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Talk | In Conversation In the Community: Spirit Work

May 04, 20235:30 pm - 9:30 pm

This event is hosted at Heaven Gallery, located at 1550 N Milwaukee Ave, #4, in Chicago.

Group of people dance in a large room.

Heaven Gallery. Photo provided by @heavengallerychicago.

About the Event

The MCA is proud to collaborate with Equity Arts & Tribe for an In Conversation In the Community & Healing House titled Spirit Work. Gearing up for the summer, we begin unpacking Chicago’s history with an intergenerational conversation covering the spirit of house music and the knowledge passed along from pioneers to today’s contemporaries, and ask: As cultural workers and leaders, how do we create spaces for healing and liberation through House music?.

Spirit Work seeks to create a bridge between house music pioneers and emerging Chicago DJs to carry this cultural heritage into the future. The panel brings together Robert Williams, the legendary creator of the Warehouse and the Music Box; David Chavez, cofounder of Future Rootz; M-Dok of Tribe; Rae Chardonnay, cofounder of Party Noire; and Blesstonio, one of the artists behind the recurring Hideout party Fortune. Then stay after the panel for a dance party with DJ Syko from Tribe.

This event is part of the In Conversation In The Community Series & Healing House series. It is organized in collaboration with Alma Wieser and Francine Almeda from Heaven Gallery/Equity Arts, M-Dok from Tribe, and Otez Gary, Community Engagement Manager, and Ari Reyes, Community Engagement Intern, with the Community Engagement team at the MCA.


In Conversation In The Community

6–7:30 pm

Panel featuring Robert Williams (Music Box/Warehouse), David Chavez (Future Rootz), M-Dok (Tribe), Rae Chardonnay (Party Noire), and Blesstonio (Fortune).

Healing House

7:30–9:30 pm

Syko from Tribe DJs the Healing House portion of the night.

About the Series

Healing House was started in 2019 (pre-pandemic) by Heaven Gallery to reframe house music dancing as wellness outside of late-night hours and not centered around alcohol. This series organically re-emerged at the end of CBSCM panels with DJ Duane Powell that turned the gallery into an early-night dance party.

In Conversation In The Community was created in 2022 to address various topics surrounding the work of Chicago’s art community that are actively present inside the museum’s walls, addressed through collaboration with community leaders, artists, and organizers.

About the Artists

Photo of Blesstonio.

Blesstonio. Image courtesy of the artist.

Blesstonio (Antonio Robles Levine) is a Chicago-based DJ, classically trained musician, event/music producer, and dancer. Antonio is fascinated with club culture and has spent years studying and curating events in Chicago and Santa Barbara, California. His multicultural Puerto Rican, Black, and Jewish backgrounds lend him an attuned, eclectic ear ready to sonically compel audiences and create electric and magnetic dance floor experiences. Antonio is the cofounder and resident DJ of Fortune, a party series that centers dance as liberation and holds a safe space for the TQLGB+, Femme, Non Binary, BIPOC, and disabled communities.


Rae Chardonnay is a DJ, sound artist, and cultural programs producer based in Chicago. She is the founder of Black Eutopia, a series of segmented programming intended to cultivate space for marginalized communities; and cofounder of the award-winning Party Noire, where joy for Black queer, trans, and gender nonconforming people is centered. Since Rae began her DJ career, she’s been noted as one of Chicago’s Top 5 DJ’s by NPR, and Chicago’s Best DJ by the Chicago Reader.

Photo of Rae Chardonnay.

Rae Chardonnay. Photo provided by artist.


Photo of David Chavez

David Chavez. Photo: Juan F. Hernandez.

David Chavez is an internationally recognized music curator quoted as being one of “Chicago’s savviest cultural players” by the Chicago Tribune, a “world music concert impresario” by Chicago Public Radio, and #1 on Newcity‘s “Music 45: Who Keeps Chicago In Tune.”


Abra Johnson is the education and dramaturgical coordinator as well as a cofounding member of Honey Pot Performance (HPP). A proud Chicagoan and West Sider, she has held a variety of local educational activist posts for two decades. Currently, she is a tenured assistant professor of sociology and a cochair of social sciences at Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), and a faculty member within the CCC/DePaul Bridge Program.

Photo of Abra Johnson.

Abra Johnson. Image courtesy of the artist.


Photo of artist Mdok.

M-Dok. Image courtesy of the artist.

M-Dok (Marcus Elston) is a Chicago born creative who derived his DJ name through the elements of hip-hop as the artist (Merdok aka Murdok). M-Dok has helped direct and coordinate shows for well-known Chicago festivals such as My House Music Fest, Chicago Michelada, Pilsen Taco Fest, and the team who brought Don Omar and Ivy Queen to Chicago.


DJ Syko (Francisco Hernandez) best describes his thoughts for the love of his craft with an epigram by the late Victor Hugo, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.” Hailing from the South Side of Chicago, Hernandez was raised under a roof where house music, hip-hop, break, and Spanish influences coexisted, leading to be the basis of his love for music. Using that influence and admiration, Hernandez has create his love letter to house music, and incorporated it into the DJ and producer we have all grown to know artistically as “Syko.”

Photo of DJ Syko.

Syko. Image courtesy of the artist.


Photo of Robert Williams.

Robert Williams. Image courtesy of the artist.

Robert Williams is a native of New York who came to Chicago and discovered a nearly non-existent club and party scene. Being an entrepreneurial-minded person, Williams decided to use his people skills and the club experience to create something unlike anything Chicago had ever seen. The result was the legendary club The Warehouse, whose doors opened in 1977. He later owned another famous Chicago hot-spot club called the Music Box.