Travel Girl: House of Dance and Feathers

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – I’m a big fan of small museums that might be overlooked by the average tourist. So, when I heard about the House of Dance and Feathers, I just had to check it out.

It’s in the Ninth Ward, behind a nondescript green house at 1317 Tupelo Street, the home of Ronald Lewis.

It looks like a giant shed decorated with local flags and artwork. But inside, there’s a constantly expanding treasure trove.

Lewis created this living time capsule pre-Katrina. It links New Orleans’ past with New Orleans’ present.  The name House of Dance and Feathers refers to the culture of Mardi Gras Indians, social aid and pleasure clubs, skull and bone gangs, and parade krewes.  It’s a funky place to spend an hour or two and remind yourself of how much African and Caribbean influence we have right here in New Orleans.

Lewis is a former council chief of the Choctaw Hunters Mardi Gras Indian tribe and the current president of the Big Nine Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Some of his amazing beadwork is on display along with Indian headdresses, second line umbrellas and all kinds of symbols from the rich dance culture of New Orleans.

But the beyond the colorful plumes and the beautiful beadwork, there’s a history lesson on life in the lower 9th and how this community weathered the storm. A couple of tables hold newspaper clippings and NOLA-themed books, but Lewis himself is the ultimate storyteller.  The collector-turned-curator survived both Betsy and Katrina, but prefers to talk about the spirit of New Orleans today. He’s happy to answer any questions about his collection of eye-catching paraphernalia.

Visits are by appointment.  The number to call is: 957-2678.

There’s no admission fee, but donations are gladly accepted.