Throw Me Something, Sister!
Story and photos by Audrey Poff
As New Orleans readies for its famous Mardi Gras celebration, Marian Peeler puts her creativity to work at home in Jonesboro preparing for the festivities.
A member of the Krewe of Muses, Peeler spends the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras designing shoes and throws for her krewe. For those less familiar with Mardi Gras, Peeler says the word krewe has been used since 1857 and simply means a private organization staging festivities such as parades during the Mardi Gras season. The Krewe of Muses is distinguished as the first all-female Mardi Gras krewe to parade at night in uptown New Orleans.
In Greek mythology, the muses are the nine daughters of Zeus, according to the organization’s website.
“Since 2001, the Krewe of Muses has grown to include more than 1,500 members,” the krewe’s website states. “Our vision is to celebrate the artistic and cultural resources of our community and incorporate them into our Mardi Gras tradition, making the entire community a part of the Krewe of Muses parade. We are known for our year-long commitment to philanthropic works, infamously satirical floats, and of course, fabulously glittered shoe-themed throws. Though our organization is young relative to the long tradition of Carnival in New Orleans, we have transformed local traditions, namely popularizing all-female parades and signature throws.”
Peeler and her husband, Andy, are longtime residents of Jonesboro, but she says Mardi Gras has long been a celebration she has enjoyed.
“I had close family in Southeast Louisiana growing up, so Mardi Gras has always been a part of my life,” said Peeler. “However, Mardi Gras of 2006 really solidified my passion. It was the first Carnival season following Hurricane Katrina. It was an extremely emotional time for anyone involved – and a much-needed celebration/break from the odyssey that had become everyone’s daily life. There were very few tourists in town that year, and the camaraderie among the people who were there was just amazing. Everyone was overwhelmingly generous with food and beverages and the throws they had caught, and I was totally re-hooked. It was a show of neighborliness and inclusiveness that is just not often witnessed in any other setting. I haven’t missed Mardi Gras since.”
For Peeler, Mardi Gras and the entire Carnival season is remarkable in so many ways that it is difficult to pin down one thing or event that she enjoys the most.
“I still enjoy seeing people having fun, laughing, smiling and sharing what they have,” she said. “Food, drinks, throws, etc., it’s just a great energy, but if I have to mention a single event it would have to be Mardi Gras Day. Remember, Mardi Gras has become associated with a whole season – Jan. 6 until 11:59 p.m. on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – but on that Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras, literally, in French), there are big parades, yes, but the day becomes much more of a neighborhood party – at least in the French Quarter where we live part-time. Everyone dresses in costume and either opens their homes to friends and neighbors or sets up food and beverages in front of their homes. It’s a true neighborhood street party with costume contests, lots of laughter and a general break from everyday life.
She describes her involvement with the Krewe of Muses as an honor that she never expected.
“I am very proud to be a member of the Krewe of Muses,” said Peeler. “I saw their parade completely by accident one year and was enthralled. It really is one of the most impressive and beautiful of the parades that rolls before the big tourism weekend leading up to Mardi Gras Day.
“In 2010, with the help of a friend at Tulane University where my sons were students, I was able to join the krewe. Honestly, the day that I got the call that I, a non-New Orleanian, had been accepted as a member of the krewe was one of the most exciting days of my life. Muses was the first all-female krewe to be allowed a nighttime parade schedule. The members are among the most accomplished women in the city of New Orleans.”
In the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras festivities, Peeler works in what she calls her “shoe-dio” to create one-of-a-kind shoes that are designed to impress. Some of the shoes are wearable, while others are designed as throws for the parade or as pieces of art. Whether it is a shark-inspired ankle boot or a high-heeled shoe that has been transformed into a spectacular cat, each piece is carefully crafted and adorned with an abundance of glitter.
“While making the much-prized glittered shoes is not required, many of the members do,” said Peeler. “The krewe took its name from Greek mythology—the nine daughters of Zeus. It was said that no festivity in Olympus was complete without their joy-inspiring presence; and on earth no fine art, scientific, comedic or intellectual endeavor was possible without them. To that end, I believe that everyone in the krewe adds to the art and political satire that is always represented in Muses’ parades, or, according to her own talent set, to the ongoing objective of the group to promote education, social awareness and philanthropy in the community at large.
A good friend, who was the coordinator of krewe sponsors for a time, asked Peeler to create shoes for her to present to the sponsors as thank you items.
“I now have shoes that are displayed by Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, Barefoot wines and Bacardi rum, but my all-time favorite is a goose that I made for Grey Goose Vodka,” she said. “The Grey Goose shoe found its way from the local distributors all the way to France where it is on permanent display. I love recreating pictures or logos into a three-dimensional form – shoes in this case.
“From there, I have been asked to create shoes to be given to the mayor of New Orleans and to the honorary muse. The honorary muse is always a non-member who is a woman of notable accomplishment. I made a big, colorful, glittered boot several years ago that was presented to the honorary muse for that year, Tamron Hall. Although I didn’t see it, I understand that she showed it on the “Today” show as she was telling the anchors on the show about riding in a Mardi Gras parade with Muses. I have also done a shoe for the New Orleans Saints’ Club XLIV, honoring Drew Brees’ retirement. He will forever be a ‘Saint’ in the city.”
In addition to the shoes and headpieces she has created for the Krewe of Muses, Peeler has also created many shoes for art auctions in the city including Tulane’s Summer Theater and several AIDS charities.
As the mass of revelers who delight in the long-standing tradition of catching “throws” gather for Mardi Gras 2023, beads and trinkets will be plentiful but only the luckiest of parade-goers will walk away with a work of art created in Marian Peeler’s Jonesboro “shoe-dio.”
To find out more about this all-female Mardi Gras krewe and view its gallery of glitter-covered shoes, visit kreweofmuses.org. As the krewe proclaims on its website, “Happy are they whom the Muses love.”
Throw me something, sister!