Even before they take to the parade route on Thursday, Feb. 4, New Orleans’ Krewe of Muses has already inspired one local high school student and rewarded him for his efforts.

Darrell Donaldson, a junior at New Orleans Military & Marine Academy (NOMMA), was chosen as the winner of this year’s Muses cup design contest. His design will be printed in blue on more than 80,000 white cups to be thrown during the parade.

“We selected Darrell as the winner because he best understood and embraced the mythology of the nine Muses,” said Kathy Conklin, Muses outreach director. “His artwork is an excellent representation of the Hesiod poetic line, ‘Happy Are They Whom the Muses Love,’ the 2016 cup contest theme.”

The line certainly rings true with Donaldson, who said he will always remember receiving the news of his win.

“I entered last year, so I thought I’d try it again, and I can’t believe I won,” he said, noting that this was the first time he’d won any kind of art award. “I was on my way out of school at the end of the day and I saw there was a voicemail on my phone, so I listened to it. It was somebody telling me I’d won. I was so happy.”

A frequent doodler, Donaldson takes art class at NOMMA and is in the school’s art club. One of this year’s two runners-up, Jordan Robertson, sits next to him in class. The other, Kolby Bloom, attends Warren Easton Charter High School.

“I thought about the theme and how the muses are said to inspire artists and musicians and poets and actors,” Donaldson said, “and so I thought about having them on a float, but instead of the typical throws, I put things like music notes and poetry and a funny mask to represent comedy.”

For those who may not be granted a Muses cup this season, or would like to see the complete collection of all 15 past cup design winners — along with the designs of this year’s two runners-up — The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is hosting a Krewe of Muses Mardi Gras Student Cup Design Contest exhibition in the Education Gallery on the third floor. The exhibit opened Dec. 3, and will remain open through Feb. 14.

“We actually connected with the contest last year when one of our teen docents, Myron Solomon, a student at McDonogh 35 Senior High School, won,” said Grace Rennie, community coordinator for the Ogden. “We’re excited to be able to showcase all the past winners.”

In addition to knowing that thousands of people will be clamoring for a cup with his drawing on it, Donaldson’s school received $1,000 for art supplies.

For Donaldson, though, he said all he needs is a pencil to find inspiration … and maybe a shoe.

“I’ve never caught one before,” he said. “Members of my family have, but not me.”

Who knows? This may just be his lucky year.