Gay Carnival Krewes in New Orleans

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Gay Carnival Krewes in New Orleans

Curator Wayne Phillips discusses the history of gay Mardi Gras krewes and how they created a space for the LGBTQ commuity of New Orleans!

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BK Historic House and Gardens 1113 Chartres Street New Orleans, LA 70116

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  • 2 hours
  • Mobile eTicket

In 1857, the Mistick Krewe of Comus coined the term “krewe” to represent a private organization that gives a carnival ball and parade. Membership in Comus and others like it was highly exclusive, but the evolution of carnival in the early twentieth century saw the birth of diverse opportunities for krewe membership. New krewes were founded for women, African Americans, and even children. However, it was not until 1958 that the first krewe was founded by and for members of the LGBTQ community.

At first taking place essentially underground, gay balls gained such renown that there developed a tremendous demand for invitations both from within and outside the gay community. Gay krewes attained a more public profile in the 1970s and 1980s when membership was at its peak. However, the devastation of HIV/AIDS led to the dissolution of most gay krewes. Today, gay balls have experienced a resurgence and remain one of the most exciting opportunities to view some of the most imaginative costumes of carnival, all crafted by the krewe members themselves.

Wayne Phillips, Curator of Costumes and Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum, will present an overview of the birth and growth of gay krewes from the 1950s to today as well as traditions that laid the groundwork for the formation of these krewes.

Join us on Monday, February 13 for this unique lecture. Doors will open at 5:30pm with the presentation beginning at 6:00pm.

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📷 Left: 2016.026.03.corrected—Bill Woolley as Returning Queen of the Krewe of Petronius, 1966. Louisiana State Museum collection.

📷: Right: 2022.50.6.1—Mardi Gras 1965. Louisiana State Museum collection.