Party Noire, an inclusive cultural hub celebrating Black femmes, queer women of color and Black womynhood along the gender spectrum, is joining Canvas Chicago in co-producing "ACTIVATE: A.K.A. Power House” on Aug. 16.
Together with a group of hand-picked artists and DJs, Party Noire will transform Garland Court at Lake Street into a visual exhibition inspired by Chicago’s house music history, presented by contemporary artists. Guests will dance under a giant disco ball to the beats of emerging DJs and other live musicians. Get to know Party Noire founders Nick Alder and Rae Chardonnay, and learn about the collective’s origins, its upcoming three-year anniversary party and everything in-between.
What’s the Party Noire origin story?
Rae: We started in 2015, and the idea behind it pretty much came from a few women wanting to get together and create a space that we felt like was lacking in Chicago, which is a space that was dedicated to women, made by women — black women specifically.
Nick: I think we saw a lack of space and thought about our identities as black queer women and saw spaces that marginalized our experiences, so we wanted to see a space that centered blackness, that centered queerness, and to do so specifically on a side of town that’s not really active for that life. We were intentional to create a space that was not downtown or not in Boystown, which are typical spaces where you think there’s space created for queer people within our target audience and demographics.
Rae: The very first thing that we did was the day party, and that’s what we did for about a year before we started doing any other programming.
How has Party Noire evolved over the past three years?
Rae: It expanded from just the day party to more and more community focused, more direct programming, so we’ve been collaborating with other organizations in the city to develop programming that was not the party.
Nick: We’ve had game nights, we’ve co-hosted awareness events, specifically awareness that pertains to the black and brown queer coms in the city. We’ve collaborated a couple times with Jamila Woods in the city. We’ve also produced our own concerts and music shows, usually a full lineup of mostly women or queer folk. We do a lot of speaking at conferences; for example, we spoke at Columbia College. We’ve really tried to think about ways to repurpose our mission and see that manifested in different places and spaces, all coming back to making space for queer people, black people and femmes specifically.
Has Party Noire ever produced an event like ACTIVATE before?
Nick: We’ve done other collaborations that involve art, but this will be our first large-scale production. It’s definitely been a very informative and fun experience, but also just a learning experience. Working with Emily (Associate Director of Canvas Chicago) closely, she has been walking us through what it takes to do something this big with a client like Chicago Loop Alliance.
What was the inspiration behind the name of this event, “A.K.A. Power House?”
Rae: It was really just thinking about the components of Chicago house music and who’s been responsible for how Chicago house music is perceived. “A.K.A.” is kind of pulled from another party that used to happen in Chicago called “A.K.A. Night Club.” So it’s kind of a play on words, and just a reimagination of what a house music club might look like in 2018 or feel like in 2018.
What are you looking forward to about this ACTIVATE event?
Nick: There are a lot of great components we’re excited about; we’re excited to have some of Chicago’s best DJs.
Rae: The DJ lineup is pretty exciting. We have Duane Powell, who has been a Chicago music enthusiast and DJ for years. He’s a go-to for a lot of people in terms of music knowledge and access to certain music, and also just really being a curator of sound. Also, All The Way Kay, another Chicago heavy-hitter DJ known for amazing house music and very dance party-oriented DJ. Myself, Rae Chardonnay, I will also be DJing. And then a fresh face on the electronic juke kind of sound, they go by Professor-Wrecks. We’ll also be having some footworkers, a drag performance or two – those are the components I’m most excited about.
Is there anything else Party Noire has coming up you’d like to share?
Nick: We’re celebrating our three-year anniversary the first weekend of September, Labor Day weekend, so that’s something we want to keep people in tuned to. It’ll be a weekend-long three-year anniversary celebration.
“ACTIVATE: A.K.A. Power House” will take place from 5-10 p.m. on Aug. 16 on Garland Court (enter at N. Garland and E. Lake). RSVP here for a free drink ticket. The ACTIVATE series concludes on Sept. 13 in a TBA location in the Loop.