An Ode to the Art of the Mardi Gras Frat House

By Jayne Puchkoff

An exploration of Tulane’s most ephemeral artwork

Mardi Gras at Tulane is a metamorphic experience. It makes zombies out of well rested Tulane students and socialites that go out every day reveling in the happiness and chaos of carnival.

It’s true, few remain untouched by Mardi Gras’ transformative powers. One interruption in the pattern of our collegiate universe occurs on Broadway when the Tulane frat bros come together and trade their Natty Lights for paint brushes to try their hands at contemporary art.

In the days leading up to the big parades, most of the fraternity houses located along Broadway street go head-to-head in an informal competition for who can have the most Gras’d out paint job, a task that has traditionally been left to the freshmen pledges in the throes of their fraternity’s induction process. Freshmen are typically given creative freedom over the painting, so you can usually catch them outside of their respective houses concentrating on their murals.

The choice to pledge a fraternity has been a disaster for some, so it’s refreshing to see pledges outside on a nice day getting their vitamin D and making art.

Broadway is the beating heart of the Tulane social scene, especially for frats, Freshmen, and Sophomores, so the painted houses serve as a constant source of hype before and during Mardi Gras. The amount of effort involved in many of their displays really adds to the vibrant air of Mardi Gras on Broadway.

“I’ve helped paint the frat house all three years that I’ve gone to Tulane, I really love it. I grew up painting and drawing because my mom is an art teacher, and I find it relaxing” -Dylan Richmond, Junior

The Kappa Sigma fraternity always does an impressive job on their house, and this year was no different. A few upperclassmen fraternity members interested in architecture and design planned their approach before getting started. According to them, their frat sees the annual house painting as a bonding experience, which is sure to be more enjoyable than other frat obligations.

The most interesting part of this creative burst in frat life is that when Mardi Gras ends, the frats paint over their art in a matter of days. For those in New Orleans strong enough to have made it all the way through the end of Fat Tuesday, reminders of Mardi Gras can cause a mix of physical and mental pain during the fragile recovery period that follows. The young Picassos destroy their masterpieces as street washers, bulldozers, and rows of sweeping workers make their way down the streets to remove the traces of beads.


Sigma Chi members painting over their Mardi Gras decorations after Fat Tuesday

To those fraternity members who have worked hard to make your house look sick, just to paint over the whole thing in a week's time, we salute you. In abolishing your own lovely pieces, you exemplify the impermanence of life’s elements. With your help we, as a student body, can more fully understand that all which comes into being must too dissolve.

Until Mardi Gras’ inevitable comeback in 2018, we will be left with our hazy memories of the green, purple and yellow that adorned the steps of your houses of brotherhood. In the interim, here’s to another year of lucrative finance internships and absolutely crushing those Natty Lights.