Ten years ago, on a warm June evening in the French Quarter, my parents and I walked by a small art gallery on Conti Street on our way to dinner. The melody playing on a small radio inside danced out the open door and drew us in where we met artist Adrian Fulton and his Schnauzer Faith, a four-legged art peddler wearing a pink dress and a heart-shaped necklace that read “Buy Sum Art.” From the back of the studio, I heard, “Welcome to N’awlins! Let me show you around!”
Adrian emerged from behind a mass of portraits—some of which I recognized as celebrities and world-leaders. Paintings filled every inch of the gallery—they even hung from the rafters of the decades old building. As Adrian led us through his gallery and explained the inspiration behind his paintings, I was inspired by Adrian’s artistic skills, as well as his hospitality and warmth. At the time, I was eight years old, but Adrian treated me like we had been friends for years.
Generous with his time and space, Adrian offered us a cold drink and explained that he often paints on broken pieces of slate from the rooftops of homes and businesses devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Adrian’s ability to convert a historical artifact reminiscent of destruction and despair into a collectible of such exquisite beauty was inspiring.
Adrian spent close to an hour talking to us that first visit. Thereafter, each of our trips to New Orleans included a visit to Adrian Fulton’s Fine Art Gallery. My mother celebrated her 40th birthday by taking an art class with Adrian. On another trip, we brought home a painting of a pelican that Adrian painted in the rain. At times, we watched Adrian paint outside of his gallery, in Exchange Alley, where the public could witness the magic of his brushstrokes on media including cardboard, plywood, canvas, and Styrofoam.
Although his artwork was beautiful, it was not his artistic skills or the fact that he created an ornament for the White House Christmas Tree years earlier that drew me to him. Rather, it was Adrian’s charisma and positivity that brought me back to his gallery. Adrian did not push his artwork—he did not force $ale$. Instead, Adrian shared words of wisdom, life experiences, and aspirations with his guests. A former military helicopter mechanic, Adrian sought a career change and space where he was free to create. He broke from the rat-race—the quest for the almighty dollar—and discovered the thing that refreshed his soul: art. Adrian stressed to me the importance of discovering and doing what I love before the world tells me that I cannot.
His New Orleans gallery is now closed, but Adrian continues to share his love of art with the others. He now paints community murals and portraits of fallen New Orleans Police Department officers. Adrian’s positivity is like a light on a stormy night, illuminating the path for others to follow.