Exhibition Opening at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, “Unseen Portrait: The Art of Tom Hom”

April 25, 2017

SAN DIEGO, CA–The San Diego Chinese Historical Museum (SDCHM) is pleased to announce the homegrown exhibition, Unseen Portrait: The Art of Tom Hom. Many in San Diego have heard of longtime Chinese American leader and political legend, Tom Hom, but only his family and close friends are aware of his artistic talents. Now at 90 years old, for the first time ever, Tom Hom is going public with his art! This exhibition will highlight Hom’s dedication to documenting the Chinese American experience in artistic form. Unseen Portrait: The Art of Tom Hom, will be held in Downtown San Diego at SDCHM from May 20 – August 20.

This exhibition features over 50 works on display that capture over seventy years of this artist’s work, including sketches, cartoons, watercolors, and oil paintings. From his early pencil sketches created when Hom was receiving treatment for tuberculosis (TB) at a sanatorium, to his recent watercolor works that explore themes of identity, Unseen Portrait is a rare look at the artistic journey of this Chinese American community leader.

As the son of Chinese immigrants, Tom grew up in a San Diego where racial discrimination kept minorities from getting certain jobs and living in certain neighborhoods. Hom was born in 1927 on the site where the Museum now stands in the historic Chinatown, San Diego. Until his first day of school, Hom did not speak a word of English. Despite the odds, he and his eleven siblings went after the American dream and built a better life for themselves. In 1963, Hom became the first minority elected to the San Diego City Council and the second Asian elected to the state legislature. Eventually, he started his own business and was in the position to give back to the community—to preserve the rich heritage, including the San Diego neighborhoods where Asians were once forced to live. This heritage and journey is also captured in his original artworks that document Hom’s hopes, dreams, and achievements, complimenting his recent memoir, Rabbit on a Bumpy Road.

Unseen Portrait: The Art of Tom Hom is close to our hearts because of Tom Hom’s extraordinary legacy in San Diego’s historic Chinatown and the Gaslamp Quarter District. Hom has played a vital role in making San Diego the great city as we know it today. In commemoration of Hom’s extensive career in San Diego and his recent 90th birthday, we are thrilled to reveal the unseen portrait of Tom Hom as an artist,” said Tiffany Wai-Ying Beres, Executive Director of SDCHM.

SDCHM exhibit viewers will see a portrait of Tom Hom’s experience in San Diego through:

  • An introduction about Tom Hom’s life, career and artwork
  • 1950s cartoons and sketches during his time at the sanitarium with tuberculosis
  • Watercolor and oil paintings of the Asian American experience in San Diego


Established in 1996, the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum (SDCHM) is one of few US institutions dedicated to sharing the Chinese American experience and to promoting Chinese art and culture. In 21 years as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, SDCHM has transformed a historic, abandoned building downtown in what was once San Diego’s Chinatown into a state-of-the-art multi-site museum that plays a critical role in the cultural life of the San Diego community. Over the past twenty years, SDCHM has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors, collected thousands of ethnographic artifacts, and hosted hundreds of educational programs and exhibitions. SDCHM’s mission is to educate and inspire by preserving and celebrating the richness of Chinese history, art, culture and the contributions of Chinese Americans. For more information about the museum, call 619-388-9888 or visit www.sdchm.org. Follow the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum on Twitter and Instagram, and join the discussion on Facebook.