Acadiana muralist Hannah Gumbo brings the party to Baton Rouge

Hannah Gumbo takes a break from brightening the exterior walls of the Party Time store on Bluebonnet Boulevard. Photos by Christina Leo

You’re correct: that frosty white pelican probably wasn’t there the last time you drove past Party Time on Bluebonnet. Nor was the giant birthday cupcake, nor the LSU Stadium held aloft by a billowing band of balloons, nor the pink flamingo teamed up with a tiger in a sea of sprinkles. After a few rainy setbacks, they’ve all finally come together in our city’s newest mural by Acadiana artist Hannah Thibodeaux (known professionally as Hannah Gumbo), whose larger-than-life totems of Baton Rouge culture make for a whimsical welcome to the largest party supply store in the state.

“As an artist, I find a lot of joy in working with my clients to create a visual blend of what they truly represent,” says Thibodeaux. “It’s a mix of brainstorming, visual storytelling and a lot of playing around to find what works. For this mural, we wanted to represent some of the aspects that symbolize Baton Rouge while giving the overall feel of the celebration and fun Party Time provides their customers.”

A self-described maximalist with a state-hopping lifestyle (with her husband, the painter has driven her travel trailer through 49 out of 50 states), Thibodeaux often dresses in vibrant bandanas, tees and caps while painting her equally colorful scenes, which she plans ahead of time with each of her clients. But pulling inspiration from Party Time’s family origins—the shop was started by JoAnn Fox as Creative Cake Supply in 1979 before her daughter Donna Travis became president and owner—was only the beginning. The painting also aimed to tackle three missions: provide an unexpected burst of joy to passersby, bring a fresh visual approach to Louisiana customs and celebrations, and create a fun and interactive space for customers.

“It’s very hard to view your own work as an outsider,” says Thibodeaux. “To me, these colors are an extension of myself, my wardrobe, my color-soaked world—all of that eventually comes up in my art. I guess I’m just not a very beige person, so neither is my work. As for Louisiana, between the spoonbills, sunsets and crawfish boils, there’s a whole lot of gorgeous color to pull from.”

As for what’s next, Thibodeaux is packing up her paints to deck out a small business in New Orleans before tackling a home’s graciously non-rainy interior space. But fear not: residents of the Capital City can catch her October 23 at the MidCity Makers Market, where she’ll be selling more of her designs on the likes of prints, stickers and bandanas.

“It’s been pretty fun to paint each day while a steady stream of balloon bouquets parade their way around the parking lot behind me,” says Thibodeaux. “Fun, family and local love is what this mural is all about, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”

For more insight into Thibodeaux’s work and upcoming projects, visit hannahgumbo.com or follow her on Instagram @hannahgumbo.