As the #MeToo and Times Up movements have seen waves of women speaking truth to power, attention in New Orleans has turned to the plans of the all-female Krewe of Muses for their annual Mardi Gras spectacle on Thursday.
Muses will do what it’s always done, said Staci Rosenberg, the attorney who founded the organization in 2000.
The first female krewe to parade in Uptown at night, Muses has always been about girl power, Rosenberg said.
Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell is the Honorary Muse for Krewe of Muses’ 2018 celebration of female power and mystique. Cantrell, the first woman elected mayor of New Orleans in the city’s 300-year history, will ride Muses’ signature shoe float, a 17-foot-tall, fiber-optic covered red pump.
“It sends such a great signal,” Rosenberg said. “LaToya Cantrell will inspire girls and women who see the parade. Both of the candidates in the mayoral runoff were women. So that’s a shattering of the glass ceiling for us.”
Cantrell follows such previous honorary Muses as singer Solange Knowles, actress Patricia Clarkson and civil rights activist Ruby Bridges.
The Krewe of Muses parade, featuring 28 floats, 1,130 riders and those especially coveted glittering high-heel shoe throws, rolls Thursday at 6:30 p.m. from Magazine Street and Jefferson Avenue.
The 2018 Muses parade features the debut of “The Goddessey” float. Carrying the krewe’s officers, the float’s name blends “goddess” with “The Odyssey,” title of the ancient epic-adventure poem by the Greek poet Homer.
“Visually, it is like nothing that’s been done before,” Rosenberg promised.
Muses krewe member Susan Gisleson, an artist and arts educator, designed “The Goddessey.” Built by Kerns Studios, it features Greek mythology’s winged stallion, Pegasus; symbols for the nine muses in Greek mythology; and more than 100 peach-colored lanterns hanging from the Tree of Knowledge.
“We’re also throwing a plush Pegasus,” Rosenberg said.
“Muses Night at the Museum” is the theme of the 2018 Muses parade, which includes 20 re-imagined art masterpieces. For instance: Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” gets a feminine remake as “The Creation of Muses”; Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” becomes “Mitch’s Last Supper”; Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” morphs into “The Girl with One Plug Earring, Six Tattoos, 14 Piercings and a Nose Ring”; and Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” melts into “The Persistence of New Orleans.”
“The theme is so ambitious that we were nervous about finding artists who could do justice to these great works,” Rosenberg said.
Artists who’d never painted floats, including muralists, signed on for the task.
“The artists got so into this,” Rosenberg said. “If their float was a Vermeer or a Dali, they studied everything about the artist’s technique. Someone was up there doing pointillism on the Georges Seurat float, pixels on the Roy Lichtenstein painting and hundreds of bean cans on the Andy Warhol float. They took it seriously, and it is breathtaking.”
Although Muses follows the Mardi Gras tradition of presenting satirical floats, the barbs are relatively gentle.
“We’re pretty nice to everyone, even when we make fun of them,” Rosenberg said. “Except for the Sewerage and Water Board. Nobody in New Orleans has sympathy for them now.”
An art lover who’s on the boards of the Contemporary Arts Center and Prospect New Orleans, Rosenberg loves the Muses’ 2018 float imagery so much that she’s having second thoughts about the usual post-parade whitewashing of the canvases in preparation for next year’s parade.
“We’re exploring ways to cut pieces of canvas off and keep them,” she said.
For more information, see kreweofmuses.org.
Krewe of Endymion
Endymion is New Orleans’ largest Mardi Gras parade. It rolls from City Park Avenue and Orleans Avenue starting at approximately 4:15 p.m. Saturday.
Krewe of Bacchus
Bacchus rolls at 5:15 p.m. Sunday from Tchoupitoulas Street and Napoleon Avenue. Actor J.K. Simmons, an Oscar winner for his performance in 2014’s “Whiplash,” and star of Farmers Insurance commercials, is Bacchus’ celebrity monarch for 2018.
Krewe of Orpheus
Orpheus rolls through Uptown on Monday, Lundi Gras, beginning at 6 p.m. at Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street. Actor Keegan-Michael Key (“Key and Peele”) reigns as Orpheus’ 2018 monarch.
Krewe of Zulu
The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club Krewe of Zulu parade rolls at 8 a.m. Tuesday from South Claiborne and Jackson avenues. Oscar-nominated filmmaker and director Spike Lee is this year’s grand marshal.
Krewe of Rex
Rex rolls at 10 a.m. Tuesday from Napoleon Avenue and South Claiborne Avenue. Founded in 1872, the Rex organization has staged more parades than any other krewe.