A Family Tradition

The rich history of Kern Studios dates back to Roy Kern, a local New Orleans artist who worked his way through the Great Depression by painting signs for barges and freighters in the Port of New Orleans.

the early days

Roy’s son Blaine Kern was also an artist. To compensate for his mother’s medical bills, Blaine painted a mural in a hospital. The mural caught the eye of a surgeon who was the captain of the Mardi Gras Krewe of Alla. He invited Blaine and Roy to design and build the floats for his Krewe. In 1932, the first mule-drawn float was built on the back of a garbage wagon.

Kern Studios was officially founded in its current form in 1947. Blaine traveled throughout Europe to apprentice under the world’s leading float and costume makers. He brought home ideas from Italy, France, and Spain to develop the monumental scale and lavish ornamentation of today’s Mardi Gras parades. Blaine became the city’s leading parade designer and builder, working with legendary Krewes like Rex and Zulu. Today, Kern Studios builds parades every year for 18 different Krewes.

Beyond Mardi Gras

Kern Studios is now under the third generation of Kern leadership. Blaine’s son Barry Kern is the CEO and President of Kern Studios and Mardi Gras World. Barry has taken Kern Studios from a local Mardi Gras float building company to one of the world’s premier entertainment production and specialty fabrication companies. Kern Studios recently welcomed the fourth generation of leadership. Fitz Kern, Barry’s oldest son, has joined to oversee the company’s operations and strategic planning.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Kern Studios and Mardi Gras World sustained severe wind damage but were spared from flooding. The warehouses and power generators turned into aid centers serving the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and the 82nd Airborne. The following spring, all Mardi Gras parades rolled as planned, just as New Orleans residents were returning home for the first time.

Mardi Gras World

After many requests for private tours of Kern Studios, we decided to open our working studio to the public. Since 1984, Mardi Gras World has been one of the leading tourist attractions in New Orleans, drawing over 200,000 guests every year. Tours showcase every aspect of our process from prop designing and building, float painting, 3D scanning, robotic sculpting, and more. Visit the Mardi Gras World website to book your tour today.

More information

Barry Kern is available to speak at gatherings or conferences about the history of Mardi Gras and Kern Studios. In lieu of a speaking fee, Barry asks that a donation be made to the NOLA FOR LIFE charity.

For more information or media requests regarding Kern Studios, please e-mail media@kernstudios.com.