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St. Charles Avenue’s Activists of the Year

St. Charles Avenue magazine is proud to present its Activists of the Year 2017 – our 22nd year!
 

Read on to learn why we’re honoring Stephanie and Terrance Osborne, Roland and Mary von Kurnatowski and Linda and Thomas Westfeldt. Though we’re only able to scratch the surface of their activism in this feature, we outline how these six individuals have given their time, efforts, energies and specialties to our city.
 

We hope that these profiles encourage and embolden you to take a more active role in our community and the nonprofits that make up its framework.

 


 

Stephanie Osborne

ACTIVISTS OF THE YEAR 2017

Stephanie Osborne grew up in a family where giving back wasn’t a thing you did, it was a way of life. Her parents, Warren J. and Helen Green, were both educators and heavily involved in church and social organizations.

For Stephanie, this sense of community is apparent in her commitment to empowering women and guiding meditation.

Stephanie credits meditation for keeping her calm, present and clear-headed and helping her manage stress. She also credits it for healing her ulcerative colitis.

Stephanie is the owner and lead meditation guide for Meditate New Orleans and offers guided meditation in corporate settings as well as in workshops, private sessions and group sessions at the Terrance Osborne Gallery.

At the moment, Stephanie is particularly excited about three projects which are centered around her two passions, mindfulness and female empowerment, both based in New Orleans.

Director Misty Marshall and Stephanie are producing The Vagina Monologues at Terrance Osborne Gallery on the evenings of March 2 and 3, 2018, following International Women’s Day.

Reclaiming the Goddess Within is a women’s empowerment and mindfulness weekend at New Orleans Museum of Art on June 2-3, 2018, for which Stephanie is one of the lead organizers. The weekend will include inspirational talks, mindfulness practices and connective exercises.

In October 2018, Stephanie will be leading a group on a Women’s Empowerment and Mindfulness retreat to Greece.

Stephanie also enjoys working with many other nonprofits. She started working with Young Audience of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina to bring education in the arts to public schools. YALA has since expanded to create a sister nonprofit Young Audience’s Charter School, and Stephanie works with students on age appropriate meditation skills.

Stephanie is also actively involved with the American Heart Association in finding ways to bring community awareness to heart disease in both men and women (her father died from a heart attack and her mom and grandmother suffer with heart issues).

While busy with these nonprofits, Stephanie never loses focus on her priorities at home. For 21 years, she has been the “woman behind the man,” supporting her artist husband Terrance Osborne. In 2001, Stephanie started managing Terrance’s work so he could give 100 percent focus to his passion.

Stephanie and Terrance have three children and they credit raising their two sons and one daughter as kind, loving individuals as their greatest achievement.
 

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

American Heart Association (Passion Committee Member)

CASA Jefferson (Gala Chair)

Cystic Fibrosis’ “Uncork the Cure” (One of New Orleans’ Finest)

Gambit (Readers’ No. 1 Gallery in New Orleans)

Girl Scouts Louisiana East (Board Member)

Prix d’Elegance (Woman of Fashion)

Young Audience of Louisiana (Board Member)

 


 

Terrance Osborne

ACTIVISTS OF THE YEAR 2017

Internationally celebrated artist Terrance Osborne believes standing by and doing nothing is a choice, so his choice is to do the opposite; he explains, “If I can contribute to making the world a more loving place to live then it’s an easy choice for me. There is enough heartache, division and injustice in the world. I’m happy to put my energy into equality, unity and love.”

Growing up in New Orleans, Terrance graduated from the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and then from Xavier University in Fine Arts. He taught in the public school system for five years before Hurricane Katrina.

Terrance now works full time as an artist and has a gallery on Magazine Street. He finds being a fine artist exhilarating, and this joy and love of his native city is transparent in his work. Describing his artistic process Terrance says, “Painting to me is like creating my own language which I use to tell stories about my life in New Orleans.

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell what direction I’m going in with my art. But I know it’s the rummaging around in uncharted territory that leads every creative person to discover something new. Lately, I’ve had a fascination with creating figures that look like cultured New Orleanians and placing traditional New Orleans houses on their heads and positioning them like hats. It’s sort of ‘New Orleans on my mind’ type of direction.”

Terrance’s success is partly due to his ability to translate the life and culture of the city he loves so much in a fresh, relevant and beautiful way. He loves everything about the city, the food, the culture and the music. However, he says, “The thing that I love most about New Orleans is the people, because they produce all of these things; we celebrate hard and love even harder.”

Terrance is also well known for his four Jazz & Heritage Festival posters and his partnerships with brands such as Nike, Heineken, Coca-Cola and Amuse Bouche winery.

Terrance credits his art teacher Richard Thomas and Richard Colton, a philanthropist and arts patron, as two inspirational figures who have always embodied kindness and opened their doors to young artists trying to find their way.

Terrance also works with the Louisiana Children’s Museum and is particularly impressed by the way the museum enables children to create childhood memories centered around art.

One of Terrance’s proudest accomplishments is being married to his best friend, Stephanie Osborne; together they take pride in the kind of children they have raised, “Our kids are ages 14, 17 and 23, and we can rest in the fact that whatever they do in their lives, they will be fine because they know why it’s important to be loving human beings.”
 

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

American Heart Association (Appreciation Awardee)

City of New Orleans (Man of Honor Awardee)

Family Service (Outstanding People Open Door Awardee)

Gambit (Best Art Gallery, Best Artist)

Jack and Jill of America (NOLA) (Distinguished Father Awardee)

Louisiana Association of Educators (Made In New Orleans Awardee)

National Golden Image (Awardee)

New Orleans CityBusiness (The Power Generation Awardee)

National Conference of Artist (Outstanding Artist Awardee)

New Orleans Magazine (People To Watch Awardee)

New Orleans Museum of Art (Love in the Garden Awardee)

Urban League (Essence of New Orleans Awardee)

Where Y’at magazine (Best Artist)

Young Leadership Council (Role Model Awardee)

 


 

Roland von Kurnatowski

ACTIVISTS OF THE YEAR 2017

If you have been lucky enough to enjoy a Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performance at The Orpheum Theatre lately, you have Roland and Mary von Kurnatowski and Dr. Eric George to thank.

This beautifully restored Beaux Arts building dating back to 1918 was nearly demolished in 1983 but survived only to be damaged by Katrina. For 10 years, the venue stood empty until the von Kurnatowskis and Dr. George partnered to bring the venue back to life.

The partnership invested $13 million into turning The Orpheum into a state-of-the-art, multiple purpose venue with air-conditioning, a modern sound system and an adjustable floor and seats.

The original walls, ceiling and decorations have been restored to their former glory, and it is now the home of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

The theater is on the National Register of Historic Places, and its acoustics are so pure they are said to rival those of Carnegie Hall in New York.

Having visited The Orpheum as a boy to watch movies, Roland is committed to the success of the venue in its new guise, “After wrapping up the construction phase, we are continuing to establish it as a premier, multi-purpose event facility. This process is mostly about relationship building.”

Roland is also the owner, with his wife Mary, of Tipitina’s and founder of the Tipitina’s Foundation. He credits this relationship for his success, “My wife Mary and I have developed a very strong personal and working relationship. We manage to weave our projects into our family routine without undue stress, mainly because of her endless creativity, energy and patience. It is all very rewarding.”

On his philanthropy Roland comments, “Everyone should give back to their community to the best of their ability. It makes the community stronger and healthier.”

These values were instilled in Roland at an early age by his mother and sister, and he feels very fortunate to have found a partner like Mary who works with him side-by-side in rebuilding the city, even though both of them balk at such recognition.

The von Kurnatowskis are now working on revitalizing another part of the city, the lakefront, with Lakeshore Landing, which is being developed into a premiere waterfront entertainment and family-friendly recreation destination. The location will include a marina store and fuel dock, open air pavilion, food hall style restaurant with outdoor decking and a multi-purpose recreational and live event space to include an amphitheater, festival grounds, green space and waterfront recreational opportunities.

It will also include the newly constructed boathouse for the National World War II Museum’s fully restored PT-305 boat. The boathouse will provide a dedicated training space, workshop and boat side exhibit area.

The von Kurnatowskis don’t just give back, they literally build it back.
 

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

Gambit (Big Easy Music Business of the Year Awardee

Governor's Arts Award for Cultural Economy Development (Awardee)

Junior Achievement (Hall of Fame Laureate)

Louisiana Landmarks Society Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation (Awardee)

Offbeat Magazine (Best of the Beat Awards Lifetime Achievement Awardee for Music)

Tipitina's Foundation (Founding Member & Governor's Arts Awardee)

 


 

Mary von Kurnatowski

ACTIVISTS OF THE YEAR 2017

Mary von Kurnatowski is very humble about the pivotal role she and her husband Roland play within the cultural life of New Orleans.

Describing her entrée into the workforce, Mary says: “I still feel like I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to be when I grow up. The last several years I’ve found myself renovating old buildings, some of them historic landmarks, both here in New Orleans and elsewhere. It wasn’t ever anything I actually planned on, it just sort of happened. I went to graduate school for political and economic sociology, and then I met this guy and then he had this project!”

Renovating old buildings is an understatement. Already established property developers, Mary and Roland bought Tipitina’s, the iconic music venue in the city, in 1996. Their first job was to update the place, adding new wiring and a new sound system while maintaining its original spirit and feel.

In 2003, the couple launched the Tipitina’s Foundation, which started with a small fundraiser and has now distributed $3.25 million worth of instruments to 101 schools across Louisiana. Over 4,000 young people participate in school band programs and music programs using these instruments.

The foundation also runs an internship program, which places high school students in after-school music lessons. The Sunday Youth Music Workshops bring students and professional musicians together, and the Foundation also provides administrative and legal support to the music community.

Mary says, “I appreciate the sheer number of young people that the foundation touches every year in a very material, meaningful and long-lasting way. But I’m by no means taking the credit – a lot of people have worked on and supported the foundation since its inception almost 20 years ago.”

Mary’s understatement is one of her core traits, “I have a strong policy against taking pride in anything I have done. ‘Never believe your own press’ is embroidered on one of our bed pillows.”

Roland and Mary have a daughter, Mary Grace, and Mary credits being a good wife and mother as her most important roles and as her greatest accomplishments. “I am really proud of whatever our daughter is doing next,” she says.

Her husband and her daughter are also her greatest inspirations, “Roland sets such a good example for me in his consistent, quiet, steadfast way and I’ve never in 25 years seen him not act on an opportunity to help someone else; and if he can do it without anyone knowing, so much the better.”

Mary’s love of the city even extends to its humidity, which she credits as being good for the skin! However, it’s the people of New Orleans that have made the greatest impression on her. “After Katrina, I’ve been known to remark that living through history is overrated, but it was a rare opportunity to see some of the best of humanity. Ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things, for years and against incredible odds.”
 

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

Gambit (Big Easy Music Business of the Year Awardee)

Governor’s Arts Award for Cultural Economy Development (Awardee)

Dress for Success (Former Board Member)

Junior Achievement (Hall of Fame Laureate)

Louise S. McGehee School (Board Member)

Louisiana Landmarks Society Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation (Awardee)

New Orleans CityBusiness (Woman of the Year Awardee)

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (Board Member)

Offbeat Magazine (Best of the Beat Awards Lifetime Achievement Awardee for Music)

Tipitina's Foundation (Founding Member & Governor's Arts Awardee)

Traditional Home (Classic Woman Awardee)

YMCA (Role Model Awardee)

Young Leadership Council (Role Model Awardee)

 


 

Linda Westfeldt

ACTIVISTS OF THE YEAR 2017

“A community is like a garden, it has to be cared for and tended to in order to produce. The more you give, the more you receive! We all benefit from a strong community.”

Linda Westfeldt’s belief in giving back has informed her entire life. Starting with a degree from Louisiana State University in education, Linda began her career teaching. She quickly realized she was drawn to those students with learning difficulties, so she went back to night school to earn a Special Education Certificate from St. Mary’s Dominican College. Linda went on to complete a Masters in Reading from Loyola University and spent the rest of her teaching career as a Special Education teacher in public schools.

In 1999, Linda joined with a group of concerned parents and three local agencies to form the Chartwell Center. Chartwell is a non-profit organization whose mission is to serve individuals on the autism spectrum and who have related disorders by providing educational services, therapy and by offering training and support to parents, teachers and other professionals. Chartwell started with eight students in one section. Today, in addition to the Educational program, Chartwell operates an Applied Behavior Analysis clinic and an adult program called PATH.

Linda and Thomas Westfeldt’s son, Dugan, is currently in Chartwell’s adult program. Linda says the adults are easy to spot in the community taking the bus or streetcar to go horseback riding, grocery shopping and to their various jobs around town. They, too, give back; they recently voted to give the profits from the dog treats they make and sell to a Hurricane Harvey relief fund.

Linda is proud of all of her children and has enjoyed watching them grow into adults who understand the importance of philanthropy in their communities. Linda’s mother encouraged her to get involved in various service organizations when she was young, and so she learnedfrom an early age that the smallest act of service can make a profound difference. Linda and her husband Tommy are proud to have successfully instilled these same values in their son and their two daughters.
 

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

Audubon Zoo’s “Zoo-To-Do” (Former Chair)

Chartwell Center (Treasurer, Former Board Chair)

Garden Study Club (Former Treasurer)

Junior League of New Orleans (Former Community Vice-President)

Ladies Auxiliary of the Waldo Burton Home (Former President)

New Orleans Museum of Art’s “Art In Bloom” (Former Co-Chair)

The Parenting Center (Former Board Member)

 


 

Thomas “Tommy” Westfeldt

ACTIVISTS OF THE YEAR 2017

Thomas “Tommy” Westfeldt’s story is a story of New Orleans. In 1844, Gustave Adolphus Westfeldt (Tommy’s great-great-grandfather) was sent by the Swedish government to Mobile, Alabama to take up the position of Vice Counsel to Sweden. By 1848, Gustave gave up his diplomatic career for a business importing and financing green coffee, mainly from Brazil. Gustave moved his family to New Orleans because of the maritime trade opportunities to South America, and in 1851 his two brothers joined him from Sweden to form Westfeldt Brothers, Inc.

Tommy is delighted that his oldest daughter Shelby Westfeldt Mills and Ryan Todd McKinnon, who’s married to his youngest daughter Mary Scott Westfeldt McKinnon, have now been successfully operating the company for the past five years.

As well as being run by the sixth generation, Westfeldt Brothers, Inc., is a family business in the broader sense. The Westfeldts love their work, their customers, suppliers and employees. They also love life in their adopted city, including the food, the culture, the art, the history and most of all the people because they care about other people.

As do the Westfeldts, as Tommy explains, “We need to help people who are less fortunate by filling a void in their lives, whether it’s material, health related or education. Sometimes people just need a little help to get themselves back on track.”

One of the organizations Tommy and his wife Linda are most involved in is The Chartwell Center. “Having an autistic son made us realize that New Orleans and Louisiana have minimal education for autistic children, and in general for children with various learning disabilities.

“Autism is closest to my heart because it affects not only myself and my family but hundreds of other children in New Orleans and the surrounding areas and their families. The Chartwell Center provides a strong educational program that helps autistic children better themselves and hopefully teaches them to provide for themselves and lead an independent and normal lifestyle.”

The second nonprofit that the Westfeldts are fully engaged with is The Society for The Relief of Destitute Orphan Boys’, now known as The Waldo Burton Memorial Home. This charity began in 1824 to provide a home for orphan boys, and the Westfeldts were involved from the beginning. Now located on South Carrolton Avenue, it houses 25 to 30 boys ranging in age from 6 to 15 years old. Boys receive room and board and are placed in local public and charter schools. If they have special educational needs, the in-house school program meets them.
 

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

Christ School (Best Alumnus Awardee)

Green Coffee Association (President)

Louisiana Civil Service League (Treasurer, Monte Lemann Awardee)

National Coffee Association (Treasurer)

New Orleans Board of Trade (President)

Port of New Orleans (Board of Commissioners Chairman)

Southern Coffee Association (President)

Traffic and Transportation Bureau (Vice President)

Waldo Burton Memorial Home (President of the Board) 

 


 

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