House of Dance and Feathers

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House of Dance and Feathers

Photo Credit: Bethany Rogers

The House of Dance & Feathers is a cultural museum based on Ronald W. Lewis’ participation in the culture of Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs and Skull & Bone Gangs.

Mission

“To preserve and share this culture with the world, passing on our knowledge and traditions to the next generation.” [1]

Celebration of New Orleans Culture

House of Dance & Feathers is a celebration of the living culture of New Orleans and the Lower Ninth Ward. Along with a celebration of culture, it is a way to share this culture with the rest of the world and to pass on knowledge and traditions to the next generation. Ronald has masks, suits, figures, books and images as well as other conversational pieces that expand the museum and challenge people to consider who they are connected to. [2]

Living History

The House of Dance and Feathers is first and foremost a museum displaying the collection of Ronald Lewis’s life. Ronald has a wealth of knowledge on the history, street culture and traditions of the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans, and he weaves his personal stories into each artifact in the museum. Ronald encourages a dialogue with his guests, so no two visits to House of Dance & Feathers are ever the same. [3]

Though tucked away on Tupelo St., the House of Dance & Feathers is a staple in the community. It began as a backyard shed, barber shop, and gathering place for folks. [4] It sits behind a newly painted white house that belongs to Ronald W. Lewis and his wife, Charlotte. Ronald started the museum, dedicated to the culture of Mardi Gras Indians, social and pleasure clubs, and musicians of the neighborhood, before Hurricane Katrina. Its function was a place where young people could come to learn about the culture of their community.

Since Katrina, Ronald has become a spokesman for the neighborhood, challenging stereotypes, educating people about his culture, and bridging divides between black and white, resident and visitor, volunteer and survivor. He has helped to resist the misrepresentation that the Lower Nine is a neighborhood of poverty and neglect.

In the summer of 2006, Project Locus, a nonprofit design/build architecture organization, rebuilt Ronald’s home and museum. Students from Kansas State University and others from around the country came to New Orleans to help. In the process, they became close not just with Ronald’s family, but with the other neighbors who had returned home. Since its completion, Ronald continues to keep the doors of the museum open and the people of the Lower Nine continue the slow rebuild. [5]

Interview with Ronald Lewis

Ronald Lewis, the Director of the House of Dance and Feathers and President of Big 9 Social and Pleasure Club, said, “But this is me—the collection of artifacts and various conversation pieces that make the House of Dance and Feathers what it is. From the section about the students leaving some of their personal items here to the Mardi Gras Indian beadwork that I done that evacuated with me to an umbrella that was part of the 2006 parade of the Big Nine Social and Pleasure Club to the banner of the original Double Nine Social and Pleasure Club that rose up out the ashes of Sonny’s Bar, this building is a building of many stories.”

Interview with Patrick Rhodes

Patrick Rhodes, the Architect of the House of Dance and Feathers and Tulane Architecture Professor, said, “The idea was to do something small— simple— that didn’t take away from what was going on around it. But we had to elevate it out of the private realm. We had to make it a public building in some way. We used the roof to express that idea. The roof is the only thing that you really look at. It’s got this big rolling curve and it’s flowing above the building. We wanted to relate it to the idea of water and what the water did.”

Mapping Non-Profit Influence: The Case of the Lower Ninth Ward

LowerNine.org is one of many organizations that have worked to restore the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. As part of a larger study of the impact and networks of of non-profits in 2013 (please see Mapping Non-Profit Influence: The Case of the Lower Ninth Ward for more details), we can see that this organization excels in the following areas:

Performance

1. Access to Consumers regardless of ability to pay
The House of Dance & Feathers is free and open to the public by appointment.

2. Provision of Collective Goods
The House of Dance & Feathers is a collective good, providing education to locals and visitors and preserving the cultural heritage of the Lower Ninth Ward community for all of its residents.

Participation in Information Sharing

When we analyze lowernine.org, based on its extent of participation in information sharing activities, we see they are active in 2 ways.

1. Education
The House of Dance & Feathers is an educational museum, teaching people about the history of Mardi Gras Indians and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans.

2. Awareness Raising
The museum raises awareness for locals and visitors about the history and culture of New Orleans and specifically the Lower Ninth Ward. The museum hopes to inspire a stronger effort to preserve cultural history in this neighborhood.

Works Cited

  • House of Dance and Feathers, August 16th 2013, “http://houseofdanceandfeathers.org/”.
  • House of Dance and Feathers, August 16th 2013, “http://houseofdanceandfeathers.org/”.
  • House of Dance and Feathers, August 16th 2013, “http://houseofdanceandfeathers.org/”.
  • The Trumpet, March/April 2013, Issue 7 Volume 2.,“culture in the Lower Nine”, page 20.
  • House of Dance and Feathers, August 16th 2013, “http://houseofdanceandfeathers.org/”.

This page was last modified on 16 August 2013, at 10:33

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House of Dance and Feathers

1317 Tupelo Street, New Orleans, LA