Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Visit the Midday Edition homepage

Exhibit Reveals The Art Of Former San Diego City Councilman Tom Hom

May 23, 2017 1:20 p.m.

New Exhibit Reveals The Art Of Former San Diego City Councilman Tom Hom


Tom Hom, former council member, city of San Diego

Tiffany Wai-Ying Beres, executive director, San Diego Chinese Historical Museum

Related Story: Exhibit Reveals The Art Of Former San Diego City Councilman Tom Hom


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is KPBS Midday Edition I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Some say that politics is an art as in the ability to find the right balance between competing ideas. It could make sense that if a politician had a hobby he could dabble in making some actual art. That is apparently how renowned San Diego politician Tom Hahn has been spending his time. Back in the 1960s the son of Chinese immigrants he became the first member of a minority to sit on the San Diego city Council. Later he became the second Asian American elected to the state legislature. Now in celebration of his 90th birthday the Chinese historical Museum will show his artwork in an exhibit called unseen portrait the art of Tom Hahn joining me now is Mr. Tom Hahn welcome to the show.
Thank you.
Tiffany as executor of the historical Museum. She joins us as well.
This is the first public showing of your art. Have you been keeping it a secret?
No it's just a hobby of mine. I was not sure if the public was interested. I have them all around the house and publicly I just showed my friends and so forth. Derived from the fact that when I was young I used to draw and things like that. Through high school I took it more seriously. After high school I had a couple of scholarships to our colleges. There was a period where my life changed drastically. I found out after I had an x-ray that I had tuberculosis. Because of that they put me in a sanitarium. You did not do too much there but rest of and strengthen your body. So I had time and that's when I did some painting.
This has been a lifelong thing that you wanted to pursue.
He had 12 children and was really proud of his status in America. He changed his name debated -- David based on the story of David and Goliath. Had 12 children and nine voice and named me after Thomas Edison. He named my other brother James after James Madison the fourth president of the United States. I have a brother named Paul after Paul Revere.
I have a brother named John Philip. He loved American marching band music I want to depict the coming of the Chinese from way back. It's mostly in the western part of the United States through the railroad and reclaiming the land of San Joaquin Valley and all of these different. That's how I got into a team the transition of that.. What is with the public get to see in this exhibit. Apparently there are historical scenes. What else.
The show is really a unveiling a different side of Tom. All know him for being an amazing politician and entrepreneur community later. As he said most people do not realize that he has been reducing our for the last 70 years. We've been able to find, is that he worked on in the 1950s. He was a cartoonist sending his own original cartoons to magazines all across the country like Callier that actually published his thesis back in the day. Like Tom says he has a new body of water color works really asked or topics that are intimate the related.
How did you find out about the artwork.
Tom has many passions. One of them is also food and cooking. I have a great privilege of visiting the house not so long ago. Got to see many of these paintings first-hand. He was very modest about the whole thing. Not even sure that there's anything. This is a hobby and a self-taught passion that he has been exploring. I said you have to show this to the rest of the world. I think it is something you should proud of I think we can enjoy and learn from it
For example there's a wallet -- watercolor painting of a -- sitting in front of the fact that of the city. There is a family sitting on the bike.
How you think it will resonate with young Asian Americans today.
More than just paintings we try to provide a context. You will see the display area how these pictures and paintings are asked -- inspired by the day-to-day experience because many of these paintings were inspired by Tom's own experience we are hoping that audiences of all ages can permit own experiences and whether or not they are Chinese these are pictures for everyone in our celebrations of culture.
I am wondering after years of having this artwork in your home seen by family and friends how does it feel to have it on display for the public to see the
It is very prideful. Other people can appreciate it and we probably had a couple hundred people at the opening who viewed the drawings and paintings and so forth. They found great interest in it and I never did but are in a full-time basis. I did it when I have time and most of my leisure moments so it just is not broadcast it. I was give these paintings to relatives and close friends.
We heard Thompson how he felt the reception went when this accident open on Saturday. What kind of remarks did you hear.?
We were all so proud of that moment to be able to celebrate somebody who has contributed so much to our Asian American especially in the month of May which is Asian Pacific American Heritage month. I think having Tom and his family there was really a time to come together.
I've been speaking with Tom home.