Show and Shell

“Come Celebrate the Art, Science and Culinary Tradition of the Oyster!” was the beckoning to raise funds for A Studio in the Woods.

The hosts and co-chairmen were Lee Ledbetter and Doug Meffert, who welcomed guests at their 1963 Historic Registered modernist home designed by Nathaniel “Buster” Curtis Jr. Patron tasting and a tour of the University-area residence preceded the 6 p.m. start of the party.

At the 5 p.m. tasting-tour, guests were thrilled to have an insider’s view of the property and to appreciate all that current owners Lee and Doug have done to preserve the integrity of the original structure. In addition, they have retained several period pieces of original furniture, fixtures and art. Wild flowers and greenery from the forest at A Studio in the Woods adorned the house, along with vases of sunflowers and roses. Pearlescent balloons, in keeping with the oyster theme, “floated” in the courtyards’ fountains.

A special feature of the bivalve bash was the presence of Thomas Soniat, Ph.D., of the University of New Orleans, and Sal Sunseri of P & J Oyster Company, who answered questions regarding oysters, the industry, and the associated lore and allure.

Needless to say, a lot of the ladies arrived wearing the thematic jewelry as a response to the invitation’s suggestion to “Break out of your shell with pearls and seaworthy cocktail attire.” On that note, there was an auction of oyster-related artworks by Mignon Faget and more.

Among the see-worthy were the above Mignon Faget, Bill Fagaly, Susan and Mark Davis, Liz Sloss, Todd Turnillion, Ellen Johnson and Dr. Ronnie Swartz, Enola and Joey Richard, Karen Edmunds, Catherine and David Edwards, John Bullard and Catherine Burns Tremaine, Cathy Pierson, George Dunbar and Louisette Brown (her son, Christy Brown, is the reigning Rex), Lin Emery and John Cleveland, Philip Gunn, and Jan Sullivan and Stanford Latter. They were looking forward to greeting current and former Studio resident artists Dr. Michael White, Sarah Quintana, and Pippin Frisbie-Calder.

Chef Ryan Prewitt of Peche Seafood Grill highlighted the diversity of Gulf oysters with oysters on the half shell from four regional suppliers; Caminada Bay, Redfish Pass, Area 3, and Dauphin Island. More taste treats were crawfish and eggplant gratin, smoked tuna dip, and lamb meatballs. As a food finale, Laura Arrowood Catering sweetened the party with lemon squares and chocolate peanut butter cups.

Meanwhile, another kind of menu, a musical one, and the all-acoustic sounds of the Panorama Jazz Band with special guests the above Dr. Michael White and Sarah Quintana, was served in the large courtyard.

Of course, the prevalent buzz was about A Studio in the Woods, an artists’ sanctuary and a live-in artists’ retreat program that allows them to work uninterrupted during short-term residencies. In 2004, the property, which is on the banks of the Mississippi River in Algiers, was given to Tulane University by educators and artists Joe and Lucianne Carmichael, who had acquired the property in 1969 with the intention of making it an artists’ retreat in the woods. Since then there have been 76 residencies.

As concerns the initial “Half Shell” hobnobbing, the Studio was duly proud of its success and plans for an annual event. Everyone liked “dem ersters.”


Audubon Tea Room enjoys its special setting, where trees and foliage, all abundant verdancy, are nearby. On a recent Thursday evening, guests headed to the location at the invitation of the Tulane University Freeman School of Business and Dean Ira Solomon and Susan Solomon for the Tulane Council of Entrepreneurs Gala. A one-hour round of cocktails was followed by dinner and awards.

The honorees were three: Albert R. Lepage of the Albert Lepage Foundation (which has committed $12.5 million to the above Freeman School “to establish a center dedicated to the study, teaching and practice of entrepreneurship”) and chef John Besh as the 2015 Tulane Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs of the Year; and James E. Maurin of Stirling Properties Inc., the 2015 Tulane Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year. They were joined by a number of guests. Included with Albert Lepage were Andrew Barowsky, Carlton and Lucy Lepage Sedgeley, Carolyn and Regis Lepage, Francois Lepage, Denise Lucy, and Nancy Goldstein, while the Besh brigade counted the chef’s wife, Jennifer Besh, as well as Emery Whelan and Jim Marshall, Octavio Mantilla, Maggie Moore, Peggy Babin Indest, Gabriela Duran, and Lauren Navarro.

With Jimmy Maurin were spouse Lillian, daughter Marli Quesinberry, Roger Ogden, Marty Mayer, Warner Thomas, and Robert and Kim Cosby.

Breaking bread, too, and hailing the laureates were Tulane President Michael Fitts, the above Solomons, Rick and Debbie Rees, Matt and Christa Schwartz, David and Tiffany Rieveschel, Seth Hamstead and Bess Hart, Dan Gaver and Bernice Kaufman, Geoff and Debra Parker, and Matt and Amina Dearmon, and approximately 200 more.

The Entrepreneurs Gala was also the occasion to announce the 2015 Tulane Business Model Competition winners and, during the program, each of the three finalists gave a one-minute pitch about their venture prior to the announcement. Now in its 15th year, the competition offers tens of thousands of dollars in startup funds to student ventures. Disease Diagnostic Group, MIT, won the first prize of $25,000. The second ($10,000) and third ($2,500) prizes recognized respectively D&P Bionnovations, Tulane University, and REEcycle, University of Houston.

Additionally, the gala and its impressive guest list of Freeman School affiliates, Tulane board members, Business School Council members, donors, competition judges, and other notables gave Tulane students the opportunity to network with some of the region’s most successful and well respected entrepreneurs. Innovation and initiative await.

Arboreal Acclaim

Friends of Jefferson the Beautiful held the 15th annual Tree School at the Pavilion of the Two Sisters in City Park, a comprehensive, one-day workshop that is open to the public with a focus on “the care and preservation of tree canopy in the urban landscape.” The most recent program featured as speakers professor Kim D. Coder of the University of Georgia; professor emeritus Neil Odenwald of LSU; American Society of Landscape Architects Fellow James Urban of Urban & Associates, Annapolis, Maryland; and DePaul University adjunct professor John O. Norquist. Wade Dubea of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry and Brook Burmaster, director of Jefferson Parish Parkways Department, were the panelists. Jefferson Parish President John Young gave the welcome, along with Friends President and Tree School founder Carey Hammet, and emcee Neil Odenwald.

All work and no play precludes branching-out bonhomie, and so a party at which the speakers and panelists are invited precedes Tree School each year. The Friends and Penny (Mrs. Richard) O’Krepki were the hosting forces at the latter’s Old Metairie home, where landscaped gardens and parterres framed the reception beautifully.

Mingling were Carey Hammett and Friends board members Lucy Thomas with David, Albert Kelleher with Elesha, Holley Haag with Patrick Quinn, Joe Baucum with Cindy, Jackie Madden, Dessa Giffin with David, and Michael Whealdon with Mary.

Also, Sue Ellen and Joe Canizaro, Marla Garvey, spouses Jennifer Van Vrancken and Stephen Dwyer (who were noted enjoying New York’s Easter Parade along with Van Vrancken family members), John Stubbs of the Tulane School of Architecture, Peter Waring, and a mother-daughter real estate team of Susan Price and Ashley Price Swanson.

Around and About

The Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University through its namesake, TU President Emeritus Scott Cowen, recently announced its Advisory Board. All with titles, the local names are Janet Bean, Matt Candler, Liza Cowan, Scott Cowen, Flozell Daniels, Alan Franco, Robert Reily and Patty Riddlebarger.