Community InvolvementSince its inception in 2000, the Krewe of Muses has always viewed community involvement as an important component of its mission. Of course, hosting a free parade for the community is, in itself, a public gift. The Krewe’s initial vision for its parade was to have it be collaboratively sponsored by the community. To this end, our first parade featured guest artists who helped decorate the floats and local school children who made the masks worn by our riders. In our second year, we expanded our community involvement to include adult groups such as senior citizens and individuals in rehabilitative environments, who took over the mask-decorating activities. In this way, adults who might not be able to attend our parade could contribute in a meaningful way towards throwing the party, and those who could attend would be able to see their handiwork actually in use by riders. This program continued through 2005, when Katrina displaced or eliminated many of the programs operated by our mask-decorating community partners. In addition, in 2002 and 2003, school children made headdresses that complemented the themes of each float to adorn the heads of the riders. In 2003, the headdress program was shifted to a contest conducted among our riders, who are encouraged to procure local artists to make those headdresses.
However, area children have not been forgotten. From our very first year, a cup-decorating contest has produced the artwork on the cups thrown by riders. Each year, the cup contest includes a basic lesson about the Muses of Greek mythology, and a particular Muse is featured for the year. The winner’s school receives a $500 donation towards its art programming, which was increased to $1,000 in 2008. Our winners have been: 2001, Natalie Sciortino of Ben Franklin; 2002, Carl Trim of Rabouin and the Ya/Ya group; 2003, Arwen Byrd of Ben Franklin; 2004, Kevin Thomas of Warren Easton; 2005, Rashawn Williams of Rabouin; 2006, Erica Aupied of Hahnville High School; 2007, Alisha Lewis of McMain; 2008, Dat Nguyen of McMain; 2009, Lauren Moret of Hynes Elementary; 2010 Dylan Pham of McMain and in 2011, Michael Washington of O. Perry Walker. We have also sponsored public displays of submitted artwork at venues such as the Contemporary Arts Center and the World Trade Center lobby.
The feature Muse program was expanded in 2002 to focus on a local charity that supports the cause championed by that year’s Muse. A local woman who exemplifies that cause is honored and given a free ride in our parade. A charitable contribution is made by the Krewe to the selected charity. The following are our feature Muses and the honorees and charitable recipients:
Krewe of Muses has also annually donated a ride in our parade to area charities to enable them to sell the ride to raise funds for their programs. The Krewe particularly favors organizations which provide services to women and children. Recipients of our donated ride have included Newcomb College, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Grace House, and Dress for Success. In 2007, in order to maximize the proceeds that our recipient charities receive from the donated ride, we began a program of auctioning off the ride at our Twelfth Night party and donating the proceeds. This event resulted in a donation of over $2,000 to Raintree in 2007, and was part of the overall fundraiser for St. Jude Community Center in 2008. In 2009, raffle proceeds plus the auctioned ride raised over $4,000 for Lindy’s Place. In 2010, the ride was auctioned via e-Bay and $2,949 was raised for our 2010 recipient, House of Ruth. St. Bernard Project received the $3,877 paid for the auctioned ride in 2011.
Our featured symbol, the shoe, has inspired another program instituted by the Krewe – shoe drives to match the overflow from our members’ excessive shoe collections with women at area rehabilitative programs who are always happy to receive a new pair of shoes! In addition, shoes have been donated to an area literacy program as incentives for women to participate in the program. In 2007, the program was expanded to include shoes for men and children, who share our love of footwear. Additionally, the artistry exhibited by Muses who decorate glitter shoes has produced profits for non-profit organizations when glitter shoes are donated for silent auctions held at these charities’ own fundraising events. In 2010, the St. Bernard Project, the American Heart Association, and the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South were recipients of custom-made shoes for their silent auctions.
The Krewe of Muses has been spurred to benevolence as a result of tragedy. After the events of 9/11, the Krewe donated $1,000 each to the New Orleans Police and Fire Departments and donated free rides in our 2002 parade to two police officers and fire fighters. In 2004, the Krewe created and funded a trust to benefit David Allen Bell, the one-year old child of a woman who was killed on the parade route during our parade that year. In order to stimulate the raising of funds for this trust, the Krewe instituted evening cocktail hours called “Thirsty Thursdays,” which featured door fees or donation from the proceeds of drinks sales as well as raffles of donated items. The Krewe also created the Muses Foundation, a donor-advised charitable fund maintained by the Greater New Orleans Foundation. This foundation enables the Krewe to receive deductible donations which are utilized to fund our charitable gifts. After funding over $15,000 for the Bell Trust through Muse donations, proceeds from the Thirsty Thursday events were then directed to our Foundation.
In 2007, the Thirsty Thursdays were revised to direct the proceeds of each separate event to a particular designated recipient. Charities that have received the proceeds of Thirsty Thursdays have included Girls First, the Metropolitan Battered Women’s Program, CASA New Orleans, and the Youth Rescue Initiative. More recently, we raised $1,260 for Roots of Music at our April 2010 Thirsty Thursday. In 2007, we combined our Twelfth Night party with a vendor bazaar for the benefit of St. Jude Community Center, which provides services to the homeless, including women with children. That event netted over $10,000 for St. Jude. In 2008, the bazaar was held at Kingsley House and raised over $16,700 for that organization, and again in 2009 the bazaar raised over $11,000 for Kingsley House. Our summer party also has become a fundraiser, with proceeds from the 2008 event going to the Moms and Babes program of Covenant House, and the 2009 event raised over $6,500 for the New Orleans Women’s Shelter. The recipient of the $10,246 raised at the 2010 summer party was Hagar’s House.
Another tragedy to which the Krewe responded with enormous empathy and generosity was Hurricane Katrina. Despite the great losses suffered by a significant percentage of our membership, the riders clamored to parade in 2006 as an act of healing. To assist affected members, the Krewe offered free throw packages to those riders whose Katrina losses might have otherwise prevented them from being able to participate in our parade. The Krewe also made emergency cash grants in 2005 to members who were financially devastated by the hurricane in order to “tide them over.” To assist our most vital community partner, the New Orleans Police Department, the Krewe made a grant in 2006 of $50,000 to the department and challenged other area Mardi Gras organizations to do the same. For our 2006 parade, we offered free rides and throw packages to twelve area first responders, including animal rights and healthcare workers and area law enforcement officials who valiantly served the community in the early post-Katrina days. In 2008, the Foundation donated $2,000 to Katrina Warriors to help fund the Metropolitan Battered Women’s Program in connection with the Vagina Monologues Tenth Anniversary celebration in New Orleans. Additionally, in 2010, we collaborated with St. Bernard Project to raise $30,000, $17,000 of which was dedicated to the Katrina rebuild of the home of single mother Pamela Johnson in New Orleans, and the excess for the charity. An amount of $5,445 was raised at our 2010 brunch for this cause, plus an additional $1,199 was raised via solicitations of members. The Twelfth Night Party raised $7,870 and the auctioned ride raised $3,877.
Bereavement donations have also been made, including $100 to Jewish Family Services in honor of member Roz Koretzky, $500 to Susan G. Komen Foundation in honor of Pixie Naquin, and $200 to Bridge House in honor of lieutenant Jennifer Badeaux.
The television show Treme’ filmed part of our 2011 parade for inclusion in its depiction of our 2007 parade, and in exchange, the producers of Treme’ funded a $2,000 donation in 2011 to the Backstreet Museum through our foundation.
The Krewe has annually thrown a private parade to the residents of Lazarus House, who are one of our most valued community partners and graciously decorated our masks for five years. The residents are always enthusiastic recipients of our best throws. We also throw a mini-parade for the residents of St. Margaret’s Nursing Home. Muses has previously sponsored mini parades for patients at Children’s Hospital and the children’s ward at Tulane Medical Center. Another Muse activity to benefit children is the sponsorship and staffing of children’s art tables at local arts events such as the Arts Council’s fall fair, KIDsmART’s spring fair and other events. The Krewe has also financially sponsored teams to walk in the Police Foundation’s Walk the Beat event and organized a team to help rebuild houses for St. Bernard Project.
Would you like to contribute to the Muses Foundation for community support? We support local charities with a focus on women, children, the arts and ongoing Katrina recovery. Contributions can be mailed to:
The Krewe of Muses Foundation
5500 Prytania St. #621
New Orleans, LA 70115