“From Big Apple To Big Easy” Carnival Design Exhibit To Open March 21st

John C. Scheffler

NEW ORLEANS – Five years ago, Wayne Phillips, Louisiana State Museum Curator of Carnival, had never heard of Carnival designers Helen Clark Warren or John C. Scheffler. Five years later he will curate the newest Louisiana State Museum exhibit on Warren and Sceffler,

         “From the Big Apple to the Big Easy: Two Carnival Artists in New York” is opening at the Presbytere on Saturday, March 21, 2015, at 6:00 p.m.

 

         Although Warren never lived in New Orleans and Scheffler lived outside Louisiana the last 50 years of his life, the two designers were among the most important costume designers of the post-World War II Carnival Era.

         Helen Clark Warren (1895-1973), born in Massachusetts and a graduate of the Pratt Institute in 1915, designed elaborate Carnival costumes for kings, queens and captains of various New Orleans krewes from the 1930s to 1950s. She achieved all of this while maintaining a thriving fashion design career in New York City. Among her New Orleans clients were the Krewe of Hermes, Mystic Club, Prophets of Persia and High Priests of Mithras. It wasn’t until recently though, after a once in a lifetime email from a great niece of Warren in Florida, that Phillips was able to begin to discover the work of Warren through a donation of over 75 costume and fashion sketches to the State Museum.

         Unlike the Northern born Warren, John C. Scheffler (1939-2012) was a native New Orleanian and a graduate of the Tulane University School of Architecture. Scheffler began his Carnival costume design career as early as age 15, working for then a young Blaine Kern, before moving in the 1960s to New York to begin work as a set and costume designer. While working in the New York theatre scene, Scheffler designed costumes for New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewes including Venus, Alla, Cleopatra and Aphrodite. After meeting Phillips about five years ago, Scheffler stipulated that his entire collection of Carnival costume sketches were to be bequeathed to the Louisiana State Museum. Totaling more than 3,000 individual sketches and including an extensive collection of Scheffler’s business records and contracts with Carnival Krewes, this bequest is one of the largest collections of artifacts ever acquired by the Louisiana State Museum from a single source. This will also be the first time that his work has ever been exhibited publicly in New Orleans.

         The exhibit opening for “From the Big Apple to the Big Easy: Two Carnival Artists in New York” will take place at the Presbytere, 751 Chartres St., and will be a partnership between Friends of the Cabildo and Fashion Week Nola.

         The opening will be a Friends of the Cabildo Members Only Opening and tickets for guests of members can be purchased for $10. To non-members wanting to attend the opening, memberships are available by contacting the Friends of the Cabildo Office.

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