Monday, May 11, 2009


Contact: Amy A. Kirk-Duvoisin, Director, The Joan of Arc Project

(504) 251-5046



New Orleans, May 8, 2009---Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc members, French Quarter community leaders, business owners, Francophiles, musicians, and artists gathered at The Bienville House Hotel courtyard on Friday, May 8, to celebrate the expansion of The St. Joan of Arc Parade--which rolled for the first time this Twelfth Night, January 6, 2009--into the multifaceted non-profit, the Joan of Arc Project..

Guests were treated to food by Iris Restaurant, French gypsy jazz music by Pierre Pichon, krewe members dressed as Joan of Arc (Caye Mitchell and Kelley Fauchaeux), horses dressed in medieval costumery, signature throws, and announcements by krewe members and community leaders (photos available upon request).

The mission of the St. Joan of Arc Project is to celebrate the relationship of Joan of Arc to New Orleans and to highlight the relationship and lineage of New Orleans to France. The Project is a secular organization whose primary focus is to produce an annual parade and an annual fete honoring Joan of Arc; inspire the public to visit her statue in the French Quarter and understand its significance to New Orleans; represent the medieval times in which she lived; present an artistic interpretation of her pursuits, successes, and failures; celebrate French holidays and significant dates with the public as an opportunity to honor New Orleans’ French heritage; and to evoke pride in our city’s uniqueness by utilizing Joan as a symbol of individual strength, determination, and loyalty.

The Joan of Arc Project is comprised of the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc, The Joan of Arts Fete, and the St. Joan of Arc Parade. The first annual Fete, an all day arts and culture conference focusing on Joan of Arc and medieval culture, will be held on January 3, 2010, at the Bienville House Hotel, the official hotel of the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc. The second annual St. Joan of Arc Parade will roll again on Twelfth Night, but with an extended route beginning at the Bienville statue at Decatur, going up Conti to Chartres, down Chartres through Jackson Square to St. Phillip, to the Joan of Arc statue at Decatur. The Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc will participate in all of the above activities, as well as other French heritage and artistic events throughout the year.

As founder Amy A. Kirk-Duvoisin said on Friday, "We are here to put the French back in the French Quarter and the artistry back into Mardi Gras!" She said the group is committed to being a traditional Mardi Gras walking parade, emphasizing the creation of handmade costumes and throws, including handpainted Saint Joan medallions from and ceramic butterflies made by local artist Julie Wallace, which were given to guests at Friday's gathering.. As Kirk-Duvoisin explained, "Everything we do with the St. Joan of Arc Parade has meaning and relates to the theme...the butterflies reflect the legend that Joan's banner was followed by white butterflies everywhere she went...although we are committed to the historical truth of Joan's story, we are equally intrigued by the artistry she evokes, using the many stories and myths about her as our

Another interesting artistic venture was the mention of Delgado Community' College's Carpentry program's partnership with the Project through the college's service-learning program to create authentic, wooden, medieval carts for the 2010 parade. Beyond the French Quarter, Garden District Book Shop on Prytania Street has offered to host a Joan of Arc Book Club, led by Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc member and GDB manager Deborah McDonald . The book shop will host three nights of discussion--in July, September, and November--and offer a 20% discount on selected books. See "calendar" page for book titles and exact dates.

Kirk-Duvoisin also spoke of the significance of the new parade route. "Just as there would be no France without Joan of Arc, there would not be a New Orleans without Bienville and the time we reach Joan's statue on Twelfth Night, after beginning at the Bienville Statue and walking through Jackson Square, we hope that Joan is as well-known to New Orleanians as those two are!"

This historical aspect of the parade seems key to the support offered by Kenneth Ferdinand, Executive Director of The French Market Corporation, which oversees the New Place de France, where the golden Joan of Arc statue stands. "We are proud of all of the cultures that have made New Orleans, but we are especially excited to honor our French heritage in the French Quarter, with the help of The Maid of Orleans".

After Mr. Ferdinand spoke, Cecile Andry, President of the New Orleans Council of French Societies, expressed her enthusiasm for this new group. "The Joan of Arc Project seemed to come out of thin air, and is coming at a perfect time to breathe new life into the many French cultural organizations in the city, " she said. She then encouraged attendees to come to the Market Cafe on Decatur Street behind the Joan of Arc statue on Bastille Day, July 14, at 10:30 a.m., to celebrate France's day of independence with The Council of French Societies, Consulate General of France, The Joan of Arc Project, and others.

There were many other French connections mentioned, such as choosing May 8 for the Project launch: On this day, in Orleans, France, the French celebrate Joan's military victory against the English and its significance in altering the course of the Hundred Years' War and ultimately, in saving France from the English. Kirk-Duvoisin pointed out that in Orleans, citizens were celebrating both the May 8th victory in 1429 as well as VE "Victory over Europe" day, when the Nazis surrendered to the Allies. She also noted that the inspiration for the St. Joan of Arc Parade was born of the parade and festival they hold each year in France, at which Joan of Arc is a central figure.

"Just as they do in France, we will have a contest, which will be announced at the beginning of next schoolyear, to choose a girl who will lead our parade...each year we will have a New Orleans' high school girl lead us...most Mardi Gras parades have Kings and Queens..we will have a Maid lead us."

Others present at the event expressed their enthusiasm for the Joan of Arc Project and its many plans and possibilties. One woman brought a sculpture she had made signifying Joan's burning at the stake. Another woman, a filmmaker, offered to arrange a film series for the Project, including the classic silent Carl Dreyer film from 1928, "The Passion of Joan of Arc."

On the business side of things, Community Affairs Director of the French Quarter Business Association, Annie Flettrich, was present, stating that she had attended the inaugural parade. "We welcome this vibrant, culturally rich, and educational event to the French Quarter and support all efforts to keep it going," she stated. Larry Hesdorffer, Director of the Vieux Carré Commission, said, "This is great (because) it's got such meaning and historical value..."

Shannon Fitzpatrick, from Metropolitan Women and Girl's Center, which serves battered women and rape victims, said the organization was invited to join because Joan of Arc is considered the patron saint of domestic violence victims. In her speech, Kirk-Duvoisin said that the Metropolitan Center was the Project's chosen charity partner, and that they'd be folded into the parade with typical Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc quirkiness..."We're thinking of making them dress in armor and hold a sign that says 'TAKE BACK THE KNIGHTS..."

Kirk-Duvoisin noted that you don't have to be French--or speak it--to join the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc or participate in some way with the Joan of Arc Project. Kirk-Duvoisin has no French bloodline, but she was pleased to find out that her Scottish heritage was linked in some way to Joan of Arc. "Many people don't realize how many connections there are to Joan of Arc. For example, we have Bob Grubb here today, who will be at the front of next year's parade with other bagpipers from New Orleans, because Joan of Arc was led into Orleans in 1429 by bagpipers...the Scots formed an army to join her in battle to fight against their common enemy, the English."

She closed her speech by inviting artists, musicians, costume designers, historians, and basically anyone with an interest in Joan of Arc to contact the group via its newly launched website,

"We even found a place for the Krewe de Faye, a Mardi Gras group that dresses up as fairies, to participate in next year's parade...because Joan of Arc probably danced at the fairy tree in her hometown of Domremy, although she denied it during her trial. But we think she probably did dance there, like any normal medieval girl would. And we're okay with that. She was human, after all."