Photo exhibit to document recent history of Asians in Naperville
Naperville residents Nancy Chen and Anurag Tandon are preparing their families for a moment in the spotlight.
When artist Wing Young Huie snaps their photos next week, the Chen and Tandon families will become part of an exhibit being developed by Naper Settlement to document the growth of the Asian population in Illinois' fifth-largest city.
"This is going to be one of the most visible examples that we've done so far of Naper Settlement really telling Naperville's recent history," said Donna Sack, vice president for community engagement and audience. "With the growing Asian community here in Naperville, we thought it was just a perfect time to work with Wing to document ... Naperville residents in 2017."
The exhibit Huie will produce is scheduled to be on display from May to August 2018 at the living-history museum at 523 S. Webster St.
Individuals, families and groups will be photographed in a "place of meaning," holding or displaying artifacts of personal or cultural importance. Sack said the artist will complete 16 photo shoots, then return to Naperville to help curate the exhibit.
The museum is funding Huie's work through a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The artistically focused display will partner with a historically focused exhibit about the recent histories of the Chinese and Indian communities in Naperville, communities that have grown since the 1960s because of the schools and technology jobs in the city, Sack said.
People of Asian descent made up 15 percent -- or more than 22,000 people -- of the city's roughly 145,000 population as of the 2010 census.
Chen says she remembers the early days, after she and her husband moved to Naperville in 1972 for his job with Argonne National Laboratory. At first, there were only 10 Chinese families in the city.
Chen would invite all them to her house to celebrate Chinese New Year. She continues the habit to this day, focusing on her family instead of all Chinese Napervillians, and making the holiday special for her 7-year-old granddaughter, Hannah Horgan.
Chen said she will appear in Huie's photographs along with her daughter, Jennifer Chen, and Hannah. They might act and dress as if it's Chinese New Year to allow the camera to capture their tradition.
"It will be really meaningful for the Asians to see they're being featured and that they have a story to tell," Chen said.
When Tandon and his family moved to Naperville in 2010 from Michigan, Asians and Indians already were a growing presence.
"There are a lot of us with Indian ancestry who are proud to be in Naperville," he said.
Tandon, who works in strategy and analytics for Aldi, said he plans to involve his father, Amir Chand Tandon, along with his wife, Shikha, and their 9-year-old twins, Shania and Riwanna, in the photos. The girls are named for pop stars Shania Twain and Rihanna.
"It doesn't matter your skin color or where you're from -- you are American," Tandon said. "I want people to see that."
Naperville residents who self-define as Asian can participate in an open call photo shoot at the Naper Settlement on Saturday, Nov. 18. To schedule an appointment, contact Lance Tawzer, director of innovation and experience, at (630) 305-5253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.