“Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival” puts women at the forefront of Mardi Gras history at the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere

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“IRIS AND THE GODDESSES OF CARNIVAL”
WHAT: Louisiana State Museum presents an exhibition celebrating the history of all-female Carnival krewes as Iris marks its centenary
WHEN: Opens Fri. (Feb. 10); runs through December 2018
WHERE: The Presbytere (751 Chartres St.)
MORE INFO: Visit the Louisiana State Museum website

One of the most anticipated features of the 2017 Carnival season will examine the feminine mystique when the Louisiana State Museum (LSM) opens its “Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival” exhibition on Friday (Feb. 10) at the Presbytere.

Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival Exhibition from LaStateMuseum on Vimeo.

The exhibition, produced with the support of krewes of Iris, Muses and Nyx, will, among other things, use the centennial commemoration of Iris to explore the evolution of female krewes, from the 1890s to contemporary Carnival — which has seen an explosion of the concept over the past two decades. There will be rare artifacts from the LSM’s vast collection, but also will include pieces from outside lenders, including what is considered the earliest-known existing queen’s dress of Iris that was worn in 1941 by Irma Cazenave — spouse of Count Arnaud Cazenave. The dress has been provided on loan from Arnaud’s restaurant.

“The Krewe of Iris boldly paved the way for other women’s krewes,” said Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said in the press release. “The tremendous surge in participation in Mardi Gras by women is a testament to their success.”

Iris is named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow. When it was founded back in 1917, the women’s suffrage movement was in full swing, and the right to vote was just a couple years away. The emergence of Iris came after two decades of New Orleans women’s work to establish Carnival organizations. Les Mystérieuses, the first of its kind, premiered with a ball in 1896. While the more recent emergence of such noted all-female krewes as Muses, Nyx and Femme Fatale will be noted, “Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival” will fill in the major gap in between — including a look at the first women’s parade, held by the Krewe of Venus in 1941.

(Check out images and other artifacts from the exhibition here.)

There also will be references to long-lost krewes such as “the Mittens, the Mystic Maids, Empyreans, Titanians and more,” the press release noted. “Long-lived parading krewes such as Shangri-La, Rhea and Cleopatra will provide another important part of the chronicle of women and carnival. Original tableau ball artworks executed by Spangenberg Studios; paintings inspired by the Iris, Muses and Nyx parades; and the very first Muses shoe from their inaugural 2001 parade will make this exhibition sparkle with the spirit of the many women’s krewes that have left their mark on carnival history.”

Some of the fun facts and highlights of the exhibition, courtesy of the museum, include:
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“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 12: Christy Hackenberg, Rebecca Snedeker, Wayne Phillips on Carnival

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For this week’s episode of “PopSmart NOLA” we continued our look at Carnival with two new guests and the return of another:

Christy Hackenberg, director of public relations and information technology for the Pussyfooters marching group — which helped spark a massive wave of marching groups in Carnival parades that continues to grow in 2017, but might be facing a turning point.

Rebecca Snedeker, director of “By Invitation Only,” landmark documentary about an insider’s look at the old-line Carnival scene that has defined her family, and why she left it.

And a return visit with Wayne Phillips, curator at the Louisiana State Museum, this time offering us an update on the gay Carnival culture that once featured a dozen krewes but has shrunken to a few, proud group of me also facing their own turning point. And, a new book!

We also had a ticket giveaway for Sunday’s 5-year anniversary production of “You Don’t Know The Half of It.” Big thanks to Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré and Cecile Monteyne for making this happen.

SEGMENT ONE: CHRISTY HACKENBERG
I was happy to welcome our first guest, Christy Hackenberg, and not just because she’s a fellow Florida State University grad. (Go ‘Noles.) Christy moved to New Orleans in 1992 and adapted to the unique life led here. She became very involved with various graphic design organizations. After Katrina and the Federal Flood, her focus became more about New Orleans and she got involved with socially minded groups and the New Orleans blogging community. In 2008 she joined the Krewe of Muses. In 2009 she join Krewe du Vieux and currently serves as secretary of Krewe of Spank. In 2010 she joined the Pussyfooters and currently serves as the PR and IT chair. She is working to compile a comprehensive history and archive of the Pussyfooters. In this pre-recorded interview, we discussed the impact of the Pussyfooters on Carnival parade culture, and what she sees happening with the group marching forward.

The Pussyfooters Blush Ball 2017 will be held Saturday (Jan. 20) at Generations Hall, with proceeds to benefit the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Visit the Facebook event page for details.

RELEVANT LINK
I introduced a new segment on “PopSmart NOLA” in which I share an interesting story I’ve come across over the past week. First up:

Kevin Alexander’s piece in Thrillist, titled, “There’s a massive restaurant industry bubble, and it’s about to burst.” This is a notion that was on my mind as soon as I returned to New Orleans in 2013 after being away for seven years, and I was constantly hoping for a localized version of this. Alexander cites “[r]ising labor costs, rent increases, a pandemic of similar restaurants, demanding customers unwilling to come to terms with higher prices” as root causes.

Alexander has several New Orleans connections in the piece, including an interview with chef James Cullen (previously of Treo and Press Street Station) who, as noted in the article, “talked at length about the glut of copycats: “If one guy opens a cool barbecue place and that’s successful, the next year we see five or six new cool barbecue places,” he told Alexander. “… We see it all the time here.”

You’ll also find references to Company Burger and St. Roch Market in the piece, which is very much worth the time. Highly recommended.

SEGMENT TWO: REBECCA SNEDEKER
Joining us in the studio Saturday was Rebecca Snedeker, the Clark Executive Director of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University. Through her work as an independent documentary filmmaker, writer, and program curator, she has cultivated a body of work that supports human rights, creative expression, and care for place in her native city, New Orleans. Snedeker co-authored Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas (University of California Press, 2013), a book of 22 imaginative maps and essays, with Rebecca Solnit. She produced several documentaries that take place in the Gulf South, including Preservation Hall (commission, 2000), By Invitation Only (PBS, 2007), Witness: Katrina (National Geographic Channel, 2010), and Land of Opportunity (ARTE, 2010) and contributed to many others, including Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans (PBS, 2007) and A Village Called Versailles (PBS, 2008). Snedeker served on the Steering Committee of New Day Films, a filmmaker-owned educational distribution company, and the boards of the New Orleans Film Society and Patois: The New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival. She is the recipient of an Emmy Award and director of projects funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“By Invitation Only” was a seminal work in the way it brought viewers into the secret world of old-line Carnival culture, one that, while blessed with incredible history, pageantry and beauty, had another side that included racism, sexism and classism. A decade later, we discussed how in her mind does the work still resonate with viewers, and New Orleanians? What has been the fallout since?

SEGMENT THREE: WAYNE PHILLIPS, LOUISIANA STATE MUSEUM
For our final segment for this, our second consecutive show dedicated to New Orleans’ Carnival culture, we once ago spoke with Wayne Phillips, who has served as the Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum since 1998. Wayne is responsible for a collection of over 30,000 artifacts, including historic and contemporary clothing, accessories, and textiles of all kinds, as well as an encyclopedic collection of artifacts documenting all aspects of Louisiana Carnival celebrations statewide. Wayne has made strides in expanding the State Museum’s holdings documenting the LGBTQ community in Louisiana, with particular interest in gay Carnival krewes. In 2014, Wayne served on the Steering Committee that founded the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, and he serves on the board of directors for the organization today. I spoke with Wayne about how the gay Carnival culture has evolved over the past few decades, and about its interesting future — which includes the release a book on the subject, hopefully later in 2017.

BEST BETS
Before closing I offered suggestions on what’s going Saturday in the Crescent City if you were looking for something fun to do:

Paul Oswell and Benjamin Hoffman bring you the second show of “Local Uproar” for 2017 over the AllWays Lounge. I interviewed Paul about the show in particular and New Orleans comedy in particular this week on PopSmart NOLA.

The new play “Red Rabbit White Rabbit” premieres this weekend over at the St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church. I also offered details on this new play and a new theater company, at PopSmart NOLA.

Something I did not write about for PopSmart NOLA (but wish I had) is tonight’s opening reception of New Orleans-born artist Rashaad Newsome’s interdisciplinary presentation, “Mélange,” figuring a series of films and works on paper in conversation with Newsome’s upcoming performance of FIVE. That’s at the Contemporary Arts Center from 7 to 9 p.m.

CLOSING
Want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Saturday from 3-4 p.m. on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going. Happy Carnival!

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 11: Kim Vaz-Deville, Virginia Saussy, Wayne Phillips on women and Carnival

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Carnival season is upon us, and I thought this was a good opportunity to discuss some of the more intriguing aspects of Carnival culture with some of its most notable figures. Because that’s a lot of ground to cover, I hope to dedicate the next two shows on this subject. That starts off with today’s guests. Joining us:

Dr. Kim Vaz-Deville, associate dean of the college of arts and sciences at Xavier University and author of the 2013 book, “The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the Mardi Gras Tradition.”

Virginia Saussy, marketing consultant and charter member of the Krewe of Muses, whose landmark debut in the early 2000s helped spark a massive influx of women participating in Carnival on a more formalized structure.

Wayne Philips, Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum. Wayne’s here to discuss an upcoming exhibit at the Presbytere celebrating women’s Carnival krewes (and that’s just this week!). So you can call today’s show our “Estrogen Fueled Carnival Episode.”

SEGMENT ONE: KIM VAZ DEVILLE, AUTHOR, “THE BABY DOLLS”
I was really excited to welcome our first guest. Kim Vaz-Deville, Ph.D. is professor of education and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her book, The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2013 and was the basis for a major installation, “They Call Baby Doll: A Mardi Gras Tradition” at the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere unit in 2013. It is the 2016 selection of the Young Leadership Council of New Orleans’ One Book One New Orleans. Vaz-Deville guest-curated with Ron Bechet, Department Head and Victor H. Labat Endowed Professor of Art Painting, Drawing, and Community Art at Xavier University of Louisiana, an art exhibit titled “Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls” which showed work about and inspired by the tradition in Spring, 2015 at the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art in New Orleans. Normally photographed on the streets of New Orleans during the ritual times of Mardi Gras, St. Joseph’s night and Super Sunday, photographer Phillip Colwart invited maskers to take stage portraits. Vaz-Deville curated these in a photography exhibit, “Philip Colwart’s Studio Portraits of the Baby Dolls of New Orleans”, on view 2015-2016 at the Shreve Memorial Public Library, in Shreveport, LA.

SEGMENT TWO: VIRGINIA SAUSSY, KREWE OF MUSES
Virginia Saussy has been a part of one of the most fascinating developments in Carnival culture in the past two decades. The emergence of the Krewe of Muses on the parade routes back in 2001 signaled the beginning of a massive influx of women into more formalized Carnival activity even though the first female Carnival krewe rolled 100 years ago. (More on that later in the show.) We now have Muses, and Nyx, and the predominantly African-American krewe Femme Fatale, and of course myriad marching and dancing troupes as we previously discussed. Virginia Saussy, a marketing consultant who’s an original member of the krewe, is here today to talk about how Muses helped alter the Carnival scene, and what we might expect from female krewes.

SEGMENT THREE: WAYNE PHILLIPS, LOUISIANA STATE MUSEUM
Finally, welcomed Wayne Phillips, who has served as the Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum since 1998. Wayne is responsible for a collection of over 30,000 artifacts, including historic and contemporary clothing, accessories, and textiles of all kinds, as well as an encyclopedic collection of artifacts documenting all aspects of Louisiana Carnival celebrations statewide. Wayne has made strides in expanding the State Museum’s holdings documenting the LGBTQ community in Louisiana, with particular interest in gay Carnival krewes. In 2014, Wayne served on the Steering Committee that founded the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, and he serves on the board of directors for the organization today. For this segment, Wayne discussed an upcoming exhibition at the Presbytere focusing on women and Carnival, tied to the 100th anniversary of the Krewe of Iris.

I want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Saturday from 3-4 p.m. on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Thanks again for joining us. I want to remind everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going. Happy Carnival, y’all.