and finds her “to be a shining star of humility and service to others,” something that Glaviano says he strives to do.
This past year has taught me … “New Orleans will not be New Orleans if people from all backgrounds and walks of life are not welcomed and embraced. And maybe most important, we are all brothers and sisters, whether we want to be or not, and we have a responsibility to help one another.”
Bob Dylan has written that Tom Piazza’s writing “pulsates with nervous electrical tension–reveals the emotions that we can’t define.” Piazza showed us how true that was with his latest book, Why New Orleans Matters, named a Humanities Book of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Having succeeded in what he set out to do–be a writer, Piazza finds his inspiration in music and in the “extraordinary resilience and affirmation of life … in literature and in traveling and in getting to know other human beings from many different backgrounds.” His novel My Cold War won the Faulkner Society Award and was named a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year; his short story collection Blues and Trouble won the James Michener Award and he contributes regularly to The New York Times, The Oxford American and many other publications. Well known as a music writer, Piazza won a 2004 Grammy Award for his album notes to Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey; and he is a two-time winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for Music Writing. His book Understanding Jazz, commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center, was published by Random House in September 2005. Piazza has been influenced by many special people. When he was a teenager, the jazz bassist Milt Hinton taught him “some very important things about life”; the writer Norman Mailer has always “been a great source of support and encouragement through the years”; and his mother has given Piazza, “a living example of human generosity and appreciation of life, humor and unselfishness.”
Virginia Saussy Bairnsfather
This past year has taught me … “That no matter how independent I think I am, I need and appreciate my husband, Christopher, more than ever; that some of those I now consider family may not be related but became family when we needed them most; that I never want to live anywhere else in the world but New Orleans.”
A native New Orleanian, a board member of the Broadmoor Improvement Association and executive vice president of Mignon Faget Ltd., Virginia Saussy Bairnsfather is passionate about New Orleans–its culture, history and people. “Waking up each morning feeling like I have had a positive impact on this amazing city, however small my efforts may be” is Bairnsfather’s greatest personal achievement. She is part of the Citizens Organization for Police Support for the 2nd District, a member of Women of the Storm, a charter member of the Krewe of Muses, and has received awards for excellence in advertising and marketing from the Advertising Club of New Orleans and the Fashion Group of New Orleans. Bairnsfather is most proud of her contribution to the Krewe of Muses, founding Walk the Beat with her cousin, helping to re-open Mignon Faget on October 12 and assisting “Broadmoor in getting recognition as the New Orleans treasure it is.” Though her inspiration comes from New Orleans–”this city has always been a city where one person can make a difference”–her mother, Marcelle d’Aquin Saussy, is her mentor because “she is a strong woman who taught me that out of challenges come opportunities.”
This past year has taught me … “The one thing that is predictable about life is that it is totally unpredictable. And that now, more than ever, the love and spirit of the people of New Orleans will never die, and that I could never live anywhere else.”
The president of Festival Productions Inc. -New Orleans and the producer and director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Quint Davis has become synonymous with achievement. Just ask the people at the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame, which not only presented Davis with its Lifetime Achievement Award for his continued support of the culture and heritage of Louisiana, but renamed it the Quint Davis Lifetime Achievement Award. Davis says that it is his “personal passion to promote and preserve the musical and cultural traditions of New Orleans.” He finds inspiration “in the people of New Orleans and their heart and soul and dedication to honoring their ancestors by keeping their cultural traditions alive against impossible odds.” In 1970, Davis began working for George Wein, the founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and “the father of the modern jazz festival in America and the world.” Wein sent Davis on tour with Duke Ellington to Russia, and B.B. King and Muddy Waters to Africa. Says Davis of Wein, “I have continued to this very day to work for him and learn from him. Each time we talk, I seek his advice.” Among many awards for his professional work and his contributions to the New Orleans community, Davis was honored with the title Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture and the Lester E. Kabacoff Hospitality Award by the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Ralph Lupin, M.D.
This past year has taught me … “That life is very fragile and we must, in any way we can, help those less fortunate.”
Everyone who meets Ralph Lupin, M.D. recognizes one thing: This is a generous man. He has given of himself as an eight-year member of the Louisiana State Guard and served since 1956 in the National Guard. As the founder of a medical practice in an obstetrics and gynecology group on the West Bank, Dr. Lupin has delivered thousands of babies, many of whom are the children and grandchildren of his early patients. Dr. Lupin says he “I find it a miracle to see a baby come alive in front of my eyes; I remain awestruck at the experience.” Dr. Lupin finds inspiration in seeing “young [military] men who serve our country and … at times give the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe.” While he has served on many boards throughout the years, he treasures his 20-plus years of involvement with New Orleans Center for Creative Arts the most. He tells the story of a young man he met at NOCCA who, though his schooling was remedial, had taught himself ballet by watching it on television. Through the student’s involvement at NOCCA, he is now attending Juilliard. When Dr. Lupin volunteered to serve in the Superdome, which he does during every evacuation, he expected, like many of us, to be home the next day and didn’t even bring a change of clothes or a toothbrush. He “saw just how difficult life is for so many and realized that the events I was participating in were important messages to me: that I must continue to help bring improvement into the lives of those less fortunate.”
This past year has taught me … “Rarely in someone’s career can you be tested to survive a major disaster, lead others to help others and have a chance to improve a health-care system. I feel blessed to have learned that this is possible and that I have
Every day is a blessing to have good health,” says Gary Muller, FACHE, the president and chief executive officer of West Jefferson Medical Center. He is also the immediate past chair of the Louisiana Hospital Association Board of Trustees and in 1988-89 was chairman of the Florida Hospital Association Board of Trustees. Muller says that “as the CEO, my job is to bring resources and support to the health-care professionals here.” His greatest personal achievement is having his hospital “recognized as an Employer of Choice for three straight years, a Top Hospital nationwide by U.S. News and World Report and Best Hospital in the region for Stroke Care, Cardiac Care and Orthopedics.” For his work during Hurricane Katrina, the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce bestowed upon him its Community Leadership Award. Mr. Muller is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, serves on the American Hospital Association Regional Policy Board, Premier, Inc. Group Purchasing and Policy Committee, New Orleans Metropolitan Hospital Council board of directors and ShareCor board of directors and Associated Health Services board of directors. Muller also serves on the board of directors of Catholic Charities of New Orleans and is chairman of the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly of New Orleans and the Jefferson Parish Health Services Task Force. Muller finds his inspiration in his “focus on helping patients. By directing positive energy toward our patients at West Jefferson Medical Center, it inspires me to do the best job possible.”
J. Stephen Perry
This past year has taught me … “The greater the challenge, the greater the resolve. Even in the most catastrophic situation, a person’s commitment, faith and passion ultimately determine their success. Embedded in every crisis is an opportunity to work better and reach higher. Life is about vision and never settling.”
Within 72 hours of Hurricane Katrina’s hitting New Orleans, J. Stephen Perry, president and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, established a relief fund to help employees and local hospitality workers rebuild their homes and their lives. Perry says he is most proud of “being able to make a difference in people’s lives. Despite the fact that our team had no offices, e-mail or even cell phones, we re-established in five cities and successfully contacted every customer that was planning a meeting in New Orleans to help them with alternate plans.” Perhaps it is his love of literature, especially philosophy, poetry and the classics, that motivates Perry. This passion was instilled in Perry by his father, who was also his mentor. “He was my best friend and the most extraordinary man I have ever known. The first person in his family to go beyond sixth grade, he earned a Ph.D. and became a dean at Louisiana State University. I will never have more respect or admiration for anyone in my life.”
The past year has taught me … “To be aware of my surroundings and to find goodness where it is hard to find.”
Chef René Bajeux, one of only 50 French Masters living in America, has held executive positions in some of the world’s most esteemed dining rooms, including the Four Seasons Maui and Beverly Hills, as well as the Grill Room at the Windsor Court Hotel. Even with this impressive résumé, Bajeux says that his biggest accomplishment is his family. Having been raised in Lorraine, France, he was initiated into the restaurant world at the tender age of 14. Perhaps that is why he cites his mother as his mentor for teaching him how to “overcome adversity again and again.” His soon-to-be-reopened René Bistrot, located on the corner of Common and Baronne streets, served as his base during Katrina, where he fed anyone who passed by and was hungry. Well known for his “cooking of the earth” philosophy, which uses ingredients and techniques representing the four regions of country French cooking, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace and Provence, Bajeux is considered an authority on a myriad of culinary styles, including regional in-house artisan food. Bajeux is inspired by “family, friends and staff who find love in the world.”
Gregory Henderson, M.D., PhD
This past year has taught me…”That there is a divine plan acting in the world and in each individual life. It is a plan that is beyond our comprehension, which is why we can’t help but doubt it sometimes. But when you have the experience that I have had–which can best be described as having the hand of God grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and ripping me from a very comfortable life on the beach and dropping me back home at a time and in a place where I was needed–it tends to remove all doubt. And when I find myself starting to doubt it again, all I have to do now is look at God’s fingerprints, which are still plainly visible to me there on the scruff of my neck.”
A proud fourth-generation New Orleanian, Gregory Henderson, M.D. ’s father and grandfather are his mentors, because “both of them speak to me with words in the present and the past, and in their actions in times of triumph and adversity–all of which informs, guides and inspires me to live and work as they have–to always bring good into the world, regardless of your circumstance.” Dr. Henderson’s subspecialty expertise is in breast and gynecologic cancers, and it was this interest that led him to start a community lecture series on breast and cervical cancers and later to publish Women at Risk: The HPV Epidemic and Your Cervical Health, explaining the link between the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. Proceeds from the sale of the book allowed him to found the HPV Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education about HPV-related diseases and to increasing women’s access to the most advanced screening methods to prevent the development of cancers related to HPV. He arrived back in New Orleans with his family to accept the position of head of anatomic pathology at Ochsner Health System 10 days before Katrina. Dr. Henderson’s most important personal achievement has been “surviving for 11 days after Katrina hit the city and taking care of the New Orleans Police Department and the 30,000 people stranded at the Convention Center; and with the assistance of a single e-mail, a working cell phone, brave individuals in the city and compassionate people from all over the country, helping organize the evacuation of the Convention Center and the subsequent establishment of the first mobile civilian hospital in post-Katrina New Orleans.”
Robert S. Hecker
This past year has taught me … “That no matter what the circumstances and no matter what the level of danger may be, our first responders will uphold their oath and courageously perform their sworn duties. Being part of the team that helped save so many lives is the ultimate level of satisfaction a police officer can attain.”
Chief of the Harbor Police Department of the Port of New Orleans, Robert S. Hecker is one of our most dedicated first responders. He considers his greatest personal achievement the fact that he worked his way up through the ranks of the New Orleans Police Department over the past 39 years. Being “in a position to help many people” makes this accomplishment “that much more gratifying.” Chief Hecker is a member of several police associations, which he believes “exemplify the brotherhood of the law enforcement community.” He is inspired by his family, especially his wife who “has been very understanding and very supportive over the years,” and his son who has taught him “to be a role model and to set a good example for him during his formidable years.” He also finds inspiration through strong friendships and “outstanding police officers, especially the members of the Harbor Police.” During Katrina, Chief Hecker says he learned that “police officers are humanitarians with hearts of gold.” He cites one particular day during which he and his fellow officers had been performing rescue missions nonstop in the heat and murky waters. Food and water had become very scarce for his personnel, so when he saw three of his officers carrying bags of food items out of their headquarters, he asked them why. They told him that they were taking the food and water to several families of Katrina evacuees who were camped outside of the Convention Center and who needed it more than they did.
Anne M. Milling
This past year has taught me … “That in order to rebuild our city and our region, it will take everyone working in concert.”
Anne M. Milling has an affinity for each of the many groups she has worked with, including the Bureau of Governmental Research, the Archbishop’s Community Appeal, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, Second Harvesters Food Bank and the Junior League of New Orleans. “Each has validity and purpose in our city and each has broadened my life.” She is best known for creating the Women of the Storm, “in concert with many talented women from diverse backgrounds.” As Milling says, “this outstanding group of women is proving that when one is focused and dedicated, one can indeed make a difference.” Milling has been involved in her community since she was young; her parents taught her and her brothers the value of contributing to the community, “no matter how large or small a role you played, one should always share one’s blessings.” Her inspiration comes from “working with others to accomplish something greater than one’s self.” Which is exactly what the Women of the Storm is all about: placing the greater good of our community in the forefront and giving time and talent to assist in urging members of the United States Congress to visit and see the devastation firsthand. Since the Women of the Storm visited Washington, D.C., more than 45 members of the House of Representatives have visited and 20 additional senators have been to our city.
This past year has taught me … “Family comes first … this situation we are in has caused many of us to turn inward and evaluate our life plans; all the other stuff just doesn’t seem as important anymore.”
“Never the most politically inclined person,” Becky Zaheri, a stay-at-home mother of two, wanted to “channel the nervous energy that resulted from Katrina into something positive for our city.” She did that by creating the Katrina Krewe in November, “in the hopes of making New Orleans a better place for us to raise our children.” With the help of an enormous amount of people, the Katrina Krewe’s goals now encompass a much bigger picture: to get all of New Orleans involved in “keeping it klean” long term. Twice a week, the Katrina Krewe gathers to clean up a section of our city. Along the way, Zaheri has met “some of the most wonderful people, made many new friends and had the great opportunity to reconnect with old friends … and continue to meet many newcomers from across the United States and the world.” Her husband, Kamran, an emergency room doctor, is her hero, and she feels lucky to have him in her life. He was sent to New Orleans from his home country at 10 years old, learned to speak English and worked his way through college, pharmacy school and medical school. She says that her inspiration comes from within and once she sets her mind on something, she becomes very focused and determined to follow it through. “There’s something about completing a project that excites me; it’s sort of a release.”
This past year has taught me … “The most encouraging and positive thing has been the increase of citizen’s activism and involvement. The message to all of us is that we cannot take responsible government for granted. Each of us needs to be informed. The recovery and renewal of our beloved city requires the commitment of us all.”
The top residential producer at Prudential Gardner Realtors for 10 years and the top residential producer in Metropolitan New Orleans for seven years, Ruthie Frierson has a long history of service to her community. “Volunteering was instilled in me as a young child by my parents,” Frierson says. “Now more than ever it is imperative that we commit to the rebuilding of our community. My children and grandchild inspire me each day to recommit to the renewal of New Orleans.” Having served as a board member for the Louise S. McGehee School, a board member for Isidore Newman School and chairman of the board for the Louisiana Nature and Science Center, Frierson is probably best known for founding and acting as chairman for Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans. Frierson says her most important achievement is Levee Board reform. “The spark behind this landmark legislation was a very energetic and determined grass-roots citizens group, which I am privileged to lead.” Her involvement in the group reminds her each day “that we have to continue to stretch beyond what we may think our limitations are; it reinforces my deepest belief in the importance of an informed citizenry working together for the betterment of our community.” Her mentor is her husband of 42 years, Lou. It is through him, her personal faith and in working with others that she finds her inspiration.
This past year has taught me … “How blessed I am and that we need to get involved, that we have to be responsible for our own government, our own neighborhoods and that you gotta give in order to get–all those clichés that are true, but never heeded as much as they should have been in pre-Katrina New Orleans.”
A regular contributor to MSNBC and CNN, a contributing editor at Vogue and the author of Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena, Julia Reed is one amazing woman. Splitting her time between New Orleans and New York City, Reed is very involved in both communities. She serves on the board of directors of the Ogden Museum where she chaired the “Rebirth New Orleans” fund-raiser, with Wynton Marsalis and Walter Isaacson, and raised more than $200,000; she serves on the boards of Friends of New Orleans and the international organization Parents and Abducted Children Together (PACT). Having her first book published made Reed realize that she “should have done it at least ten years earlier,” and spurred her to write more. The other achievement she treasures most is her marriage to John Pierce because “it meant that one, I finally located enough sense to recognize the extraordinarily good thing in front of me, and two, I quit living like a vagabond, or at least slightly less of one.” Her parents, Clarke and Judy Reed, are her inspiration because “they are both extraordinary people who give so much back to the community, locally and nationally. Neither of them ever takes much credit, but compared to what they both do, I have made only a tiny dent in the world around me. Funny, energetic, generous in every way, but especially of spirit.” Reed also finds her inspiration in books. “Nothing inspires me more than words on a page … what are really inspiring to me are those moments, suspended time in the air, on planes, when you can hear your own voice.”
Sandra S. Shilstone
This past year has taught me… “As Southern women—especially working mothers—we want to right wrongs immediately and tend to run ourselves into the ground trying to do so. Rebuilding New Orleans is not a sprint but a marathon; rebuilding our city and our lives takes patience, focus, hard work, lots of heavy lifting and above all prayer—and a sense of humor helps, too.”
In August, Sandra S. Shilstone and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, of which she is president and CEO, opened and operated a media center on behalf of the city and the tourism industry to manage the international media focus on New Orleans and its recovery through Mardi Gras. More than 2,000 journalists worked with NOTMC throughout the Carnival season. The resulting positive coverage was hailed as a smashing success for the city and its rebuilding process after months of negative press. Shilstone has led NOTMC in winning numerous awards, including the travel industry’s prestigious Gold Award for Advertising Excellence presented by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Shilstone was presented with the National Council of Negro Women’s Bethune Trailblazer Award for her outstanding commitment and service to the community in 2003. Prior to assuming these duties in February 2000, Shilstone was the director of the Mayor’s Office of Tourism and Arts for the City of New Orleans, worked as assignment editor and news producer for two local television stations and was a public relations and media consultant. She is a past board member of the Junior League of New Orleans, the Arts Council of New Orleans, Trinity Episcopal School, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre and the Audubon Park Commission and is co-founder of the New Orleans Police Foundation and serves on its board of directors. Shilstone also served on the boards of the New Orleans Council for Young Children and the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and was a founding member of both organizations.
This past year has taught me … “Not to want more than you need materially and to cherish moments with those you love.”
As the director of catering at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, New Orleans, Amy Odinet stayed through Hurricane Katrina and did everything she could to help others. She was instrumental in keeping more than 1,000 guests at the Ritz-Carlton happy and comfortable by finding their prescriptions and making sure they had everything they needed, as well as keeping the rest of the staff in good spirits. An LSU and St. Mary’s Dominican High School alumna, Odinet is involved in numerous charities and organizations including Lindy’s Place, Musical Arts Society, Special Olympics and Catholic Charities. Odinet’s inspiration comes from her parents. “There is nothing that can be more inspiring than the way they raised 13 children, all of whom have great faith in God and have become successful in both our personal lives and our careers.” Though Odinet and her 12 siblings have all achieved success, she believes that it is due to “the foundation provided by our parents through their love, their teaching and their guidance that set us on our paths and that still guides us today.” Odinet is constantly motivated by them to succeed in life, which to Odinet means “not only meeting my personal goals but also doing everything I can for others.”
This past year has taught me … “That your entire world can change in a blink, but as long as you have family and friends, you are truly blessed. At the end of the day, we have each other, and that’s enough to pull us through anything.”
You probably don’t know Sandy Breland, but she was the reason you were able to hear what was going on in our city during Katrina from people you trusted. Breland is the news director of WWL-TV and her efforts kept the station continuously broadcasting, even though they had to relocate three times, throughout the most disastrous storm in our city’s history. Breland’s mentor is her first general manager, Mike Early. “He taught me so much about not being afraid to take risks and to follow your instincts. He also taught me that fairness is at the heart of being a good manager. If you’re fair, you know you’ve done your best.” Her most important personal achievement is balancing “the demands of being a mom to two wonderful, energetic, and at times high-maintenance children with the demands of a hectic and around-the-clock job, while still making time to be room mom, go on field trips and have the house where all the neighborhood children like to gather.” She relishes “the quiet times,” however, and finds inspiration in them. “I don’t have a lot of quiet time, so I guess I make the most of it. And, this past year, I’ve found a tremendous amount of inspiration in the spirit of New Orleanians. It’s amazing to see so many people who lost everything remain so focused on rebuilding their homes and their city. I’m inspired by the pride people of this area have.”
William W. Pinsky, M.D.
This past year has taught me … “Do not put things off, do not take any aspect of life for granted, do not be overly concerned about possessions, make decisive leadership decisions, stay in control and always look for ways to help others.”
As the executive vice president and chief academic officer at Ochsner Health System, William W. Pinsky, M.D. has had an immense impact on a large number of people, not least of all his wife of 35 years, two children and four grandchildren. “I would have to say that I have been fortunate to have affected so many people in a positive way through my professional and community work. This includes the patients I have treated; the students and residents with whom I have had direct contact; the students, residents, fellows and other professionals with whom I have had contact via my administrative responsibilities; and the over 15,000 pediatric patients and 400 children’s hospitals I have reached through my Racing for Kids foundation.” Racing for Kids is a national nonprofit program that uses the popularity of motor sports to bring public attention and funding to the health-care needs of children. Each Racing for Kids driver and rider visits young patients and spends time answering questions about their sport. Racing for Kids representatives have visited more than 12,000 patients in over 180 hospitals. Dr. Pinsky finds inspiration within himself: “This certainly is enhanced by the gratification I receive through accomplishments; for example, the recovery of a child, the success of a training program, the smile of a child and the parents after a Racing for Kids hospital visit.”
George & Wendy Rodrigue
This past year has taught me … “That everything–my life, friends, business, city–is very fragile. It’s instilled in me a personal calling to help in any way I can.” – George
This past year has taught me … “The importance if remaining close to my roots and nurturing atheir symbols. By extension I realized how important New Orleans is for everyone’s roots.” –Wendy
What brings a Cajun artist from New Iberia and an art history graduate from Fort Walton Beach, FL, together? Art and a dedication to their community. George and Wendy Rodrigue support numerous art-related causes, such as the International Child Art Foundation, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the New Orleans Arts Council and ArtWorks, the Musical Arts Society of New Orleans, the Tennessee Williams Foundation, the New Orleans Jazz Club, and they donate their time for student workshops and lectures. George has won acclaim for his rich portrayals of the landscape and people of South Louisiana as well as for his Blue Dog, an image that transformed from the original Cajun werewolf dog–the loup-garou–into an international pop icon. Museums continue to acknowledge George’s work and in 2007, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens Museum in Memphis, TN, will present a 40-year retrospective exhibition of his work that will go on tour across the United States. Wendy joined the staff of the newly opened Rodrigue Gallery on Royal Street in 1990 and moved to Carmel, CA, in 1991 to run George’s Gallerie Blue Dog for six years. She lectures extensively on George’s art and is a contributing writer and editor of his books. In 1997, George and Wendy married and in 1998, they bought out George’s agent and became owners of Rodrigue Studio in New Orleans and Carmel. In 2001, George raised $500,000 from the sales of his God Bless America print, benefiting the American Red Cross after September 11, and has so far raised more than $500,000 for Katrina relief from the sales of We Will Rise Again. Wendy says that George is her mentor because “he’s not afraid to follow his dreams, and in knowing him, I’ve developed courage.” She finds inspiration in situations “where it appears that I’ve inspired others.” George finds his inspiration in daily life: “the people I know, the places I visit, the situations I find myself in.”