Queen of City Hall
Youngest of 13 children born to Charles and Mary Jackson DeLavallade, Dorothy Mae Taylor was a child of Uptown New Orleans’ Central City. Educated at historically Black Southern University in Baton Rouge, Taylor was active in civil rights organizing in the 1950s and 60s, taught at Total Community Action (TCA)’s Head Start early-childhood education program. Known for her advocacy for and with children, teenagers, mothers and incarcerated people, Taylor built a network of dedicated Black public servants, and won a 1971 special election to become Louisiana’s first Black female legislator. In 1980 she became president of TCA’s Central City Neighborhood Health Clinic, and in 1984 the first Black woman appointed to a state cabinet position, the Department of Urban and Community Affairs. As a city councilmember in the early 1990s, Taylor advocated against considerable resistance to force all-White, all-male Mardi Gras krewes and elite social clubs to admit Black people, women and LGBT people, and for the removal of Jim Crow-era monuments to White supremacy. Though these efforts were not all successful, Taylor, who died in 2000, is credited with spurring innovation in Mardi Gras traditions. Today Afrofuturists and Femme Fatales parade at Carnival while the all-White, all-male Momus and Comus do not, and the city’s most iconic Confederate monuments have been removed from our streets.
‘It’s Not Funny: Andrea Fraser Tackles the Politics of Mardi Gras at Prospect.3’, Rebecca Lee Reynolds, Burnaway
‘Dorothy Mae Taylor (1928-2000)’, The Historic New Orleans Collection
‘Dorothy Mae Taylor’s Impact on Mardi Gras’, Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR, 2006 (includes audio)
Artists' Concept Statement
Growing Pains: Rooted in Resilience is an interpretation of a traditional Mardi Gras float designed and installed on the façade of Cudd Hall, a historic landmark on Tulane’s Uptown New Orleans campus and home to the offices of Newcomb-Tulane College. Elements were crafted of paper-mache and hand-painted wood panels, traditional float fabrication methods long used by Uptown krewes.
Cultivated in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cancellation of 2021 Mardi Gras parades and the emergence of ‘house floats’, the panels display a collection of “fruits” and “roots”— stories of Black celebration, accomplishment, and resistance in regards to Mardi Gras, and their foundation in racial, gender, and economic violence, at the physical scale of the human body and at the architectural scale of the city.
The destruction of neighborhoods, the removal of public housing projects, and the divestment from African-American neighborhoods post-Katrina are all roots that nourish the fruits of today’s Mardi Gras, and the simultaneity of joy and despair within the city itself.
Racial justice activism in response to contemporary lynchings reemphasizes how the demands of the oppressed fall on deaf ears while stories of struggle for survival and self-determination are obscured. Celebrating Mardi Gras during a pandemic may require social distancing in the present, but the stories in this installation draw us closer to histories which inspire us to create a more just and equitable future.
Conceptualized by Maddi Wells TU ‘21 and Chris Daemmrich TU ‘17, Collaborative Design Workshop
Fabricated and Painted by Maya Pen, Sarah Bastacky, Brandon Surtain TU ‘20, and Langston Allston
Maya Pen is an interdisciplinary artist from Philadelphia, working with wearable creations, theater, music, and puppetry to tell stories that uplift and engage her community.
Sarah Bastacky is an artist from Columbia, Maryland. She studied puppetry, painting and the carnivalesque, at Bard College. Specializing in paper mache sculpture, Sarah builds Mardi Gras floats with Royal Artists in New Orleans. .
Maddi Wells TU ‘21
Maddison Wells is an undergraduate fifth year student at Tulane’s School of Architecture. She is pursuing a dual degree in both architecture and real estate. As a New Orleans native and a Black woman, she believes in designing for equity and facilitation of community empowerment.
Brandon Surtain TU ‘20
Brandon Surtain lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana. A native New Orleanian, Brandon attended graduate school at Tulane University, where he received Master’s of Architecture and Master’s of Sustainable Real Estate development degrees. Brandon received his Bachelor’s of Fine Art, with a concentration in painting and drawing, from Louisiana State University. During this time he was also a member of the LSU football team.
Chris Daemmrich TU ‘17
Chris Daemmrich grew up in Austin, Texas. He studied architecture and political science at Tulane University. Chris facilitates Collab, the Collaborative Design Workshop, a design justice research, education and advocacy practice in New Orleans.