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Page Turners

People to Watch 2010

(page 3 of 4)

Kate Elizabeth Voisin
Freelance Designer and Illustrator

Kate Elizabeth Voisin can’t help but be an artist. “I’m the sort of person who doesn’t like sitting still without something to sketch on,” the designer and illustrator says. “My school notes are probably more doodles and portraits of my classmates than factual information. I just feel the need to create pictures all the time.” 

Although she has natural ability, she says that the difficulty lies in living up to her own expectations. “I am just now – as in the past couple years – getting to the point where I can clearly see a picture in my head and make that exact thing (or at least a close approximation) come out on paper,” she says.

Voisin paints digitally by using a Wacom Intuos4 tablet. “It works like pen on paper, except brush strokes on the tablet show up as brush strokes on my screen.” She can zoom into the virtual canvas and focus for hours at a time on minute sections of a work. “In a recent piece, I spent well over an hour creating these perfect little buttons for a picture that called for an upholstered sofa,” she says.

Voisin’s latest achievements include designing a cover piece for EatSleepDraw Magazine and having one of her pieces featured in the Czech gaming magazine LeveL. “2010 has been really good to me so far,” she says.

One of her long-term goals is to write and illustrate children’s books. “And like just about every other New Orleanian that I’ve met, I’m pecking away at that ‘Next Great American Novel,’” Voisin says. “If I don’t get published in the next 10 or so years, I’m either going to have to figure out an entirely new life plan or commit seppuku.”

At kate.isinyou.net you can view her portfolio and send her your commissions for greeting cards, album art, written pieces and more.

Liz Carrier
Rebuild Program Coordinator, Episcopal Community Services of Louisiana

Liz Carrier and Episcopal Community Services of Louisiana (formerly the Office of Disaster Response for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana) recently reached a milestone that few programs achieve: their goal. The Rebuild Program raised over $60,000 towards the construction of eight brand new homes for displaced Katrina victims.

“This job feels meaningful every single day,” says Carrier. “Also, I get to work with great, motivated and enthusiastic people. What more could you ask for?”

The only things they could ask for, according to Carrier, are brand new goals to reach. She says her biggest challenge this past year was “transitioning from exclusively private funding to primarily public funding” as ESCLA’s Rebuild Program looks to develop new projects.

Carrier’s responsibilities with Rebuild run the gamut – from essential managerial tasks to the smallest chore. “In a nutshell, I oversee day-to-day operations and general direction of ECSLA’s Rebuild Program – everything from making the daily schedule to prioritizing homeowners, to changing truck tires, to overseeing our staff, to making sure we’re compliant to the terms of our grant, to talking to volunteers about Katrina and barriers to recovery.”

The Rebuild Program was born in January 2007, and Carrier became coordinator in June 2009 after a stint as construction coordinator and crew chief for ECSLA. She also participates in a bevy of local activities, from playing rugby with the New Orleans Halfmoons to playing women’s football with the New Orleans Blaze to arm wrestling for charity with New Orleans Ladies’ Arm Wrestling.

Lolis Eric Elie
Story Editor, HBO’s “Treme”

Writers are often advised to write what they know. As a former Times-Picayune columnist, Lolis Eric Elie got to know the city of New Orleans inside and out. “I love sharing my city with the world,” he says. “This city is misunderstood even within its boundaries … Still, I love sharing the glories of this city – our architecture, our food, our music and our joie de vivre.  Our ignorance, our parochialism, our envy of inferior cities is part of our charm.”

He was also a documentary producer for Faubourg Treme: the Untold Story of Black New Orleans. “The New Orleanians who we most want to see the film are local school children,” he says. “We didn’t know this history of New Orleans human rights struggles of the 1800s. We don’t want another generation of New Orleans students to replicate our ignorance.”

These experiences prepared him for his next task: as a story editor for HBO’s love letter to New Orleans, “Treme.”

“I love telling stories,” Elie says. “I cling to the belief that in telling our stories we can come to a better understanding of each other, a better appreciation for each other. I love language. I love the infinite variety of ways even the most basic information can be conveyed.”

Elie found that the medium of television was the perfect way to bring people together to experience the stories of New Orleans. “While we might be able to share the joy of reading a novel, seldom if ever do we read novels or essays at the same time as we watch television shows together.”

The medium of storytelling through television is also an ongoing one, luckily for “Treme” fans. “We start shooting Season Two in November … I’m looking forward to telling the evolving story of what happened to us a year after the federal levee failures.”

Michelle Weaver
President and Co-owner, Meltdown Popsicles

New Orleans is a town of tradition; we stick to what we know, whether it’s with poor boys, Sazeracs or even the mother of all summer indulgences, the snow ball. Our city’s many loyalties make it difficult sometimes to introduce something completely different, but in the case of Michelle Weaver, the proof was in the popsicles.

Weaver fell in love with Mexican-style popsicles called paletas, and decided to bring the frozen treat to New Orleans. “The flavor combinations intrigued me,” she says. “Most importantly I loved the fact that they were all natural and not chocked full of chemicals and air.” Weaver then began experimenting with flavor combinations using herbs and fruits. “The results were successful and I knew I had to turn this into a career. I thought this would be a great way to communicate unusual flavor combinations to the masses in a relatively healthy way.”

Weaver founded Meltdown Popsicles in July 2008, opening a store in the French Quarter in September of ’09. The unique flavor concoctions include strawberry basil, pineapple cilantro, salted caramel, lavender lemonade, Vietnamese coffee, saffron lemongrass and many more crazy yet complementary combinations.

“My favorite part of what I do is when kids come in to the shop and order a watermelon pop and say, ‘It tastes just like a watermelon,’” Weaver says. “That’s always the response. I think they expect it to taste like a watermelon-flavored Jolly Rancher.” Weaver creates a healthy version of a typically treat lacking in nutrition by substituting natural flavors for ingredients such as Red No. 40.

“It’s a great creative outlet, it makes people happy, and I feel good about what I am serving.”

Mike Fennelly
Executive Chef, Co-owner and Creative Director, Mike’s on the Avenue

Mike Fennelly left his New Orleans restaurant, Mike’s on the Avenue, in 1999 to head a new restaurant in San Francisco. He then relocated to Hawaii before finally making his way back to the Big Easy in 2009 to recreate the 1990s restaurant with a new name, Mike’s East-West, an Asian-fusion eatery. The restaurant soon came full circle, though, when Fennelly and partner Vicky Bayley resurrected the original name, Mike’s on the Avenue, in February.

Fennelly says his biggest career challenge was “returning to New Orleans to open an Asian concept restaurant that in the process became Mike’s on the Avenue.”

Fennelly’s menu features New Orleans cuisine with an Asian-fusion twist. While Mike’s on the Avenue kept the old name, the new restaurant includes several new features, including a sushi bar and cocktail bar called Twist at Mike’s.

All of the effort and reinvention is all for the public and his loved ones, Fennelly says. “I live and create from my passion to make others happy, which makes me happy.” He says his greatest accomplishment was “realizing that I can listen to the voice of my customers and meet their needs” and that he’s most looking forward to “being involved and engaged in the city of New Orleans – personally and professionally.”

Aaron Miscenich
President, New Orleans BioInnovation Center

Aaron Miscenich began as President of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center in 2004, and already major progress has been made.

The center works to develop bioscience entrepreneurship in the Greater New Orleans area, specifically by commercializing technologies from local universities, including LSU Health Sciences Center, Tulane Health Sciences Center, the University of New Orleans and Xavier University.

One start-up venture of note for the BioInnovation Center is also Miscenich’s proudest accomplishment, the creation of NuMe Health, LLC. “This is a company formed around a technology that was discovered through a research collaboration between Tulane and the USDA,” he says. “Through the work of the BioInnovation Center we were able to introduce the research team to experienced management, to funding sources and to others that helped in the development of the company. This marked the first time that the programming of the BioInnovation Center helped to create jobs in New Orleans and helped to advance a technology that could help better the quality of life of millions.”

Miscenich hopes to support entrepreneurship in New Orleans not only in the field of life science, but inclusive of multiple fields of technology, all to boost the local economy and technological standing.

The New Orleans BioInnovation Center is set to officially open in April 2011 on Canal Street.

Monica S. Ramsey
Owner and Manager, Eco Café

Monica Ramsey always felt a desire to start her own business, especially in the hospitality industry. Her parents owned and managed a hotel and restaurant in Ecuador, and her business degree from the University of New Orleans concentrated heavily on hotel, restaurant and tourism. However, there was one hurdle: “Being in a city with such a deep love for food makes this a real challenge – expectations are high,” Ramsey says. “I was waiting for the right time and a unique concept before breaking out on my own.”

Despite the challenge, Ramsey opened Eco Café in April 2010, though the difficulties were far from over. Ramsey converted the Hurricane Katrina-damaged property (“a deteriorating eye sore”) at 3903 Canal St. into usable commercial property, which included apartments and a café. Her priority, however, was to keep the renovations and the building functions as environmentally friendly as possible. “Taking an old, storm-damaged shell of a building and transforming it into my own café, Eco Café, has been very satisfying for me,” says Ramsey. “Opening day, April 6, 2010, was a huge milestone.”

Ramsey maintains her eco-conscious business model by using biodegradable materials instead of Styrofoam and minimizing energy usage, which includes using mostly fresh foods and very little frozen. The result is a café that boasts fresh, light salads; sandwiches; iced coffee; and the other usual coffee shop accoutrements, but with a green twist.

“I really enjoy interacting with customers, whose expectations are high, but whose enjoyment of the café experience equals my joy in providing it,” she says. Ramsey’s long-term goal is to own and operate a larger business, such as a bed-and-breakfast, with a similar business model and philosophy as Eco Café.

Monique delaHoussaye-Breaux
President and Principal Buyer,POSH Exclusive Interiors and BuyPOSHrooms.com

When Monique delaHoussaye-Breaux walks into a room, she doesn’t simply see walls, a floor and some furniture.

She sees design, potential and maybe some window treatments. The principal designer at POSH Exclusive Interiors for 17 years, her interest in design spans longer than that. “I have loved design since I was a little girl,” she says. “It’s in my blood. A real designer can never turn design off. It’s in my life 24/7.”

DelaHoussaye-Breaux, who was listed as one of the top 60 designers in North America by Panache Publishing and was featured as a designer on HGTV, says she can conceptualize a finished room before the work even begins. “It is a talent, so when I work I am constantly seeking applicable resources to execute my design since I already know the final design outcome,” she says. “I feel a sense of freedom when I am designing and my clients can see it in my face when we are meeting.  Design is about what you feel inside, not about what you see.”

Her most recent endeavor has been to expand the POSH business into a web-based company that brings interior design to the client’s doorstep, literally. BuyPOSHrooms.com provides completely designed rooms, including furniture and accessories, on a budget. “Servicing our exclusive clientele with a POSH lifestyle environment while providing all clients with unique, one-of-a-kind designs is my ultimate goal,” she says. “I love what I do and BuyPOSHrooms.com is my outlet to make America beautiful one room at a time.”

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