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 greats such as Count Basie, Louie Jordan, and Fats Waller. Growing up amongst the tenement building canyons of Philadelphia, Adams’s world was comprised of pavement, bricks, and sky—all under the flight path of the local airport. Planes and flight came to signify freedom and translated into an insatiable desire to venture beyond his confines.
Adams received his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Temple University in 1965 and his master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, and during this time he focused primarily on printmaking. A few years later Adams discovered acrylic paint and his dream of becoming a painter began to soar 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 later taught at California State University, Long Beach and the Laguna Beach School of Art and Design (known today as Laguna College of Art and Design). In 1970, after a brief 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’s 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 (2014) at the Newton Cultural Centre, Surrey; Re: Mix (2015) at the Surrey Art Gallery; and Tribute: The Art of African Canadian Artists (2006) 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 at Yale University, New Haven, CT; Peterson Library at University of Connecticut, West Haven, CT; and numerous other venues.
Jim Adams’s 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. Jim Adams is a Surrey Civic Treasure Laureate and has been included in “Black in Canada” and the “Canadian Who’s Who.”