Jarael Adams has been an artist his entire life.
As a self taught craftsman, Adams made art throughout his childhood, perfected his style through his high school arts program and studying under artists he admired.
Growing up in Buffalo, Adams didn’t always have the best resources. But he and his friends always made it work. “[As a child, I have] memories of… drawing with rocks, painting with mud, those types of things,” Adams said. “We couldn’t afford the pens, the crayons, the paper, but we’re able to paint with whatever we had.”
Years later, Adams, a former student at UB’s Center of Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL), is the owner of two businesses in Allentown — Paint the Town, an art studio and The Ink Gallery, a tattoo and piercing studio.
Founded in 2013, Paint the Town hosts “paint parties,” events where anyone of any experience level can visit and be guided through recreating a custom painting of a local artist. The parties draw a crowd of people, creating a sometimes chaotic yet communal atmosphere in the studio.
Although portraits are Adams’ speciality, his background allows him to break down and teach any painting the customer chooses.
“I was able to introduce other people to art in a way that they never experienced,” Adams said. “We’ve got customers who’ve been coming for 10 years and who still have a ton of paintings.”
Next door to Paint the Town is The Ink Gallery, a tattoo parlor Adams founded four years ago.
Unlike the bustling ambiance of Paint the Town, Adams prides himself on creating a personal, one-on-one experience with his customers at The Ink Gallery. The parlor is outfitted with a quiet, creative atmosphere, consisting of music softly playing in the background, with paintings displayed and a singular tattoo chair.
“Painting and art and tattoos are so intimate to me,” Adams said. “I feel like the shared experience between the art and the person who’s enjoying it at the moment is super important for me. To broadcast it in such a way [posting the art online] is a little too out there… It takes away from the essence of that experience.”
While both businesses stem from Adams’ love for art, they’re also a way for him to financially support his passion for painting portraits.
He recalls one of his first experiences with portrait art, a shadow silhouette activity he did in speech therapy when he was a preschooler.
“I actually didn’t talk [when I was younger],” he said. “But I remember when I first started talking was when we did shadow silhouettes — I remember the light and the drawing to cut that piece of paper out.”
Despite his successes, the journey to becoming a staple of the Allentown community was “difficult” for Adams. He describes making it in the Buffalo art scene as “difficult,” especially when he founded Paint the Town in 2013.
“Every challenge that an artist, especially a Black minority, could face, I was able to bust that door wide open,” he said. “One of those things was if you didn’t go to [art] school, it meant you weren’t going to be in a gallery… There are about seven galleries over here [Allentown] when I first opened up and it was very, very difficult to get in.”
Now an established member of the Allentown art scene, Adams aims to showcase fellow artists in his community.
Paint the Town currently employs over 15 artists from a variety of different backgrounds, providing opportunities for them to be seen within the community.
While the current culture is helping create spaces where artists can be highlighted, Adams still remembers a time where he was one of the few people willing to help other artists showcase their work or build their experience.
“I don’t need you to perform,” he said. “Because that’s how we represent art… The most free liberal thing. And sometimes when you go into spaces you have to be a certain way, but I’m the space where you could be yourself.”
Jasmin Yeung is the senior features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org