Sydney Glenn Fossum was born on November 13, 1909 in Aberdeen, South Dakota to George and Olive Fossum. He attended the Northern State Teachers College in South Dakota, and then studied at the Minneapolis School of Art from 1929-1933, where he received a BFA degree. He married Bernice (Bunny) Olson in 1932. He participated in government-sponsored art programs during the 1930s, including the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). He was very active politically and socially during this period, and was involved with the Minnesota Artists Union, which changed its name to the United American Artists of Minnesota – Local 86 in 1939, and he was elected president of the organization that year. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1945. Following the war, he held numerous teaching positions at institutions around the country, including: Minneapolis School of Art, 1945-50; Washington University, 1950-51; Des Moines Art Center, 1953-57; University of Nevada (summers), 1957 and 1958; Minnetonka Art Center, late 1960’s. He also was the Director of the Duluth Art Institute from 1960 to 1962. He died in San Francisco in February 1978.
Syd Fossum won exhibition awards during his career, taking prizes at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and at the Minnesota State Fair during the 1930s. His work was exhibited in a number of one-man and group shows throughout his lifetime. He worked in a variety of media, and created drawings, oil and watercolor paintings, screen prints and lithographs. Fossum also did not limit the subject matter of his work, which has included satirical group character studies, somber portraits, city scenes, and pastoral landscapes.