James Lowell Adams was born in 1943 in Philadelphia, PA. His father, an artist, musician, and band leader, was one of the youngest members of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and went on to form his own orchestra, "Jimmy Adams and his Continentals". For a few years, they were the toast of the town, sharing the stage with such greats as Count Basie, Louie Jordan and Fats Waller. Growing up among the tenement building canyons of Philadelphia, Jim Adams’ world was comprised of only pavement, bricks and sky, under the flight path of the local airport, and so the symbol of flight, of being free, translated into an insatiable desire to venture beyond his confines.
Adams received his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Temple University (1965) and his master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania (1968). While in university he focused on printmaking, and it wasn’t until he discovered acrylic paints that his dream of becoming a painter soared and with it 20 years of paintings dealing with his passion for aviation and flight—today considered a seminal body of work in the artist’s career. Adams began his teaching career while in graduate school at the Fleisher Memorial Art School and as a lecturer for the Print Club of Philadelphia. He also taught in California at Cal State Long Beach and the Laguna Beach School of Art and Design. In 1970, after a short time in Vancouver, he settled in Surrey, BC, with his wife and took up a position in the Fine Arts Department at Douglas/Kwantlen University College, where he taught until his retirement in 2000.
Among Adams’ most prominent exhibitions are “The Irretrievable Moment” (2017), a retrospective presented concurrently at The Surrey Art Gallery in Surrey and The Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford; “Mythic Sketches” at the Newton Cultural Centre, Surrey; “Re: Mix”at the Surrey Art Gallery; and “Tribute: The Art of African Canadian Artists” at the Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archives in Brampton, ON, and the Mississauga Art Gallery in Mississauga, ON. He has also been featured in solo and group exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC; Amelia Douglas Gallery, New Westminster, BC; Thames Art Gallery, Chatham, ON; Richmond Art Centre, Richmond, BC; A Space Gallery, Toronto, ON; Metro Hall, Toronto; The Berkeley Centre, Yale University, New Haven, CT; Peterson Library, University of Connecticut, West Haven, CT; and numerous other venues.
Jim Adams’ works are included in the collections of The Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey, BC; Kenneth Montague/The Wedge Collection, Toronto, ON; Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, Palm Beach, FL; TRICON/The Berman Family, Toronto, ON; Tuskegee Airmen National Museum, Detroit, MI; International Women's Air and Space Museum, Cleveland, OH; The United States Air Force Collection, New York; Kozlekdesi Museum, Budapest, Hungary; as well as in numerous private collections.
At age 76, Jim Adams is an accomplished artist, an advocate for the visual arts, a Surrey Civic Treasure laureate, and a member of two public art advisory panels. He is included in “Black in Canada” and the “Canadian Who’s Who.”