Irwin House Gallery will host a memorial celebration honoring the life and work of Detroit native John C.  Sims II on Friday Jan. 6 starting at 6 p.m. On Feb. 13 Irwin House Gallery will additionally host a film series and tribute to John Sims, including “The Square Root of Love” – an annual event Sims created, blending art, poetry and wine.

Photo of John Sims courtesy of artist.


Born in Detroit, Sims was a mathematical and conceptual artist, writer, producer and cultural activist whose inspired and courageous career spanned more than 20 years. Sims lectured and produced programs and exhibitions not only nationally but internationally in countries such as France, Hungary, Spain, and Argentina. His work has been featured locally as well as in the New York TimesUSA TodayThe Wall Street JournalWashington Post, CNN, NBC News, The GuardianThe RootArt in AmericaScience News, and the science journal, Nature.

Sims himself, was a force of nature whose work and legacy will continue in Detroit. Sims passed away in his Sarasota, Calif. home and studio Dec. 11, 2022. The news of his sudden passing has shaken arts and academic circles around the world.  Learn more about Sims’ work at:

John Sims, 54, a math and conceptual artist, writer, and cultural activist born on Detroit’s west side, transitioned at his longtime home  and studio in Gillespie Park, Sarasota, FL on December 11, 2022. He was a proud ‘86 graduate of Detroit’s Renaissance High School,  where he excelled in math, sciences and the arts. He graduated from Antioch College in Ohio in 1990 and created and organized the  school’s Cross-Cultural Field Program and African-American Culture Week, which later became the long-running AACW Blues and Gospel  Fest.  

Mathematical Art

Sims was a doctoral student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. before relocating to Sarasota, where he served as the coordinator of mathematics at Ringling College of Art and Design. In this position he created a visual mathematics curriculum for artists and visual thinkers while developing his own creative practice, and went on to pursue art full-time in 2005. Primarily a conceptual,  MathArt, and sculptural artist, Sims dedicated much of his practice to cross-cultural peacemaking, and creating art reflective of the universal nature of mathematical truth. Sims became best known for his visual and performing protests of the Confederate flag and other symbols of domestic terrorism.



Sims co-curated Irwin House Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, “Aretha SuperNatural: Tribute to the Queen” in 2018 and returned to serve as its first artist-in-residence the following year during which he conducted talks and presentations while developing a multi-media project around his former Detroit block and neighbors. He had held previous lectures and performances at Detroit Institute of Art, Wayne State University,  College for Creative Studies, and N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, and was working on the development of new initiatives in Detroit.

Photo courtesy of Irwin House Gallery and John Sims

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