Irvin Mayfield's Blog

Weekly Guests

January 14: Alex Beard, Artist

by NicoleKurtz on Jan.13, 2015, under Weekly Guests

New Orleans as Discourse – Alex Beard Interview

Alex Beard is a painter and author who has emerged as one of his generation’s most creative and successful artists. His artwork is inspired by animals and the way that animals move in nature.

Influenced to think creatively from a young age by his uncle, noted photographer, Peter Beard, and his mother, author and editor, Patricia Beard, Alex grew up in the NYC of the 1970’s among some of the world’s most interesting and influential people – Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, and their Pop World cohorts were familiar faces in the Beard household.

Alex studied art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts and participated in the New York Studio School’s Drawing Marathon.  His first solo exhibition was in SoHo during his early twenties.  Since then, he has had significant one-man shows in New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans and in cities as far afield as Hong Kong.  He is the creator of a unique style of painting called “Abstract Naturalism,” and is considered by many as a successor to the school of visual mathematicians championed by M.C. Escher.  Alex’s artwork hangs in public and private collections around the world.

Alex’s critically-acclaimed, best-selling Tales From the Watering Hole collection of illustrated children’s books and his series of puzzles for adults have become the inspiration for a unique body of products created to extend the dialogue between artist and consumer.  In addition to his books and puzzles, Alex’s original artwork has been transformed into an impressive line of successful products at the national retail level, including, journals, sketchbooks, art and activity kits, and games for both the children’s and adult markets.

The Watering Hole Foundation is a charity created by Alex in 2012 to help save endangered wildlife and the environments in which they live.  Stemming from this charitable cause that Alex feels very strongly about, he is now dipping his toes into the world of film. His new documentary film Drawing the Line chronicles the plight of the endangered Wild African Elephant as seen through the eyes of a conservationist artist. The film will premiere in New York City in September 2014.

Alex is also an adventurer. His extensive travels, and his desire to visit the world’s most untouched and often remote wildernesses have brought him on extended journeys through Africa, India, Australia, the Americas, and Asia.

Alex’s New Orleans studio has become the hub of an art career that has blossomed into more than just a creative endeavor; it is also a successful enterprise.  Alex’s studio is open to the public in a way that encourages and fosters interaction between the artist and his audience.  Vanity Fair magazine singled Alex out as “… an accomplished artist, an adventurer and an accidental entrepreneur.”

A firm believer that art is a medium that should be accessible to everyone, Alex uses uncommon avenues to share the creative experience with people of all ages.

New Orleans is Alex’s adopted home. He, his wife and two children live in the Garden District.  His painting studio and gallery, The Alex Beard Studio, is on Gallery Row, located at 608 Julia Street in the Downtown Development District.



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New Orleans as Discourse Final Projects

by NicoleKurtz on Dec.02, 2014, under Weekly Guests

Each student is asked to attend an activity that correlates with one of the speakers or subjects that were discussed in class. Then, focusing on this activity and subject, students will individually blog a minimum of 1,000 words, Facebook the most powerful aspect of the experience, and Tweet the most powerful quote from or thought about the experience.

Students will also be required to blog a minimum of 250 words about “What this class meant to me” at the end of the semester.

For those who did not make it to an event for your final project, write a 500 word post on one of the essays in Irvin’s book A love letter to New Orleans. Additionally, answer the following questions:

  • Who wrote the foreword to the book?
  • What photographer is featured on the cover?
  • How did Bill Clinton describe Herman Leonard?
  • What song do you connect with the most? Why?
  • What story did it tell?
  • What memories did it provoke?
  • What was your least favorite song?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • Were you excited?
  • Do you want to learn how to play a song from your listening?
  • What didn’t you like?
  • Were you bored?




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Nov 19: Inside the Actors Studio Questions

by NicoleKurtz on Nov.17, 2014, under Weekly Guests

  1. What goals do you have in your career/degree choice?
  2. What is your favorite word?
  3. What is your least favorite word?
  4. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
  5. What turns you off?
  6. What is your favorite curse word?
  7. What sound or noise do you love?
  8. What sound or noise do you hate?
  9. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  10. What profession would you not like to do?
  11. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?


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November 12: Haley Reinhart

by NicoleKurtz on Nov.10, 2014, under Weekly Guests

Haley Reinhart, 23, is a singer/songwriter who’s debut album, “Listen Up!” was released on Interscope Records & 19 Recordings. Reinhart grew up in Chicagoland, born into a world of music. Singing at the young age of seven, she began to take the stage alongside her parents and their band of 30 years called, “Midnight.” Growing up watching her folks, she became heavily influenced by rock ‘n’ roll, funk, pop, jazz, and the blues. She hit the big stage with her High School Jazz Band when they toured across Europe performing at both Montreaux & Umbria Jazz Festivals. Reinhart continued to study jazz in college as she formed many bands & side collaborations. In 2011, she landed herself the third place title on Season 10 of American Idol.  Since then, she has toured the U.S. and abroad; singing and partaking in many song writing camps around the globe. She has reached many different listeners playing in festivals such as Lollapalooza, Sonic Bloom, and NOLA’s Jazz Fest. Reinhart has made a mark performing with acts like Tony Bennett at Nokia Theatre, Slash at the MGM Grand, David Foster for Celebrity Fight Night, to Irvin Mayfield & The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. She is currently working on her sophomore album and recently released a new single/music video for song, “Show Me Your Moves.” Stay tuned!



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November 5: Irvin Mayfield and The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra

by NicoleKurtz on Nov.05, 2014, under Weekly Guests

Irvin Mayfield, 36, is a Grammy and Billboard Award-winning artist with 15 albums to his credit. Mayfield is the founding Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and currently serves as Artistic Director of Jazz at the Minnesota Orchestra. He is a professor at the University of New Orleans, where he also serves as Director of the New Orleans Jazz Institute. In 2009, Mayfield entered into a historic partnership with the Royal Sonesta Hotel and created Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, which brought “Jazz back to Bourbon Street” in the historic French Quarter. Mayfield was nominated to the National Council on the Arts by President George W. Bush and was subsequently appointed to the post by President Barack Obama in 2010. Mayfield also received The Chancellor’s Award from the University of New Orleans (the highest ranking award given to a professor) in 2010 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Dillard University in 2011. A passionate advocate for New Orleans and for the arts, Mayfield is Chairman of the Board for the Soledad O’Brien & Brad Raymond Foundation, as well as the New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History. He is also Chairman Emeritus of the New Orleans Public Library and serves on the boards of Louisiana State University’s Department of Psychiatry and Health Science, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, Tulane University’s School of Architecture, Unity of Greater New Orleans, the Urban Libraries Council, and the Youth Rescue Initiative.

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October 29: Lee Reid

by NicoleKurtz on Oct.29, 2014, under Weekly Guests

Lee Reid joined Adams and Reese in 1999 and practices in the areas of governmental relations, economic development, education, aerospace and litigation. These practice areas encompass a wide range of subject matters, including assistance in administrative processes, contract drafting and negotiation, federal contracting, lobbying, public finance, corporate law, general administrative practice, general business advice and business capture and general business disputes.

Lee serves as one of the Firm’s Litigation Practice Group Leaders.Most recently, Lee has worked to bring to fruition one of the largest economic  development projects in the State of Louisiana: the Federal City Project. Serving as lead attorney on the Federal City Project, representing the New Orleans Federal Alliance, “NOFA”, Lee worked with the State of Louisiana, City of New Orleans, the Algiers Development District, United States Department of the Navy and the United States Marine Corps to retain 1,900 Marine Force Reservists in New Orleans. Using public finance and tax credits to construct world-class facilities for the Marine Forces Reserve Headquarters, the project includes conversion of the Historic Naval Support Activity – West Bank in Algiers to a public-private development that will eventually create more than 10,000 jobs.

Lee has also been at the forefront of education law in Louisiana, guiding many of the charter schools in Louisiana through the charter application process, assisting in all operational aspects, drafting legislation and policy at the local and state level, representing schools on various study groups and assisting in the formation of charter school organizations, while working with state and local school officials. In this arena, he has represented a diverse array of stakeholders and dedicated numerous hours of pro bono assistance to these efforts.

Lee served as Special Assistant to the General Counsel for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, during the investigation into the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003. He took a leave of absence from Adams and Reese and assessed the legal needs of the Agency, formulating timely and workable response plans and meeting with search teams and governmental representatives from the debris fields in Hemphill, Texas, to Washington, DC, Lee’s efforts led to a “by-name” appointment to the Return to Flight Implementation Team, and he was awarded the NASA Astronaut’s Personal Achievement Award, the “Silver Snoopy,” in recognition of this work.

Lee currently serves on the New Orleans Public Library Board, appointed by the Mayor of New Orleans. As a former Chair of the New Orleans Public Library Board, Lee oversaw the construction of five new libraries and rehabilitation or renovation of five others as part of post-Hurricane Katrina rehabilitation efforts. He is a Past President of the Young Leadership Council, an organization of over 1,400 members who create, run, fund, and oversee ongoing community service projects in the New Orleans metro area. Lee also serves on the Board of Directors for Infinity Science Center and Partners for Stennis, among others. He was most recently appointed by the Mayor of New Orleans as a Commissioner on the Board of The Arts Council of New Orleans.

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October 22: Erika McConduit – President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans

by NicoleKurtz on Oct.22, 2014, under Weekly Guests

New Orleans as Discourse – Erika McConduit-Diggs

Erika McConduit-Diggs, Esq. currently serves as the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans. In her role, she oversees agency operations, strategic planning, partnership development, contract management, and policy initiatives of the agency, whose mission is to Empower Communities and Change Lives.  Ms. McConduit-Diggs is heavily engaged in the city and state’s education reform, as a representative of the community engagement arm of the movement.  In this capacity, she has served on numerous committees including Mayor Landrieu’s Education Task Force, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White’s Student Task Force as co-chair, and the Recovery School District’s Charter Application Task Force.

Committed to education, Ms. McConduit-Diggs has served as an adjunct faculty member of Dillard University where she taught courses in Public Health Law and Media Law.  She has also taught at Monroe College in New York, instructing courses such as Criminal Law, Introduction to the American Legal System and Current Issues in Criminal Justice.

Prior to joining the Urban League, Ms. McConduit-Diggs was the Chief Operating Officer of the YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester, New York. In that role, she oversaw the general operation and programs of the agency in addition to helping develop the social justice agenda for the county. Due to her unyielding commitment to racial equity, she was selected as the delegate for the northeast region of YWCAs at the World Council meeting in Kenya, Africa and has served as a National Urban League delegate on a friendship mission to China.

A pioneering and committed civic leader, Ms. McConduit-Diggs’ current and past service extends to serving on the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute’s Board of Directors, the  KID smART Board of Directors, the New Orleans Kids Partnership as the former Vice Chair and Parliamentarian, African American Women of Purpose and Power as Vice Chair of Programs, Orleans Public Education Network’s Board of Directors, the New Orleans Crime Coalition, the Opportunity Youth Coalition, and United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council member. Ms. McConduit-Diggs is also a member of the Crescent City Chapter of Links, Inc., the New Orleans Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, and serves on the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts Institute Board.

An avid supporter of professional and leadership development, Ms. McConduit-Diggs is a graduate of several programs, including the National Urban League’s Emerging Leader Institute, New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute, Bryan Bell Metropolitan Leadership Forum, and is currently a member of the Norman C. Francis Leadership Institute.

Ms. McConduit-Diggs is a New Orleans native and a Louisiana licensed attorney.  She holds a valuable private sector background through her work with Frilot, Partridge, Kohnke & Clements, L.C. law firm, MTV Networks, Nickelodeon and VH1.  Ms. McConduit-Diggs graduated summa cum laude from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, and cum laude from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She is married and has three children.


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October 14: Tim Williamson – Co-Founder and CEO of The Idea Village

by NicoleKurtz on Oct.14, 2014, under Weekly Guests

New Orleans as Discourse – Tim Williamson

Tim Williamson is Co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to growing a dynamic network of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, and professionals committed to helping startups launch in New Orleans. Under Tim’s leadership, The Idea Village has established itself as a globally recognized leader in developing place-based entrepreneurial ecosystems by providing direct support to well over 3,000 startups and leading the efforts to position New Orleans as a significant entrepreneurship hub.

Tim is a dynamic business leader who successfully started multiple ventures in cities across the country before founding The Idea Village in 2000. He has been a steadfast advocate for making New Orleans a vibrant entrepreneurial community and is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurship and leadership at conferences across the country and internationally. Over the years, Tim has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Time, USA Today, The New York Times, Business Week, CNN,, Forbes, and Japan’s Nikkei Times.

Tim began his career in 1987 when he was selected into the highly competitive IST training program at Drexel Burnham Lambert in New York City. In 1990, he joined Bear Stearns in Boston rising to Vice President of Investments. Three years later, in 1993, he launched his first startups in the video marketing industry in Boston and Atlanta, with clients including ATT, Bellsouth, and Alcan Cable. In 1996, Tim was hired by Cox Interactive Media to launch local internet studios in Pittsburgh and New Orleans. In 1999, he was promoted to Regional General Manager, where he managed the growth of internet markets in Austin, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Omaha.

A graduate of the Stanford University Executive Program for Non-Profit Leaders, the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute, and CABL’s Louisiana Leadership program, Tim has was honored among CityBusiness’ Power Generation, named one of Gambit’s “40 under 40,” and recognized as a 2009 YLC Role Model. He received Junior Achievement’s Rising Star Award and the “Heroes of the Storm” award in 2008. Tim currently serves on various civic boards including the executive committee of the Arts Council of New Orleans.

A New Orleans native, he received a B.S.M. in Finance from Tulane University in 1987.

Learn more at


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October 8: Ron Forman President & CEO of the Audubon Nature Institute

by NicoleKurtz on Oct.06, 2014, under Weekly Guests

New Orleans as Discourse Ron Forman Interview

A past president of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, Ron Forman began his tenure with Audubon Park and Zoological Garden in l972 as City Hall liaison.  Made Deputy Director in l973 and Executive Director in l977, the major transformation of Audubon Zoo from an “urban ghetto” to an “urban Eden” was underway.

During the 80′s, the Audubon Nature Institute, Inc. evolved from the Friends of the Zoo organization and assumed operation of Audubon Park and Zoo.  Plans were made, with overwhelming voter support, for a downtown park and aquarium.  Woldenberg Riverfront Park opened in l989 and was followed in l990 by the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.

The Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center on the West Bank of the Mississippi River opened late in l993.  An important component of it, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, opened in l996.

The Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, located in Eastern New Orleans, merged into the family of Audubon facilities in l994.  The Nature Center, devastated by Hurricane Katrina, operates the programs at the Audubon Wilderness Park located adjacent to the Species Survival Center.

The Entergy IMAX Theatre, adjacent to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, opened in October of l995, while phase II of the Aquarium, a changing exhibits gallery, opened in the spring of l996.  The Audubon Insectarium, located in the U.S. Custom House, opened in 2008.

Forman serves locally on the New Orleans Business Council, is Chairman of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, Chairman of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra Board and the Immediate Past Chairman of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau.  A past member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Museums, he is also on the Advisory Committee of Chimp Haven.

Forman is a New Orleans native and a graduate of Louisiana State University.  Married to the former Sally Gelpi, he is the father of three and grandfather of three.


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September 23: Cheryl Teamer – Senior VP for Public Affairs

by NicoleKurtz on Oct.01, 2014, under Weekly Guests

New Orleans as Discourse – Cheryl Teamer Interview

Cheryl R. Teamer serves as the Senior Vice President for Public Affairs at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.  In her role at the CVB, Cheryl advocates on behalf of the tourism and hospitality industry that employs more than eighty thousand people, serves more than 12 million visitors and generates more than $6.4 billion in economic impact.

Cheryl’s professional portfolio includes her previous role as the founder of both the Teamer Strategy Group and New Orleans Custom Tours and Events.

Before that, Cheryl served as a Regional Vice President for Government Relations at Harrah’s Entertainment. Before joining Harrah’s, she was an attorney with the law firm of Adams and Reese LLP.

Cheryl has served as the chief intergovernmental relations officer for the City of New Orleans and as the Attorney for the Louisiana House of Representatives, Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs. In addition, she has served as an adjunct professor at the University of New Orleans in the College of Urban and Public Affairs and has lectured extensively on lobbying techniques and legislative strategy.

Cheryl graduated cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.  She is also a graduate of Tulane University Law School where she was a member of the Moot Court Honor Board.

Since completing her formal studies, Cheryl has furthered her education by doing two international fellowships in Urban Affairs – The Mc Cloy Fellows Program (Germany) and the Clair Fellows Program (Japan). In addition, she has completed several leadership programs, including, the Metropolitan Area Committee Leadership Forum, The Aspen Institute-New Orleans and the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute.

Cheryl, a strong proponent of public service, is active in a variety of civic and charitable organizations.  She is a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association and currently serves as the first woman to chair the governing board of the Louis Armstrong International Airport. Cheryl is the vice chairman of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and the immediate past chairman of The Young Audiences Charter School Association. She has served on the following boards: Young Audiences of Louisiana, Second Harvest Food Bank, Chamber of Commerce for New Orleans and the River Region, Audubon Institute, Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus Foundation, Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation, Congressional Black Caucus Corporate Advisory Board, Ursuline Academy Alumnae Association, Louisiana Mental Health Association, Louisiana Make A Wish Foundation, Southern Eye Bank and the First Grace Community Alliance.

Cheryl is an active member of the New Orleans Chapter of the Links, Incorporated and a sustaining member of the Junior League of Greater New Orleans.



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