Take 4 million tiny Mardi Gras beads, sort them by exact millimeter and color shade and then individually glue each one on a wooden canvas 8 feet tall and 96 feet wide.
That’s what local artist Stephan Wanger is planning to do by next summer — and while he’s at it, break his own Guinness World Record for largest bead art mosaic.
The current record is the artist’s 2013 creation, a 48-foot-long mosaic called “Une Rue Principale en Louisiane” (A Main Street in Louisiana).
The new piece, double the size of last year’s effort, is called “Life in the French Quarter.” It will be created in partnership with the Hotel Monteleone.
“Life in the French Quarter” will depict a second line filled with popular area landmarks and personalities — including Robin Barnes, Tennessee Williams, and Lena and Louis Prima.
Lena Prima was among the celebrity beaders who helped to add some of the first beads to the mural during a news conference launching the effort on Tuesday, Aug. 5.
She was joined by other local figures including Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, Mark Romig, LeBron “LBJ” Joseph, LaTonya Norton and Randi Rousseau.
Also included on the mural will be depictions of Wanger’s 19-month-old daughter Stazia and his wife, Stazey, a New Orleans native and makeup artist for the film industry, whom he met four years ago.
He is giving them a special place of prominence — at the front of the line, just under Joan of Arc.
“I did this to stress the importance of family here in New Orleans and the South, Wanger said. “And honestly, with all the time I spend away from my family, it’s the least I can do for them.”
Wanger’s wife and daughter are also a few of the only people depicted that are not taking a selfie with their cellphone.
“I had everybody taking selfies because I wanted to put a time stamp on it,” he said. “The idea being that somebody 200 years from now will look at it and say, ‘Wow, this was from back when they used to take selfies.”
Romig, president and CEO of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp., called the project “a testament to the innovative and unique things happening in New Orleans.”
A native of Germany with no formal art training, Wanger came to New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina. He was impressed by Mardi Gras but also saddened by the waste.
Since he began his work in 2007, Wanger has seen his creations as a way to recycle some of Mardi Gras’ excess while creating something beautiful that promotes the city.
No longer a one-man band, Wanger launched his own nonprofit, Bead Town, in 2011. Through it he has fostered community involvement in the mosaics — creating classes and providing opportunities for more than 10,000 children to help bead.
So far, schools and volunteers from throughout Louisiana have helped to create more than 100 mosaic pieces, each highlighting a local iconic image.
Given the scale and volume of the pieces Wanger has created, space is definitely an issue. Bead Town does not have a home to call its own, and Wanger is searching for corporate and individual sponsors, both for this latest record-breaking attempt and for Bead Town itself.
“I found a warehouse to build this piece, but it’s not exactly the most ideal conditions,” Wanger said. “Plus, I have over 100 pieces of art that are not visible right now. Make no mistake, I need your help to do this.”