The “Big Chief Tootie” Montana Institute of African American Art, Culture and Tradition (AMIACT) seeks to present, to document, to preserve, and to celebrate the unique cultural heritage and street performance traditions of people of color native to the City of New Orleans. Prime examples are the activities of Black Mardi Gras Indians, Marching and “Stepping” Clubs, Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, as well as Neighborhood Brass Bands.
The future site of the AMIACT at Dumaine and North Claiborne Avenue is located in historic Treme, one of the oldest urban African American neighborhoods in the country, on a parcel where the once-prominent Congress Hat shop stood—a place where African American men purchased caps and hats during the 60’s. This location has often been considered a highly charged place of international significance, as a point of origin for countless genres of music, the birthplace of uniquely New Orleanian artists and cultural expressions, and the heart of Carnival in the African American community. It is the corner where Uptown and Downtown Mardi Gras Indian tribes meet.
The museum is named after the legendary Chief of Chiefs, the late Allison “Tootie” Montana, who was affectionately admired and respected locally and internationally for his remarkable spirit and artistry. “Masking” Indian for more than 50 years with awe-inspiring creations of bead and feather suits, he raised the aesthetic and cultural value of the Black Indian tradition and brought street performance traditions to a level of artistry truly worthy of museum representation.
The Tulane City Center partnered with AMIACT to assist with research, support fundraising activities, and produce a brochure that included site and program studies and described the history of the various cultural groups to be represented by the museum.
Rachel Breunlin, Neighborhood Story Project