Two Chicago artists recipients of 2022 Joyce Awards

Aram Han Sifuentes and Nancy García Loza are among five honorees for the annual awards.

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Aram Han Sifuentes (left) and Nancy Garcia are 2022 recipients of Joyce Awards.

Aram Han Sifuentes (left) and Nancy Garcia are 2022 recipients of Joyce Awards.

Sarah White Photo (left) and Juli Del Prete (right)

Chicago-based artists Aram Han Sifuentes and Nancy García Loza have been named recipients of this year’s Joyce Foundation Joyce Awards, which support collaborations between BIPOC artists and leading arts organizations around the Great Lakes region. Han Sifuentes and García Loza will work with Korean community organization HANA Center and the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA), respectively.

Artist-arts organization pairings are awarded $75,000, of which $50,000 will fund a new work designed to strengthen the local community and engage residents in the creative process; the remaining $25,000 goes to the artist as a stipend. This year’s grants reflect the largest award totals to date.

Han Sifuentes and García Loza are two of five winners this year. The others come from Indianapolis, Detroit and the Twin Cities. Past winners include musical artists Terrence Blanchard and Heldao Negro; sculptor Nick Cave (whose work is featured in a retrospective currently at the Museum of Contemporary Art); and playwright Lynn Nottage.

Chicago’s winners this year “uplift immigrant voices and experiences and bring past cultural traditions into the present,” said Joyce Foundation Cultural Program Director Mia Khimm. “Across the board, they’re about strengthening community pride.”

Han Sifuentes’ work, “Citizenship for All: Storytelling for Immigrant Justice through NongGi Making,” will afford participants in a series of workshops the opportunity to sew/embroider protest banners, based on traditional NongGis. Han Sifuentes said that the NongGi will tell stories of immigration, and when held together will be an act of collective storytelling. Others, she said, will express political aspirations, like citizenship for all.

“Traditionally, [NongGis] have a vertical orientation and that’s because it’s this idea of putting our hopes and wishes into the sky,” Han Sifuentes said. “They’ve also been used historically to call for collective action.

“They’re not these fragile art objects that are only meant to be exhibited. They will be out there to be used.”

Demonstrative action is especially important now given the rise in anti-AAPI hate incidents, Han Sifuentes said.

García Loza will develop a play titled “Pénjamo: A Pocha Road Trip Story” that will explore bicultural identity and tell a seldom-told side of the immigration experience: that of becoming a citizen and the subsequent visit to one’s original hometown — in this case, Jalisco, Mexico. The story is based on her father’s path to citizenship in 1988 following the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted citizenship to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country before 1982. The storyline will also incorporate memories of the trip they took to Mexico as well as family audio recordings and home movies.

“We hear a lot about the crossing, we hear a lot about struggle, and those stories are very important to tell,” García Loza said, “but I wanted to tell a joyful adventure story about what it meant to return.”

“Pénjamo” refers to the romanticized version of her parents’ hometown in Jalisco that García Loza imagined based on a song by popular Mexican ranchera singer Pedro Infante and based on his classic movies. “I truly thought that we were going to cross the border and I was going to see that black-and-white [film] world in color,” García Loza said.

It wasn’t so simple. “The magic broke but a new magic emerged,” she said. García Loza found a new confidence in her bicultural identity and hence her reclamation of the word “pocha,” a term which is used by Mexicans to refer to Mexican immigrants in the U.S. who lack fluency in Spanish.

Works are expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.

Chicago-based artists can apply for the next round of Joyce Awards beginning July 5. Visit A virtual application guide session will be offered on Aug. 2.

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