WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Freeman Fermon Fulwiley Jr. grew up on the South Side playing sports, watching anime and creating art.
He fell in love with art at age 3. Now at 23, the Washington Heights resident is still pursuing that passion.
“Art presented itself to be the path for more open doors and freedom,” he said.
He’s currently seeking space for a summer art exhibition, as well as a studio so he can leave his parents’ basement. He graduated with his bachelor's degree in art from Illinois College last year.
"Dragon Root" is an aluminum foil bailing wire installation. [Provided/Freeman Fermon Fulwiley]
"Plastic Is Where Checagou Is: plastic recycle-bin acrylic" [Provided/Freeman Fermon Fulwiley]
"Distracted Starchy" is compiled of bailing wire cage, discarded phones, aluminum foil, rabbit skin and glue. [Provided/ Freeman Fermon Fulwiley]
Fulwiley played football and ran track while attending Harlan High School, 9652 S. Michigan Ave. Even though he already knew he had a gift for creativity, it was the push of an art teacher his sophomore year that helped him decide to focus on his talent, he said.
“She re-lit the fire of art passion for me,” Fulwiley said. “She really encouraged me to do things I wasn't comfortable with.”
He paints, sculpts, does creative design and even works with a stylist. A lot of his work deals with recycled objects, but he has worked on drawings, paintings and installations.
Fulwiley said that it’s not common for people to push African-American children to do art as a career.
“You don't get lot of people who support you and say, ‘You should be an artist,’ but you do hear a lot of them saying, ‘You should be a basketball player, be athletic, have a business,’” Fulwiley said.
“They don't really tell you that you can be an artist and have a business.”
He said his parents are supportive, but they're still trying to understand his vision.
"They don't have the vision that I have, that's OK," he said. "They want us to go for our dreams."
He was excelling in track and field, even becoming the 100-meter dash champion his freshman year of high school, he said, but he chose to put art first.
The interest in anime — a Japanese hand-drawn or computer animation— was sparked as a child watching television shows like "Power Rangers" and "Dragon Ball Z."
He said he began to have an appreciation for the Japanese culture the more he watched different series.
Later in college, Fulwiley would take two years of Japanese to learn the basics of the language. He also took courses in graphic design and 3-D design.
Right now he’s working on a comic book and movie/TV series called “10 Gear,” with his business partner and friend from high school Darius Bridges. Fulwiley will do the illustrations and his friend will do the writing.
“I'm not a wordsmith, but I can visualize things and how [images] hit people,” he said.
The project is still in the developmental stage, he added.
Besides working on art projects, Fulwiley makes time to give back to the community. He’s a part of organizations like Books Over Balls and Arts & Crafts Rehabilitation Program.
“My ultimate goal is to make a huge impact on Chicago and on the kids of this generation and those after them,” he said. “I see a lot of these kids are lost and they don't know what their dream is because they're falling into this culture of getting into the wrong crowd and not following their heart.”
And because he knows how important mentoring is, he said he’s always looking for more mentors.
Follow his work by visiting his website at fulwileyfreeman.wixsite.com.