Jump to content

MCA x Blanc: It’s a Dorian Sylvain Family Affair

August 26, 20231:00 pm - 10:00 pm

This event takes place at 4445 South King Drive, Chicago, IL 60653.


A group portrait of a woman surrounded by three younger men against a gray backdrop.

Dorian Sylvain (center) with Katon, Kari, and Kahari Blackburn (left to right). Photo: Tim Seed.

About the Event

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Gary Simmons: Public Enemy (June 13–October 1, 2023) MCA x Blanc: It’s A Dorian Sylvain Family Affair is a special collaborative event between Blanc Gallery and the MCA. Closing out the summer, it features conversations, performance, and dance from an intergenerational group of Black creatives who have been instrumental in shaping the artistic landscape of Chicago from the 1970s to the present.

The event is inspired by the exhibition All Children Draw, currently on view at Blanc Gallery, as well as by Gary Simmons’s Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark (2014–ongoing).

All Children Draw is focused on the artistic dialogue between three brothers, Kahari, Kari, and Katon Blackburn, and their mother Dorian Sylvain, a stalwart of arts education and participatory mural-making on the South Side. The exhibition explores the continuum of Sylvain’s decades-long practice, which has been nurtured by leaders of the Black Arts Movement, and how it informed her sons’ creative expression as children and formed a foundation for their artistic practices today.

Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark is a participatory artwork made up of a rearrangeable stage and speakers that serve as a platform for programming that highlights the diverse artistic and musical histories of the local area.

MCA x Blanc: It’s A Dorian Sylvain Family Affair is programmed collaboratively between the MCA, Blanc Gallery, and visionary Chicago artists to amplify the voices, sounds, and stories of an intergenerational group of Chicago-based Black creatives. Taking place over a single day at Blanc Gallery, the event is intentionally sited in the historically vital Black neighborhood of Bronzeville—the former home of luminaries such as Ida B. Wells, Louis Armstrong, and Sam Cooke, and the ideal location for this collaboration.


All events occur at Blanc Gallery

2–3 pm

Panel | Thread Lines: Dorian Sylvain, Arlene Crawford, and Lori Branch in Conversation

In this panel, three Black women with deep history and ties to artistic movements started in Chicago—House music and AfriCOBRA, in particular—talk about the balance and the synergy of being multi-hyphenated artists, community organizers, movement leaders, and, more importantly, the heads of their “families.” In this conversation, they discuss how Chicago-based movements intersect one another, and how they planted and nourished the seeds for Chicago creative life today.

3:30–4:30 pm

Reading and Conversation | When Blackness Was Golden

Pemon Rami, the author of When Blackness Was Golden (2022)–a memoir that chronicles the rise of Black creative expression during the Civil Rights era in Bronzeville will be in conversation with Masequa Myers, former Executive Director of the South Side Community Art Center, about the blossoming of Black creative energies of that time.

4:30–7:30 pm

Nourishment | Bill’s Grill
Enjoy complimentary eats provided by Bill’s Grill, which offers some of the best BBQ in Chicagoland.

“A day isn’t wasted if a good memory was created.”
—Founder Bill Hazel

5–6 pm

Panel | 2-Of-A-Kind: Kahari and Kari Blackburn in Conversation

Kahari and Kari Blackburn speak on the journey of creating separately, together, as literal brothers in arts, pushing the next generation forward in Black contemporary arts through integrated practices and community-building. Moderated by Makafui Searcy and Ryel Williams of Fourtunehouse.

6:30–8 pm

Collective Artmaking and Conversation | BINKEY & Sam Thousand

Creatives of all types are invited to participate—or bear witness to—a collective art therapy experience focused on sustaining one’s mental health through sound, movement, and improvisation. BINKEY and Sam Thousand lead the charge by organizing this community experience through their own practices.

8–10 pm

Saturday Night Communion | Bonita Appleblunt

As we cap off an intergenerational day celebrating Chicago’s Black arts and art movements, Chicago DJ Bonita Appleblunt joins us on stage as we create fellowship—and most importantly, dance.