Herreast J. Harrison

Founder, Program Director,

New Orleans Living Legend and

Matriarch of New Orleans' First Family of Art & Culture

​photo credit: Gus Bennett

About Us
Guardians Institute was founded in 2006 by Herreast J. Harrison, MA, in honor of her late husband, Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr.
​ Guardians Institute is dedicated to the development of our youth through literacy, New Orleans’ indigenous cultural arts and West African and New World oral traditions.

​Guardians Institute is the home of the Donald Harrison, Sr. Museum and Legacy Performance Pavilion. The museum houses artwork, music collections and many other artifacts from New Orleans' First Family of Art and Culture, The Harrisons, as well as other artists.

In addition to our programs, Guardians Institute has curated dozens of exhibits, seminars, lectures, presentations and informances* here at home and through out the world. 

*educational program with an entertainment component

Our Mission

Our History

On December 16, 2014, Mrs. Harrison received The City of New Orleans' Living Legend Award.

The late Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. (1933 - 1998) is remembered as one of the legends of the tradition known as "Mardi Gras Indians." Knowledgable in philosophy, history, mathematics and theology, he loved acquiring knowledge, sports, Jazz and the "Mardi Gras Indian" tradition. He was as comfortable at an "Indian practice" as he was lecturing at Yale University. He took the masking tradition around the world. Of all of Harrison's many interests, it was his

love of reading that prompted his wife of 40 years to found Guardians Institute.

​Herreast J. Harrison decided to open the institute in honor of her late husband and his many passions. Having operated several day care centers in New Orleans' 9th Ward, Mrs. Harrison is intrinsically aware of the need for additional resources for children as well as adults. She and the Big Chief raised four children who are highly regarded in their various professions. She and Donald instilled in their children and grandchildren, and countless others, the importance of education, art, and music.

  • I'm The Big Chief of Congo Square_Quantum Leap8:07

Service to our community  through education, the preservation of New Orleans' indigenous cultural arts and traditions of the African Diaspora. 

Cultivating greatness: mind, body and spirit.TM