Spring Spurts

Homing in on Art!

For so many artists in New Orleans, that first “home” was the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, which offered a nurturing and instructive environment, but, in later years, through NOCCA’s Academic Studio, also “an excellent academic education.”

Supporters were beckoned for the recent Saturday night’s ART & SOUL gala of The NOCCA Institute, which included great entertainment, food and drink, a Winner’s Choice Raffle, and auctions, both silent and live. It was held in Press Street Station, 5 Press Gallery, Solomon Family Hall, and along the historic Homer Plessy Way. Funds raised support the programs of The NOCCA Institute, NOCCA’s nonprofit partner. As for top sponsorship, it came from the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation (the gala), Ajax Holdings (patron party), the Patrick Family Foundation (block party), WDSU (entertainment), The New Orleans Advocate (media). Boo and Clayton Randle and alumna (and current Advocate photographer) Sophia Germer, the invitation’s artist, chaired the affair.

Taste-bud attractions came from 28 local restaurants, caterers and cafes, including NOCCA’s Culinary Arts students, who prepared seafood provided by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. Entertainment permeated the premises with Alexis and the Samurai, the Sasha Masakowski Family Quartet, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and students from NOCCA Jazz, Visual Arts and Creative Writing adding tons of talent. The latter ones penned on-the-spot poems.

Auction action counted vacation packages, artwork and unique experiences, highlighted by trips to Italy and Spain, rides in the 2020 Orpheus parade, and a Jaune Flyer Serigraph by James Michalopoulos. Ambrose Garden Florists, CHL Linens and The Plant Gallery added attractive ambiance.

Headliners included auctioneers Dan Pruksarnukul (of the school’s Musical Theatre faculty) and ART & SOUL gala committee member Claire Elizabeth Thriffiley, owner of Claire Elizabeth Gallery; master of ceremonies Charles Divins of WDSU News; NOCCA Institute Board President Debbie Patrick with Robert; institute executive director Sally Perry and Oley Sassone; and NOCCA President and CEO Kyle Wedberg with spouse Michelle. And, all with titles, Wendy and Bill Haines, Anne and P.B. Candies, Janine Guzzo and Stephen Stryjewski, Ella Bright and Marion “Manny” Bright, Greg Morey and Scott James, Anne Raymond, Joel and Shirelle Vilmenay, Debbie and Steve Marx, Nan and Britt Galloway, Steve Price, Liz Thorpe and David Hecht, Jenny and Robert Kottler, Carolyn and Gary Lorio and countless others, who made the gala their artistic “go.”

Promises Kept

The Daughters of Charity Foundation of New Orleans held its eighth annual “Keeping Our Promises” gala at The National WWII Museum US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. It was presented by Louisiana Healthcare Connections. The event also commemorated the Daughters of Charity and their 185th anniversary of providing health services to the New Orleans community.

One Shot Brass Band kicked off the fun-raiser during the patron party as guests had interactive experiences aboard the USS Tang Submarine, recalling the valor of those who served in underwater warfare. The gala included the presentation of the Inspired Cross Awards, a “live fundraiser” led by Michael Griffin and Erica Spruille, respective President/ CEO and fund development manager of the daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans, and a silent auction with contributions from the Saints, Terrance Osborne, Southwest Airlines, Luca Falcone (a custom suit), the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation Inc., and Porter Lyons for the Jewelry Pull. Smoked brisket, spring rolls, roasted garlic pasta and Louisiana shrimp remoulade were some of the culinary attractions from the American Sector catering staff. An exquisite cake from Swiss Confectionary added the sweet touch. Crisp, black linens adorned the tables topped by arrangements of blue and white hydrangeas and white roses created by Harkins the Florist.

Tapped as Inspiration Cross Award recipients, along with their representatives, were Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., The Greater New Orleans Chapters (Robyn S. McCormick with husband Marques); Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., New Orleans Alumnae Chapter (Pamela White); LCMC Health (Greg Feirn); and New Orleans Musician’s Clinic & Assistance Foundation (Bethany Bultman).

Teamed to chair “Promises” were Lauren Ryan and LaVerne Toombs with their husbands, Andy and James; Tracie Haydel Griffin with the above Michael; and Sister Bonnie Hoffman, DC, the Daughters’ vice president of Mission Integration. Also, with pertinent titles, Chelsea Graves, Carol L. Schmidt, Holley Haag with Rick Crozier, Sister Marjorie N. Hebert, MSC, Dr. Raenell and Leon Houston, state Rep. Jimmy Harris with the above Erica Spruille, Robert Angelico and wife Kathy Conklin, Cary Grant and Deborah A. Elam, Richard and Erin Born, Gustavo Duque and wife Matilde Albeny, Sister Ellen Kron, DC, and Lebron Joseph of WGNO-TV.

They and about 370 others thrilled to the excitement of the gala — socially, it was a “promises kept” display of a good time — and danced the night away to the sound of The Royal Essence Show Band.


Always a vernal highlight, the annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, which just hailed 33 years, held a patron party at The Historic New Orleans Collection. As guests mingled within The Collection’s space of opulent furnishings, ornate portraits and handsome mirrors, they nibbled on offerings from Chez Nous catering, such as mushroom sandwiches, cheese puffs (always delicious!) and baked Brie, along with “decadent desserts.”

Among those invited were all the Festival speakers, Friends of Tennessee members, donors, sponsors and board members. Circulating were authors Michael Cunningham, Robert Olen Butler, Maureen Corrigan, Jami Attenberg, Katy Simpson Smith and Bryan Batt, who also answers to actor. A famous one at that! And Festival executive director Paul J. Willis, managing director Tracy Cunningham, President Peggy Scott Laborde (with Errol), THNOC’s Priscilla (executive director) and John Lawrence, and actor and director Francine Segal (with husband Jerry Siegel), who rated compliments for her recent staged adaptation of “A Confederacy of Dunces: Off the Page Onto the Stage.” The sold-out opening night’s performance was preceded by a 1960s party and lots of costumes. In attendance, too, was Dr. Kenneth Holditch.

Ruth Koffman was noted at The Collection’s gathering, as were Ruby and Jerry Tremont, Sara and Allan Woodard, Helen and George Ingram, Richard and Doris Louth, Lawrence Henry Gobble, Kathy Slimp of THNOC, actor Brenda Currin, actor Jeremy Lawrence, novelist Bev Marshall and husband Butch, and Scholars Conference Chairman Robert Bray, who’s been involved with the Festival for more than 25 years.

New Orleanians' love of fun and festivities is legendary. Join The New Orleans Advocate's Facebook group to follow the who's who of the city and the best parties in town courtesy of society and party experts Nell Nolan and Jeff Strout.