There’s never a shortage of fun, creative things to do in New Orleans but sometimes you stumble onto something truly special. Stephan Wanger of Galeria Alegria is attempting to beat his own Guinness World Record for largest beaded mural with a 42 foot wide, 8 foot high panorama of the NOLA skyline made almost entirely of recycled Mardi Gras Beads. This eco-friendly artwork is being created with the cooperation of Arc of Greater New Orleans and St. Michael Special School, both of whom collect throws in support of their organizations and employ people with special needs, as well as the Drew Brees affiliated Companies with a Mission Super Service Challenge. Best of all – it’s being created inside Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World!
Mardi Gras World is a wonderland of float pieces and statuary. Though they offer a proper tour, it was fun to wander unattended through aisles of humongous Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, jesters and regal horses. There were giant heads of Professor Longhair, Louis Armstrong and Crocodile Dundee and I even spotted one of the King Kongs. It’s so colorful and fanciful and kooky and totally New Orleans that you can practically hear the crowds yelling “Throw me something’, mister!” and “Big beads please!”
After the thrill of pushing a restriction gate aside, the next visual marvel was a display of Wanger’s extraordinary artwork. It sounds so simple – beads glued to form a picture. But Stephan, a native of Germany, has taken the medium to a whole new level creating intricate, textured likenesses of mostly Louisiana-centric images from Oak Alley to Hubig’s pies. I could stare at them for hours, taking in the depth and tangle of it all. My photos are as incapable of capturing the effect as they are of capturing the size and wonder of the Mardi Gras World treasures.
Like the millions of beads if will take to finish the mural, it will take lots of helping hands so Wanger has called on us all to come down to Mardi Gras World and place some beads on the mural and help him break the record again. I love the whole idea of this. The Krewes that put on our parades every year buy beads (some from the ARC or St. Michael recycling centers) and throw them to we enthusiastic parade-goers and some of us donate them to ARC and St. Michael. Then ARC and St. Michael partner with the mural project that allows us all to go add some beads to a mural of our beloved city and become part of a Guinness World Record. In the process, millions of beads are kept from landfills.
There were tables of people cutting beads from strands and people gluing beads all along the mural. We got to work placing beads on the Crescent City Connection section (the bridge – for those not in the know). I got to meet lots of wonderful people from toddlers to octogenarians and from every walk of life and the handiwork was fun and relaxing. After a couple of hours, we toured the gift shop on the way out. Many more of Wanger’s pieces were on display among the Mardi Gras costumes on mannequins and other remembrances of parades gone by.
It’s going to take a lot more hands to complete this project in time for Mardi Gras so bring your spouse, a friend, your kids, your MawMaw and your sports teams, church groups, school bands and coworkers and head down to Mardi Gras World to be part of a world record that will keep over 1.5 million beads out of the trash. You can also donate your beads to Arc of Greater New Orleans and St. Michael Special School as well as at Mardi Gras World.