Port Arthur, TX – As southeast Texas gears up for Mardi Gras celebrations, the Museum of the Gulf Coast will join in this centuries-old party with an NEH on the Road touring exhibition called ¡Carnaval!The exhibition provides windows into eight communities in Europe and the Americas where carnival is a high point of the yearly cycle.

¡Carnaval! will open to the public with a FREE Family Fun Day on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will feature a variety of hands-on crafts and activities as well as dance performances and Zumba lessons. Young and old are invited to wear their favorite Mardi Gras attire.

Visitors to the Museum will see 130 items of international folk art and Carnival memorabilia to highlight varied celebrations across the globe and the individuals who have dedicated much of their lives to planning, creating, and carrying out the festivities. Images, video, costume pieces, and masks from their performances relate the history and cultural traditions, while conveying the importance and function of community building through play.

From the earliest known incarnations in 12th century Rome through the present, carnival season has allowed participants to play. Rich or poor, young or old—all break loose, often in unusual ways. In Laza, Spain, celebrants might throw dirt and ants at neighbors. On the other side of the Atlantic, in Recife, Brazil, throngs gather to play frevo music or dance the passo, while in Tlaxcala, Mexico, men dress as French dandies and perform a burlesque dance. In New Orleans, the famed Mardi Gras krewes don outlandish costumes and parade the streets.

¡Carnaval! is made possible by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This exhibit was curated by Barbara Mauldin, Ph.D., curator of Latin American Collections, Museum of International Folk Art. The exhibition is toured by

Mid-America Arts Alliance through NEH on the Road. NEH on the Road offers eight different exhibitions for small to mid-sized communities across the country. Mid-America Arts Alliance was founded in 1972 and is the oldest regional nonprofit arts organization in the U.S. For more information, visit www.nehontheroad.org orwww.maaa.org.

¡Carnaval! will remain on view through March 18, 2012. Local sponsorship is provided by a grants from the Southeast Texas Arts Counciland the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Museum of the Gulf Coast is owned and operated by the Port Arthur Historical Society in partnership with Lamar State College – Port Arthur and the City of Port Arthur. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information or to schedule a tour please call 409-982-7000or visit www.museumofthegulfcoast.org.

Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday” translated from French, is the last chance before Lent for revelry and almost anything goes. Influenced by the Catholic traditions of Spanish and French colonialism, Mardi Gras is celebrated in numerous southern communities of the U.S. including Biloxi, Mobile and New Orleans. Because of the close proximity to Louisiana and the large population of Cajun and Creole residents, the celebration of Mardi Gras in southeast Texas is a natural fit. The first event was held in downtown Port Arthur in February 1993 with the objectives of benefiting local non-profit groups, staging a family oriented affair, promoting interaction among diverse ethnic groups, and supporting economic development. Celebrations in downtown Port Arthur are traditionally held the proceeding Thursday through Sunday before “Fat Tuesday.” In 2012, the festival will take place Feb. 16-19. To learn more about the history of Mardi Gras celebrations in Port Arthur and to get information about the upcoming festival please visit:http://mardigras.portarthur.com/mgset.htm.