The House of Dance and Feathers
The House of Dance and Feathers honors the cultural traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs of New Orleans, with an emphasis on the social and cultural history of the Lower Ninth Ward. The museum began as a backyard shed, barber shop and gathering place for family and friends, and as a personal archive of cultural objects and photographs, that served to anchor conversations with young people about their community, culture, and history. This archive has grown considerably since the museums inception and now includes many hundreds of photographs, many hours of video footage, and a substantial collection of objects and artifacts.
Ronald W. Lewis is the founder, curator and director of the House of Dance and Feathers. After many years of working on the city’s streetcar track as a worker and union rep, he has devoted himself to cultural activism and education. After the flood, Ronald partnered with the Tulane City Center and Project Locus to plan the rebuilding of the backyard museum. In a wide-reaching collaboration, that pulled in architects, students and volunteers from all over the United States, the new museum was designed and built in the Summer of 2006. The participants labored in the long Louisiana summer, and the physical signs of construction in progress on Tupelo Street attracted the attention of out of town visitors, as well as displaced New Orleanians returning to tour their own home town. As was Ronald Lewis’ intention, the rebuilding of the museum on Tupelo Street contributed to the voices calling for neighbors to come home.
Since 2006, the museum has become an important gathering place for scholars, activists, students, neighbors, and volunteers to talk about the history and culture of the Lower Nine, and to discuss the rebuilding of New Orleans. The museum has also hosted numerous meetings, workshops, and gatherings for people who are working to make things happen in New Orleans. Visitors to the House of Dance and Feathers experience the power of self-representation and the value of cultural exchange. Mr. Lewis is currently working with Rachel Breunlin and the Neighborhood Story Project to produce a museum catalogue. In his museum tours and public talks, Mr. Lewis speaks eloquently about the social significance of place, family, and cultural traditions in community-building, and he has been an outspoken advocate for a resident-led rebuilding of the Lower Ninth Ward.
The museum is located on Tupelo Street in the Lower Ninth Ward, and is open by appointment. To visit the museum or make a donation, please contact Ronald W. Lewis by phone (504-957-2678) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).