The streets of NOLA have been empty over the past year, but a new exhibition takes on their vibrant history
Parades aren’t exclusive to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. With origins in Black mutual aid societies founded to support African Americans and Afro-Creoles at a time when they were denied many social services. Clubs and their parades have become one of the city’s defining cultural practices.
The parades paint the city full of color, music and artistry that has critical historic relevance to NOLA. As they provide a weekly physical and symbolic gathering place for Black history and expression. A new exhibition at The Historic New Orleans Collection is a love letter to the Sunday tradition.
Dancing in the Streets brings together historical photographs and archival footage from The Historic New Orleans Collection by Jules Cahn and Michael P. Smith. On display are contemporary objects collected by the late Sylvester Francis of the Backstreet Cultural Museum, and by the late Ronald W. Lewis of the House of Dance and Feathers, as well as from individual club members.
The exhibition gives viewers an up-close look at the unique artistry of second line parades. This artistry is vividly on display in the work of 12 contemporary photographers included in the exhibition.
With the ongoing pandemic cancelling the usual parades, along with this years Mardi Gras. The Collection is proud to present Dancing in the Streets as a love letter to the social aid and pleasure club community of New Orleans, until the day everyone can hit the streets again.
COVID-19 safety protocols—facemasks, timed ticketing and limited gallery capacity to ensure social distancing—will be in place.
Check out Dancing in the Streets at The Historic New Orleans Collection, running from Feb. 25 to June 13, 2021.
Featured Image: Photo by Charles Muir Lovell; The Historic New Orleans Collection