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Into the Future

New Orleans Magazine People to Watch 2011

Jeffery Johnston

(page 1 of 4)

People to Watch is New Orleans Magazine’s oldest tradition. We define “People to Watch” as mostly new faces who are doing something interesting with their lives that is worthy of your awareness, or in some cases, familiar faces moving in different directions. As always, we concede that there are many other watch-worthy people out there. These are just a sample. We have been doing this for so long that some of the new faces are well-established older faces, but that’s proof as to why they’re watchable. By the way, this year the magazine celebrates its 45th anniversary. That is a lot of watching with a whole lot more ahead of us.





610 Stompers

It isn’t unusual in this city to stumble upon an impromptu parade of costumed characters, but there’s something “extraordinary” about the 610 Stompers, a diverse group of men, ranging in age from their 20s to 60s, who perform dance routines while sporting shiny jackets, gold shoes and ironic moustaches.

 “We’re brought together by our ongoing desire to entertain the world,” says Brett Patron, a founding member. The group – which boasts hundreds of members – has performed at Mardi Gras parades, Hornets games and on television, and they’ve been a crucial addition to many charitable causes and parties. Everyone wants to be where the Stompers are. Thier presence usually means a good time, despite their relative newness (they formed in 2009).

This year, after performing at the Saints’ home opener, they will gear up for another big adventure: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Though staying sober while dancing occasionally presents a challenge, Patron and the rest of the group take delight in the simple art of having fun.

“We receive satisfaction knowing that we are making people smile, even if just a short while. The look on our fans’ faces is better than any plaque on the wall.”

Rear Admiral Roy Nash
Commander, U.S. Coast Guard, Eighth District

On June 1, 2011, Rear Admiral Roy Nash became the Eighth Coast Guard District Commander, responsible for Coast Guard activities along the Gulf Coast and Western Rivers system. A logical step for the man who previously served as Deputy Unified Area Commander for the Deepwater Horizon Response, coordinating a multi-level incident management organization in carrying out the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response in the “Northern Gulf of Mexico.”

“More than anything I enjoy working with people, particularly with our Coast Guard men and women, and the many partners we have in government and the private sector,” says Nash. “As challenging as this environmental response campaign was, there was a tremendous amount of coordination … and development among the many different professionals who carried out the work.” Currently Nash is visiting and reaching out to those who “contribute to the mission success of our service,” and is looking forward to finding the best ways to apply the Coast Guard’s resources.

Alicia Zenobia
Designer, Alicia Zenobia and Autonomous Clothing

For most of us there is a difference between clothes and costumes, but not for fashion designer Alicia Zenobia. “A business suit is as much of a costume as a rabbit suit,” she says. “Clothing is the simplest way for someone to transform themselves instantaneously … Fashion is three-dimensional art in which any person can participate.”

After burning out as a sculptor, she wanted to create something positive, something that “would allow them to become the greatest being” they could.

Zenobia has participated in myriad fashion shows, has a new eponymous website and her designs are sold in the local boutique Hemline. Soon she will be rebranding her womenswear collection eponymously and delegating her Autonomous Clothing label to her menswear, as well as creating “post-apocalyptic manimal costumes” for a local theater production and working with a “very promising new band to create provocative, ethereal and purposeful styles for performances and music videos.”

Anselm v. Seherr-Thoss
VFX Technical Director, Incendii LLC Visual Effects

Anselm von Seherr-Thoss has worked on visual effects for such recent films as Sucker Punch, Robin Hood (the Ridley Scott version), The A-Team, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Avatar. That blockbuster work was all performed at Prime Focus Visual Effects in Los Angeles, where he was technical director.

He has the same job title now, but he now works for Incendii LLC Visual Effects, which generates visual effects “with an emphasis on particle simulation and 3D animation” for movies, television shows and commercials. (He says he moved to New Orleans “for the lady.”)

As a child, von Seherr-Thoss originally wanted to make video games, crediting the hit first-person-shooter game “Doom” as his inspiration. “When I graduated high school, the interest had shifted,” he said, and he asked a “VFX” company for an internship “with no qualifying skills whatsoever.” He got the internship, and hasn’t “left or looked back ever since.”

Amy Champion
Athletic Director, University of New Orleans

Originally joining the University of New Orleans as head coach for women’s basketball, Champion had a rocky first couple of years, inheriting a team that had graduated most of its veteran talent. Regardless, she worked through two brutal seasons (with two wins in 2004-’05 and three in ’05-’06) to build a squad that won 14 out of 28 games in the ’08-’09 season.

In April 2010, Champion was named interim athletic director – an office that had seen three replacements within a single year – before her position was made permanent the following October. In her new role she intends to “build our athletic department into a nationally known program.”

Since taking her current office, she has had to weather an NCAA division change (the Privateers are now Division II) but has been bolstered by the reinstatement of athletic scholarships. In the next few years she will be adding women’s golf and men’s and women’s cross country, and longer term seeks to add women’s soccer and football.

Traci Claussen
Founder, Designer and Chief Gatherer of the Green, REpurposingNOLA

You might not necessarily equate “burlap sack” with “high fashion” – that is, until you meet Traci Claussen, founder of REpurposingNOLA. She infuses social consciousness, environmental awareness and creativity into her designs, and the results are phenomenal. Claussen makes clothing and accessories out of excess fabrics from the community – the aforementioned burlap sack came from PJ’s Coffee & Tea’s roasting plant and was incorporated into a dress. “Our materials are whatever is available locally at the time,” explains Claussen, and while this occasionally presents challenges, she says “unexpected hurdles are simply part of life and business, so you have to roll with the punches.” Long-term goals include implementing micro-communities across the country that focus on local production and materials with proceeds benefiting each community. In the short-term, the company is strategically entering key retailers across the country in major cities. “Our goal was to have five eco-friendly Southern California boutiques that share our ethos by June; we accomplished that,” she says proudly, adding that the next “target cities” include places in Texas and across the South. Claussen says she embraces change and thrives on spontaneity, and her career satisfies her craving for fashion design and wanderlust. “Fashion is constantly evolving, pushing me to stay ahead of the game to design the next hot trend,” she says.

Stephen Collier

A native of the Gulf South, Stephen Collier has worked or presented in New Mexico, New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas and Louisiana. He is currently curator and co-director of the Good Children Gallery, which he helped found. “There was a serious lack of spaces showing contemporary art in pre-Katrina New Orleans,” he says.

“Several artist friends and I decided to pitch in and open the first artists-run space [Good Children] on St. Claude.”

Collier recently had a solo show at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (which opened on White Linen Night) and another show on display at Good Children Gallery. He has an upcoming show at Manifest Projects in Chicago. (He is also in a band called Shadow of the Capricorn, which he describes as “swamp goth.”)

“I am interested in making works that are conceptually driven and that are both smart and dumb at the same time,” says Collier. “Although there is a slight darkness to my work, it is often contradicted by humor.”

Sounds just like New Orleans itself.

David “Dave” Rebeck and Eugenia UhL
Co-Owners and “Ballistas,” Piety St. Sno-balls

The husband-and-wife team of musician Dave Rebeck and photographer Eugenia Uhl has recently opened Piety Street Sno-Balls at 612 Piety St., adjacent to a riverfront park that’s scheduled to open this spring. The stand sits on a property called the Ironworks, owned by the couple’s friend Gilbert Buras; after being used as an actual ironworks, the property was then used by an ornamental cement-casting company before falling into disrepair in the 1980s and losing its roof during Hurricane Katrina.

Rebeck says that, ultimately, he wants to build a core of arts-centered jobs in his neighborhood. “Obviously, opening a food stand is a start in that direction,” he says, “but we are also in the process of creating music events and programs designed for the growing tourism economy of the area.” Rebeck has also helped in the development of the Piety Street Market.

“At first I was against [the stand],” says Uhl, who’s also a photographer, “but I love it now. Every time a customer shows up, I’m happy and excited.” Uhl has contributed by developing tea-based flavors for snowballs, as well as popsicles, floats and her personal favorite, the “soymilk fudgesickle.”

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