After attending her first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2006 and finding similar-minded fans on the Jazz Fest message board, Heather McCamey knew what to call herself. "That's where Threadheads live, and I became a Threadhead," says McCamey, who serves as president of the Threadhead Cultural Foundation, the nonprofit wing of the New Orleans label Threadhead Records, which launched in 2009.
Last fall, the foundation completed its fourth round of grant funding, which was open to local artists, authors and anyone "preserving, promoting and disseminating the cultural heritage of New Orleans and the surrounding area of Louisiana." What originally began as a way to help produce local music has grown into a platform for funding different media, from books to events.
"Something in tune for our overall mission rather than just a really cool project," McCamey says. "It just really bloomed. ... We really look for projects that showcase the unique culture from New Orleans, and artists who maybe need a little boost."
Recent grant recipients include the multi-generational Mardi Gras Indian group Guardians of the Flame, which will produce a performance art musical that offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of its annual Mardi Gras processions. Other recipients include the Community Center of St. Bernard for its Blues in Da Parish Festival album, Maison's Fais Do Do concert series, and albums from Carlo Nuccio, Ruby Rendrag, Lynn Drury and Calvin Johnson. The foundation also awarded a grant to author Jay Mazza for Not Just Another Thursday Night: Kermit Ruffins and Vaughan's Lounge. The book, due out this fall, looks at the history of the trumpeter's famous Bywater hangout.
Mazza also received a grant last year for Up Front and Center: New Orleans Music at the End of the 20th Century. "(The foundation) is funding me from the get go rather than a project that's already been done. There's a trust there," Mazza says. "They're not only doing albums but letting people create the projects they wouldn't be able to do otherwise."
The record company, founded in 2007, has released many albums and DVDs by more than 40 artists. It offers micro-loans to artists to fund recording projects, which artists pay back through album sales. A portion of the loan is forgiven in lieu of an equivalent donation to a local nonprofit organization, such as Sweet Home New Orleans and the New Orleans Musicians Clinic.
The Threadhead Foundation and its record company counterpart host a number of events during Jazz Fest, including the foundation-funded production of Nine Lives: The Musical, based on Dan Baum's post-Hurricane Katrina book of the same name. The production is 7:30 p.m. April 29 at the Contemporary Arts Center.
From 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. April 25, Threadhead sponsors a free outdoor concert at City Park. From noon to 7 p.m. May 6 at the Louisiana Music Factory, Threadhead's album-release party features local artists like Alex McMurray, New Birth Brass Band and Dave Jordan, who released Bring Back Red Raspberry in April. Jordan raised more than $12,000 via Kickstarter for his roots rock LP.
"The support from my fan base and friends ... was tremendous," Jordan says. "It was humbling."