by C.L. Frederick
President John F. Kennedy once stated “if art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” Local artist Jon Fulton Adams is passionate about the arts scene in Kansas City and believes it is a vital part of the health, heritage and culture of the community. Costumer and designer by trade, Fulton Adams has been an influential auteur for numerous local productions and has also been a driving force behind the idea of using art to support community advocacy.
“The arts, while providing revenue for Kansas City, entertain as well,” Fulton Adams said. “The very core of the city is supported by a web of aesthetics. The arts give a refuge and a bully pulpit to those of us that would go unheard.”
A Texas native, Fulton Adams attended the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he studied fashion. Savannah molded his personality and helped shape the person he would become. He eventually followed his “shadow” to Kansas City after recognizing he desired a change of scenery. His father was a Nazarene minister, and as a youth moved often. He had lived in 16 different cities by the time he graduated high school. Growing up, he was familiar with Kansas City because his family had visited often due to the fact that several of the church’s national offices are located here.
Fulton Adams found his home in Kansas City and “defies anyone to sit at home and say they are bored” because the city offers countless experiences to take part in.
“The theater scene in Kansas City is very important to me,” Fulton Adams said. “The Unicorn, the Living Room, Late Night Theatre, the Fishtank—there is so much awe and wonder all around KC. I love the Nelson on a quiet afternoon, the Kemper, of course, the buzzy excitement of First Fridays, a cold beer at Missie B’s, some Veuve at 303, and the quirky ambiance of my neighborhood, the Historic Northeast.”
While his work is behind the scenes, his is one of the most dynamic roles in any production.
“I tend to think the role of the costumer is extremely vital to a production,” he said. “Before the actor utters a single word, we get an immediate sense of who he is, what he’s about. It’s an instant judgment, based purely on how he’s dressed.”
Fulton Adams is inspiringly passionate about the work that he does and pays specific attention to even the smallest costume or design. He has an eye and talent for bringing characters to life for an audience through the use of costume.
“The best part of my job is watching the audience’s reaction to the characters I design,” he said. “As flamboyant as I am, I still feel most at home backstage. It’s a dichotomy in my personality I can’t justify. I crave the attention, but shy away from it, too.”
Fulton Adams described himself as a costumer by trade and heart. He has dressed a wide range of characters and places great emphasis on theatrics.
“I love the challenges the stage brings,” he said. “I’ve dressed fairies and minotaurs, sex slaves and warlocks, not to mention a fair amount of drag queens. My passion is the creation—I love doing premier plays, where I get to dress characters for the first time, characters that haven’t existed before I put pencil to paper.”
His dedication to his craft is remarkable and nothing short of inspiring.
Not only is Fulton Adams a talented stage costumer, but also a clothing designer. He has a local clothing line that will be relaunching in the near future.
“My other passion is my clothing line, Queen’s Rocket,” he said. “It has taken various forms over the past decade, and has been influenced often by my stage craft. I have taken the line to trade shows across the country, and enjoy the reaction of buyers and bystanders alike. Queen’s Rocket is due for something of a renaissance, and I have a lot of plans for my future both on and off stage.”
Fulton Adams finds inspiration for his work in many places. His work, art and creativity is heavily influenced by the people in his life, historical time periods, and by his intellectual interests.
“I have several inspirations,” he said. “My husband, my friends, my family all inspire me. Sometimes I base a whole collection on a single image I’ve seen in a magazine. 1930s Berlin, outer space, David Bowie, and Shanghai during WWII are all inspirations. I will often trace a crack on a sidewalk because of the way it meanders, and that becomes a pattern that suggests a design. I am inspired by imperfect things, by rough edges, by scars and tears. I am inspired by things that have a history, a place, a sense of belonging to a finite moment.”
Being married to Kansas City acting legend and local LGBTQ icon Ron Megee has been a tremendous influence on his art and career.
“Ron Megee is my spirit animal,” Fulton Adams said. “Ron has never told me no in our decade together. He is my biggest fan, my constant support, and my toughest critic. Nothing goes out the door with my name attached before it has been vetted by Ron.”
Their love story is one of lore. Their love and support of one another has been instrumental in their art.
“When you live with Peter Pan, you’re bound to get a little fairy dust on you,” said Fulton Adams.
Not only is he a talented artist, but he is a dedicated humanitarian as well. He has been involved in numerous fundraisers in Kansas City. His advocacy has left a lasting impact on his community.
“Being an HIV-positive gay man, I’ve come to realize that you never set out to ‘be an activist.’ Activism finds its way into your life, ready or not,” Fulton Adams said. “I’ve spent the better part of two decades using my voice, my art and my time to influence positive change in the LGBTQ community. I am involved with most all of the AIDS-related fundraisers, having designed several shows, been involved with several groups, and hosted numerous parties in the hope of raising awareness, as well as money. It is our solemn duty to speak for the fallen brothers and sisters whose voices were silenced much too soon.”
He offers advice and guidance to youth who want to follow their own dreams of making the arts their chosen profession.
“My advice is that you are everything,” he said. “This city, this state, this country needs you; needs your voice and vision. Run, and create with abandon. Believe in yourself. And if you decide to pick the arts as your profession, know we will be there holding the door open for you.”
Fulton Adams has become a treasured part of the Kansas City LGBTQ community through his art and advocacy. In his work he may whisper as often as he yells, but he will never go unnoticed.