NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —Mardi Gras and the Carnival Season return to it’s seat of power in New Orleans, Louisiana during 2022! To celebrate, The Historic New Orleans Collection in partnership with Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World and Kern Studios, have a brand new exhibition at The Historic New Orleans Collections’ Royal Street building titled: Making Mardi Gras.
The collaboration of THNOC and Mardi Gras world is potent, because, it’s always truly Mardi Gras at Mardi Gras world, and THNOC has a wealth of historic artifacts that tell the beloved holiday’s history.
Lydia Blackmore is the Decorative Arts Curator at The Historic New Orleans Collection and has studied Mardi Gras extensively. She notices how the holiday is influenced from world events over the years and says, “Mardi Gras changes based on what is going on in the whole world! Mardi Gras is such a very specific and local celebration. For the past two years, everything has had an emphasis of doing it for Mardi Gras! Some of us have worn our masks for Mardi Gras! Some of us have gotten our vaccine for Mardi Gras. We desperately need Mardi Gras in New Orleans because it’s the spirit of the city.”
Making Mardi Gras encompasses the many years of Mardi Gras in all it’s exuberant splendor. There are stories before the Civil War, during the time of the Mystic Krewe of Comus and contemporary stories about 2021’s coronavirus-inspired house floats.
“There’s some really cool stuff in this show. With this Mardi Gras exhibition, we decided that bigger is better and flashier is better! When you visit, you have the choice to go to the Mardi Gras float prop head with it’s giant tongue sticking out. You can also go straight to the bright red Mardi Gras Indian suit. There’s even a Zulu Coconut from the 1950’s,” says Blackmore.
On display are float designs from over the years, Mardi Gras Masks (not the coronavirus kind) with pipe cleaner moustaches. One of the highlights is an intricately crafted skull and bones sculpture made from Mardi Gras article newspapers from world-renowned musician and culture guru Sunpie Barnes.
Lydia Blackmore’s favorite piece at the time of the interview is a very beautiful and central part one of the two-rooms of the exhibition. “There’s the mantle that was worn by the Mystic Club in 1940. The theme that year was baroque France and it is made to look like a stain glass window. It’s all sequins and trimmed in ostrich feathers. It’s really an amazing piece,” says Blackmore.
There are many themes throughout the years and that is apparent in all of the organizations on display at the exhibition. If there is a common ingredient it’s that the character of Carnival is more succulent than the flavor of the Krewe of Red Beans or Louder than the brass of St. Augustine’s Marching Band. Carnival is simply the innate urge of freeing oneself under the atmosphere of spectacle and tradition. It’s a good time!
“In this exhibition, there’s a really wide variety of African American Krewes and Gay Krewes and Women’s Krewes and walking groups. There is so many different emphases behind each tradition. For instance, Mardi Gras Indians and Rex are extremely different in some ways; in some ways, you can see that they are both claiming their power and going out and being in control of their environment. Mardi Gras is all of those complexities and contradictions going on in Mardi Gras that makes it really interesting to study,” says Blackmore.
Admission to the exhibition is free. It will be on display until May 8th.
The Historic New Orleans Collection is offering something very exciting; an internship to learn how to preserve and care for Mardi Gras Indian suits. For more information on how to apply, click here.