Posted: June 5th, 2015 | Arts & Entertainment, Features, Top Story | 2 Comments

By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor

Two local women bring their mother’s passion to life in Little Italy

There’s a new gallery in town and the women behind it are poised to become a force to be reckoned with.

Three women — a mother and two of her daughters — have set up shop as Adelman Fine Art, representing 18 artists in their nearly 1,000-square-foot space in the Broadstone building located on Kettner Boulevard just south of Grape Street in Little Italy.

The brainchild of Marsha, Nicole and Phylicia Adelman, the gallery showcases the work of local, national and international artists in a wide variety of media.

“A lot of the artists believed in us before we were anything,” Nicole said. “We had barely branded our business, we didn’t have a gallery, we didn’t have a nice show under our belt yet, but they believed in us because of the way we presented ourselves and our vision to them.”

The Adelman sisters in their new gallery, with works by Sarah Streiber (left) and Irina Gretchanaia (Photo by Morgan M. Hurley)

The Adelman sisters in their new gallery, with works by Sarah Streiber (left) and Irina Gretchanaia
(Photo by Morgan M. Hurley)

The younger Adelmans spent part of their childhoods in San Diego before the family was relocated to the Midwest, where Marsha and their father still reside. Nicole returned after graduation and Phylicia eventually followed her sister — 10 years her senior — back to the region they both loved. The two sisters each worked in retail for a time — even together at one point — while Nicole started a family. Phylicia eventually moved on to the corporate world before their mother began painting their future.

A longtime businesswoman and amateur artist herself, Marsha Adelman had spent several years collecting and working with the art of Iris Scott, a renowned fine art fingerprinting artist originally from Seattle. Representing Scott seemed to be the next logical step, and with her daughters living in the artist mecca of San Diego, hanging a shingle in that ideal climate seemed to be a splendid idea.

“She’s really the brains behind it and has always had a passion for art,” Nicole said about her mother. “She wanted to marry her passion of business with her love of art.”

Soon, Adelman Fine Art was born, and the Brooklyn, New York-based Scott, their first client, is now Adelman’s top selling artist.

“We’re a team,” Nicole said of the family business. “Phylicia and I do the day-to-day in the shop and are the faces in the gallery, but we have all settled into certain roles as you need to do.”

“Jazz Jazz Jazz” by Ellen Dieter. (Courtesy Adelman Fine Art)

“Jazz Jazz Jazz” by Ellen Dieter.
(Courtesy Adelman Fine Art)

“A lot of the administrative work that my mother was doing initially has passed down to me,” Phylicia said. “Nicole is a jack-of-all-trades but is primarily the face of Adelman.”

“We rely on each other and our different talents are kind of dictating which one of us takes on the task at hand,” Nicole added. “It has all been very natural.”

Choosing their artists seems to have come naturally, as well. Though Nicole said it was not a conscious decision, most of their artists are women, and the men represented primarily choose women as their subjects.

“It’s a very feminine collection,” Nicole said.

There is also a great balance to their choices; they have oil, acrylic, mixed media, jewelry, glass art and sculpture.

Some of the artists are so well established they take prints of their popular works and embellish them with additional paint, making each one unique. Each artist has between three to five pieces represented and may be on display for up to six months.

Of the 18 artists they represent, five reside full or part-time in San Diego — Tesa Michaels, Stephanie Clair, Sarah Steiber, Zigaloe Wharton and Ellen Dieter — one is from Canada, another from South Africa and one is from Australia. The rest come from all across the country.

“That’s really been the best part for Phylicia and I, meeting creative people; people following a passion, just driven, creative, motivated artists,” Nicole said.

Phylicia takes it a step further.

“I feel like it’s filling in a part of me that I didn’t know was missing — the creative part,” she said, adding that she’s since begun to paint on her own. “This is the hardest thing we’ve probably ever done but it’s been so rewarding.”

Their storefront — a “salon-style” boutique gallery — is filled with to the brim with beautiful art. There is so much color in the art represented it literally leaps off the walls. Salon style means the art work is mounted close together — also called “double hung” — and though there aren’t long, open white spaces in between each work of art, instead of looking busy, the dynamic content and colors draw you in.

To accommodate those who wish to focus on one piece, the gallery has three moveable walls that offer that flexibility and there is a “viewing room” in the back, where those interested can have a private viewing.

“We want people to be able to see a piece separate from the collection, in different lighting without distraction,” Nicole said, adding that the space also offers the opportunity for negotia


Having a private space to view individual pieces was important to the Adelmans, as Marsha has always viewed and purchased the fine art in her personal collection in such a room.

A walk around the gallery opens up a lot of conversation; the women know the nitty gritty details about each of their clients and the stories behind their work on display. They love to share the “behind the scenes” details with anyone who is interested. While they need to make a living, those wishing to just come by for a browse are welcomed and even encouraged.

Little Italy has had a thriving art scene for years but it seems to have slowed its pace a bit lately with the end of the monthly and quarterly art events. The Adelman sisters hope to help reestablish something similar in the future and have plans for their own monthly themed events as well.

The Adelmans not only hope to build a strong local following for their clients, but build a rapport with nearby restaurants and businesses and help bring people into the district to browse and appreciate all the fine art they have accumulated.

“The neighborhood has been very welcoming,” Nicole said. “That’s one of the reasons we chose Little Italy, for that community and neighborhood feeling and [community events have] always been part of the plan. With our artists, we are finding what the community is liking.”

Inside the salon-style gallery, the Adelmans have moveable display walls to offer a changing dynamic. Works by local artists Streiber (left) and Stephanie Clair (lower middle and right) can be seen here. (Photo by Morgan M. Hurley)

Inside the salon-style gallery, the Adelmans have moveable display walls to offer a changing dynamic. Works by local artists Streiber (left) and Stephanie Clair (lower middle and right) can be seen here. (Photo by Morgan M. Hurley)

At the end of June, they plan to launch their first exhibition, where seven or eight of their artists will be profiled, with some of them in attendance periodically.

Called “Every Summer has a Story,” the exhibition will be held from June 27 through July 19. The opening reception will be June 27 from 6 – 8 p.m.

“In San Diego we enjoy this beautiful weather year-round but we still celebrate summer and a lot of our work fits in the theme,” Nicole said.

Adelman Fine Art is located at 1980 Kettner Blvd., in Little Italy. Follow them on Facebook (AdelmanFineArt) or visit You can also follow their custom hashtag #ArtYouEnjoy on social media.

Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at


  1. Lee Adelman says:

    I am so proud of my wife, Marcia and my daughters. They have worked so hard and your piece was a very nice tribute to their effort. I of course wish them every success and love them and my other two children and grandchildren tremendously. I hope people in the community will support their business. It would be lovely to leave a legacy such as this to the family.

  2. CoCo Leraas says:

    I enjoyed reading your story and learning about your family, I met Phylicia a week ago, I am a multimedia artist , I am 73 and still creating and producing my artwork. We moved from Julian to the city of San Diego almost to years ago. I have no studio now but I still am an artist, I lost my beret but I still paint, I donated all my art equipment to Julian High School because I thought I was finished with that part of my life. But here I am turning our little home into an Art Studio…my jewelry room is the “Gold Room” named for my grandmother Yehuda Gold. And my dining room is now my paint studio which I call “My Little Blue Room” that has a story too. I reign from Taos, N.M. And my husband Monte is a saint for putting up with me! I am very impressed with Adelman Gallery and am hoping they have room for my art. Thank you Lee, I felt very comfortable with Phylicia she had a very important meeting and still treated me very special. That made me come home with a warm feeling, our daughter is a nurse and she treats us the same wat , she told a Dr. Once “You have lots of patients, I only have ONE MOTHER..Shalom CoCo

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