Mardi Gras Artists Keeping Joy Alive in New Orleans by Turning Homes into Parade Floats

“How magical to unleash the artistic ability of the professionals and help them at the same time because they just got laid off.”

Krewe of Red Beans Hire a Mardi Gras Artist
Photo: Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee

Even with Mardi Gras parades canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, New Orleans is still finding a way to laissez les bons temps rouler this Carnival season.

Hire a Mardi Gras Artist,” the latest altruistic endeavor from Krewe of Red Beans, is a grassroots effort that aims to transform 40 Orleans Parish homes into Mardi Gras floats, putting laid-off artists back to work and inspiring the city along the way.

The project is the brainchild of artist and float designer Caroline Thomas. The idea for “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” came to her after several people asked her to decorate their homes. Thinking there might be an opportunity to put the whole industry back to work, Thomas approached Krewe of Red Beans and Feed the Second Line founder Devin De Wulf.

“How magical to unleash the artistic ability of the professionals and help them at the same time because they just got laid off,” De Wulf told Southern Living. “This is an industry where the workers have never been celebrated or appreciated. They make beautiful floats, but nobody knows who they are. We want to celebrate them and put them back to work.”

Most people aren’t aware just how challenging it is to build a Mardi Gras float—it’s involved, skilled, and expensive. “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” has to raise $15,000 to bring just one house float to life.

Hire a Mardi Gras Artist House
Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee

There are two ways to give your home or business the Carnival treatment: either by commission or by donating to the organization’s crowdfunding effort. Each time they reach their $15,000 target, a raffle occurs. Everyone who donates is entered into the raffle.

“One person who donated $25 got their house decorated,” De Wulf said with a laugh.

Each house creates nine jobs, plus a gig for local musicians at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

“This is proof that New Orleans is going to find a way out of this because we’re stubborn and resilient and we always find a way to add some color to a dreary situation,” Thomas told WWL.

WATCH: 5 Things You Didn't Know About Mardi Gras

It’s not just carnival artists and lucky homeowners who benefit either. Twenty percent of the funds raised by Hire a Mardi Gras Artist go to the program’s sister initiative, Feed the Second Line, which buys groceries for New Orleans culture bearers impacted by the pandemic.

“For anyone who loves New Orleans, it’s an incredibly direct way to support our culture,” said De Wulf.

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