Galveston’s Bryan Museum celebrates the exuberant history of Mardi Gras through the fabric of designers past and present.

The Bryan Museum is proud to present, “Mardi Gras: Party By Design.” The exhibition will be on view at the Bryan Museum from February 10 through March 26, 2023.

The sparkling costumes and capes worn by revelers during Mardi Gras season bathe the parties and parades in a dazzling wash of color. With the third largest Mardi Gras celebration in the country, Galveston has a rich history of tradition. The Bryan Museum is pleased to showcase our 3rd annual Mardi Gras exhibition focusing on the people who conceive and create these extravagant looks.

Galveston Mardi Gras began in 1867, and by 1871, there were citywide celebrations, parades, lavish parties, costumes and an annual theme. The Island celebrations were halted over the last 156 years for various reasons including a 10-year hiatus to recover from the Great Storm of 1900 and a failed attempt to restart the festivities after World War II, and most recently, the Covid-19 pandemic. Island born businessman and philanthropist George P. Mitchell helped Mardi Gras regain traction as a citywide event in the mid-1980s. Except for its 2021 cancellation, the celebrations have been going strong for nearly 25 years.

Sketch of Galveston Mardi Gras Coronation 1938, Designed by Emile A. Robin. Courtesy of the Rosenberg Library

The items on display include costumes and sketches from the 1930s-1950s on loan from The Rosenberg Library and The Galveston County Museum. Under the creative influence of Islander, Dancie Ware, Mardi Gras revival items from the 1980s include the 20’ x 40’ mural by artist William “Billy” Quinn created for the ‘Carnival Di Venizia’ theme in 1988, and a costume worn by a member of the ‘Quaker City String Band’ – a group of musicians known as Philadelphia Mummers who marched in the parades during that time period. Recent designs are by notable Galveston costumer Danny Lee Morgan and seamstress extraordinaire Jo Daily who has been making Treasure Ball trains for 40+ years. This exhibit would be incomplete without a nod towards local talented individuals who create celebratory items for themselves, family and friends, in spirit of the season. Such items include the amazing posters, umbrellas, and costumes shown in the exhibition.