Mardi Gras Float Artisans To Keep Their Creations On View Post-Carnival
Mardi Gras is all around us.
On the streets, in the stores, in our refrigerators and even around our necks. While many of us take the seasonal barrage of paper mache, glitter and beads for granted, the epiphany of the season is realizing art is all around us.
The Carnival Collective, one group of independent New Orleans-based artists working for the float building companies behind Mardi Gras, has a mission to keep the Mardi Gras magic alive past Fat Tuesday.
The talented krewe has put pieces of their authentic, handmade Mardi Gras parade float artwork on display, and for public collection, exclusively at Miette, an eclectic New Orleans art boutique located at 2038 Magazine St.
“We are really excited to be able to offer the public a little piece of Mardi Gras to take home with them,” parade artist Dana Beuhler said. “We work on parades because we are passionate about the art that goes into creating each float. We don’t want to see that go away.”
Mardi Gras is a large part of the cultural fabric of New Orleans, and the Collective is trying to capitalize on that captivation. Their artwork on display is inspired by what they have built for Mardi Gras krewes in the past, as well as unique Carnival pieces they would like to see on floats in the future. The artists believe their original work should be shared with everyone all year long.
“The shop is a place where people can come and participate with the art,” said Angee Jackson, owner of Miette, the only dedicated retail outlet to sell Mardi Gras float art. Jackson curated the art installation as a “selfie garden,” showcasing a colorful display of giant flowers and winged creatures suspended from the ceilings and walls.
The Carnival Collective is comprised of artists including Thomas Randolph Morrison, who is best known for his work with the Krewe of Hermes and sculpting the “Tribute to a River God” adorning the pediment of Harrah’s New Orleans Casino. Both Morrison and fellow Collective artist Gabrielle Bruno created float art this year for the Krewe of Pygmalion’s parade “The Gods of Carnival.”
Artists Beuhler, Brian Bush and Caroline Thomas are also part of the Collective.
“The parades go by so fast, and there’s so much emphasis on Mardi Gras throws that people aren’t necessarily aware of some of the really incredible artwork that’s on the floats,” Thomas said.
“We want to introduce the public to the artists that have been working anonymously behind the scenes for years under float building companies or designers,” Beuhler said. “We hope this will inspire the sharing of our creations year round, beyond just the short glimpse revealed in the few weeks of Carnival parading.”
The Collective’s artwork includes a wide variety of elegant float-scale flowers, giant butterflies, fireflies and more, and the techniques they employ involve a tedious construction process of combining poster board, wire and sculptural elements like foam or paper mache.
Because Mardi Gras is not a government funded or corporate sponsored event, artists revel in the freedom of designing their art carte blanche. The Collective gives these crafty creatives a chance to step out of the Mardi Gras krewe dens and finally accept credit for what they produce. The group wants to enhance the artistry of Mardi Gras by raising a public awareness to who they are, and how they build the city’s grand rolling tableaus, getting Mardi Gras revelers to slow down and admire the work that often breezes by them on St. Charles Avenue or Canal Street in a blur of screaming faces, waving hands and flying beads.
“Not only can visitors to Miette support the local art community by purchasing a unique piece of float art,” owner Jackson said, “they will have a chance to be part of our bigger vision to inspire a Renaissance for New Orleans Mardi Gras.”
Carnival Collective Flower Fun Facts
• Up to 80 custom cutout flowers have adorned one Mardi Gras float at a time.
• Almost 75% of Mardi Gras flowers are recycled from one Mardi Gras to the next. They often have to be repainted and refurbished to look fresh and in bloom once again.
• The flowers may appear to be metal, but they are constructed by combining poster board, wire and sculptural elements including foam and paper mache. The wire allows for balance and movement as the parade is rolling.
• One Mardi Gras flower can take anywhere from 6 hours to a full day to create.
• If only one artist made every flower for one Mardi Gras season, it would take up to 40 years.
• One of the biggest Mardi Gras flowers ever created was the Louisiana state flower, a 10-foot magnolia created for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. That’s 1/5th the size of an average Mardi Gras float.
• The smallest Mardi Gras flowers are 1-foot by 1-foot, smaller than your average king cake.
2038 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
Open 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., seven days a week