Pascal Riben, Unsplash

New THNOC Exhibit Offers an Inside Look at NOLA Mardi Gras

09:00 January 13, 2022
By: Frances Deese

Making Mardi Gras, a new exhibit debuted by The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) opened on January 6 and will run until May 8, 2022. An exhibition generously sponsored by Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World and Kern Studios, the focus is on the burst of creativity that happens before Mardi Gras and the many ways that it is expressed.

The founding of Rex is also marking its 150 anniversary, so THNOC will also unveil Fit for a King, an exhibition showcasing jewels, favors, doubloons, float designs, and more in conjunction with the Making Mardi Gras exhibit.

From late night sewing sessions to dance rehearsals that make the heart pound, this exhibit is all about how "The Greatest Free Show on Earth" is created each year among the city's diverse communities. The structure of the exhibit serves to highlight the differences between how lines are blurred between what goes on in the ballroom and on the streets, and how the differences between formal and informal are not really all that vast. Visitors will be treated with an array of creations that Carnival season produces by being greeted by 19th century float art, costumes, royal finery, and specialty parade throws such as Zulu's coconuts.

New Orleans Carnival culture is celebrated in this exhibit for its resiliency and adaptability. Gallery visitors will also encounter the ballrooms and secretive float making processes of old line krewes, along with the African American, female, LGBTQ, and populist krewes that have copied and/or parodied these creations. These diverse populations and others throughout New Orleans' history have helped to create distinct celebratory traditions in response to community concerns, needs, and interests, as well as city regulations and restrictions. Most recently when COVID-19 put a halt to traditional celebrations in 2021, the New Orleans community showed even more adaptability with the Krewe of House Floats. Artwork from this citywide display will provide a window into New Orleans' invincible creative spirit.

Making Mardi Gras is on display now on the third floor of THNOC's Tricentennial Wing at 520 Royal St. in the French Quarter. For more information or to reserve tickets to this free exhibit, visit and click the "Exhibitions" tab.

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