One of the only permanent spaces worldwide dedicated to the presentation of queer art, SUM gallery brings diverse communities together to support artistic risk-taking, incite creative collaboration and experimentation, and celebrate the rich heritage of queer artists and art. As the year-round programming arm of the Queer Arts Festival, SUM produces, presents and exhibits challenging, thought-provoking multidisciplinary art that pushes boundaries and initiates dialogue.
SUM gallery began as Pride in Art in 1998, founded by Two-Spirit artist Robbie Hong, Black artist Jeffery Gibson and a collective of visual artists mounting an annual art exhibition at the Roundhouse Community Centre. Spearheaded by Jewish artist SD Holman and Japanese Canadain artist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, Pride in Art incorporated as a nonprofit in 2006, mounting their first multidisciplinary Queer Arts Festival in 2008. In 2018, Artistic Director SD Holman founded SUM gallery as a permanent space presenting multidisciplinary exhibitions and events. At the time of founding, SUM was the only queer-mandated gallery in Canada—not the first, but earlier attempts have succumbed to gentrification, or exhaustion, or both. And we salute you.
SUM gallery came to BC Artscape’s space in the Sun Wah Centre as a partnership with Full Circle First Nations Performance, the Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival, and multimedia titan Paul Wong’s On Main Gallery. We populate the empty 4th floor, previously left in shell condition since the 1980’s when it was built.
The SUM gallery name honours our location with multi-layered meaning:
○ Originally envisioned as a Dim Sum (點心) restaurant, our space features the traditional round window, now a striking feature of our office
○ The name pays tribute to the Pearl River Delta immigrants who settled our neighbourhood 150 years ago: Sum (心) means heart in their Cantonese dialect
○ Words for queer people in Chinese include the Sum 心 character
○ SUM = summation (∑), the sum of its parts, the sum total, 2LGBTQIA+
○ Some (art)
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 new relationships in solidarity based on respect and consent.
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.”