Presenting our home and SUM gallery
SUM gallery produces, presents and exhibits with a curatorial vision favouring challenging, thought-provoking multidisciplinary work that pushes boundaries and initiates dialogue. We began as Pride in Art, founded by Two-Spirit artist and activist Robbie Hong in 1998. In 2008 Pride in Art mounted the first Queer Arts Festival. In 2018, SUM opened as a permanent space, presenting year-round multidisciplinary exhibitions and events that further the artistic vision of the Queer Arts Festival. SUM brings diverse communities together to support artistic risk-taking, incite creative collaboration and experimentation, and celebrate the rich heritage of queer artists and art.
We chose the name SUM to honour the space’s originally intended use as a Dim Sum (點心) restaurant on the fourth floor of the Sun Wah building. Unfortunately the floor was never occupied and has remained in shell condition until now. For those familiar with Chinatown, you might recognize the traditional round window on Keefer Street.
- summation ∑ the sum of its parts, the sum total = 2SLGBTQIA+
- Sum 心 means heart in the Cantonese dialect, to pay tribute to the early immigrants from the Pearl River Delta in Canton who settled here 150 years ago
- In Cantonese words for queer folks also include the Sum 心 character
SUM is located on the traditional, unceded territory of the Coast Salish people, in particular the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh). We recognize their sovereignty, as there are no treaties on these lands, and we are dedicated to building a new relationship in solidarity based on respect and consent. In addition, SUM is located in the Sun Wah building in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown. We are aware of the histories, resilience, and ongoing challenges of Chinatown and recognize our shared responsibility to work as part of this community to resist the further displacement of the local Chinese-Canadian population. We understand that being part of this community requires constant reflection and adaptation of our choices as an organization, and invite input from members of the communities as we learn.
In collaboration with DTES and Chinatown-based arts organizations, artists and community agencies and taking our lead from them, we aim to counteract the established power imbalances of privilege in the arts, with the recognition that these communities have always been a significant part of our staff, board, community, and organizational vision. The opening of the permanent space within the BC Artscape Sun Wah art hub provides us with a larger capacity to support exceptional Two-Spirit and BIPOC LGBTQIA+ artists who live, work and find meaning in their art practices here in the DTES and Chinatown. Today SUM is the only gallery in Canada presenting multidisciplinary queer art and we look forward to showcasing this work in community and artistic partnerships as a publicly-accessible space.
The inaugural exhibition at SUM Gallery, QueerSUM心, exhibited work by artist Karin Lee, a unique artist whose critical voice and perspective touches on the past and the present, both local and international.
QueerSUM 心 co-curators Paul Wong and SD Holman: “We wanted the first solo exhibition to be local, Chinese, female-identified, queer, exceptional. We wanted an artist with deep links to Vancouver’s Chinese and queer communities both, we wanted a woman whose work was challenging and transgressive and very queer – in other words, we wanted Karin Lee, a local artist who is 4th generation Chinese Canadian.”