Q&A: Nicola Wealth president David Sung on the art of giving

Arts Umbrella’s Splash Art Auction, presented by Nicola Wealth, is back in town on October 21 at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

1. When and how did Nicola Wealth’s partnership with Arts Umbrella begin? 

Phew, let me go back to a little bit of history. Arts Umbrella had run, and continues to run, an annual golf tournament. And it dates back many years now—20-plus years ago, I think—but in 2015, we were asked to become a hole sponsor. After two years of sponsoring a hole, we became the title sponsor for the golf tournament, so it became the Nicola Wealth Invitational

In 2020, we became the presenting sponsor of Arts Umbrella’s annual Splash Art Auction, and we’re absolutely committed to doing that until 2025. Part of what led to Splash is that my wife and I just had a view on the importance of arts education for children. 

2. What has the journey been like so far? 

If I remember them describing Splash in its early years, it really was like a small tent off the side of the Arts Umbrella location at Granville Island with just a few people, and the artists contributing some art. It was very small, humble beginnings. And it’s certainly grown over the years—if I’m not mistaken, it’s probably one of the largest charitable art auctions in the country now. Last year, funds raised were approaching $2 million.  

3. Why is Splash important to Nicola Wealth? 

I think there’s a powerful intersection of creativity and social impact. For us [at Nicola Wealth], corporate philanthropy has evolved to a whole lot more than just monetary donations; it includes art and culture as a means to drive positive change.  

And not just ourselves—I think many businesses recognize that investing in arts contributes to the well-being of the community… this energy between philanthropy and art and business just demonstrates the potential for businesses to be of good force for social change, while fostering, in the case of an organization like Arts Umbrella, creativity and cultural enrichment. 

4. Is that what resonated with you when the non-profit’s president and CEO Paul Larocque first told you about Splash?

Absolutely. Their organization and ours have a shared belief that art transforms how we experience the world, and being able to instill that in children from a really young age is hugely important. 

I think out of the 20,000 students that Arts Umbrella delivers arts programming to each year, 75 percent are participating at no cost through donor-funded initiatives. 

5. Are your children interested in the arts at all? 

For sure. My daughter dances and has done programming at Arts Umbrella. My son is really into music and he certainly didn’t get any of it from my wife and I—we laugh about it. He’s a little bit self-taught, and we’ve given him some programming, but he plays piano and guitar, he sings, he started to write some of his own music. And for both our kids, we can see the importance of artistic endeavors—I think it helps them in all facets of their lives.   

This conversation has been edited and condensed.