HOUSE OF DANCE AND FEATHERS
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 & Skull and Bone Gangs.
The museum has been a fixture in the Lower Ninth Ward since 2003 and it’s located in Ronald Lewis’ backyard on Tupelo Street in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
House of Dance & Feathers is a celebration of the living culture of New Orleans and the Lower Ninth Ward, but it’s also an attempt to share this culture with the rest of the world and to pass on knowledge and traditions to the next generation. The museum 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.
In this Video Ronald Lewis explains the aims of House of Dance and Feathers, including the rebuilding post Katrina.
RONALD W. LEWIS
As well as being House of Dance & Feathers director and curator, Ronald Lewis, is president of the Big Nine Social Aid and Pleasure Club, former Council Chief of the Choctaw Hunters, 2008 King of Krewe de Vieux, a lifelong resident of the Lower Ninth Ward, survivor of the two worst hurricanes in US history, Betsy in ’65 and Katrina in 2005, and a central character in Dan Baums bestseller Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death and Life in New Orleans.
Ronald became a regular media contact post-Katrina, representing the importance of the culture and communities of the Lower 9th Ward to international audiences.
Dan Baum explains the role Ronald Lewis plays in the regeneration of his Lower Ninth Ward community, and his inspiration for Ronalds’ inclusion in his book Nine Lives.
The House of Dance & Feathers book is more than just a catalogue of the artifacts in the museum, it’s a detailed map of the cultures and communities of New Orleans as experienced by Ronald W. Lewis.
“I spent the first 4th of July after Katrina in Ronald’s driveway in the completely devestated Lower 9th Ward. It was me, Rachel, Dan, Abram, Ronald, Ronald’s family and a bunch of architecture students from Kansas- grilling in the rain and playing cards in the gutted frame of a house with a tarp for a roof. There was not a house with the lights on for miles in any direction. Every once in a while, a neighbor would drive by, and Ronald would go out and tell them that everyone was here to help him build a museum and that they should move back because the neighborhood was going to rise from the wreckage. This book helps me understand how he was able to convince folks, and why people came to him for convincing.” Jamie Schweser
Dan Baums book Nine Lives is narrated from the points of view of nine New Orleans’s characters, covering their lives from the ’60s through to Hurricane Katrina, it’s aftermath and the reconstruction that followed. Ronald Lewis life and involvement in the culture and communities of the Lower Ninth Ward is covered here.
HOUSE OF DANCE & FEATHERS THE MUSICAL
Nine Lives was also made into a musical in 2011, with a chapter on House of Dance and Feathers shown in the video below.
OTHER USEFUL LINKS
Tulane school of architecture article on the museum rebuild
New Orleans Marketing Corporation Press Release
St Bernard Project, rebuilding the homes & lives of Katrina survivors