Four Fairs In One
One event, four fairs and 1,000 artisans — and lots more — take over Ann Arbor.
Two metal artists — one working large and the other working small — are among some 1,000 artists showcasing different media to enhance this year’s Ann Arbor Art Fair, the largest juried art fair in the country.
Mark Zirinsky, traveling from Colorado, designs wall pieces, generally from surplus aluminum, to look like weavings. Elaine Rader, based in Georgia, fashions jewelry from sterling silver with accents of 22-karat gold, precious stones and semi-precious stones.
They share a celebration of second careers — he had moved on from engineering and she had left banking.
The fair — joining together four award-winning, not-for-profit fairs that launched in different years, spread out between 30 city blocks — runs July 19-22 in the heart of the city. While Zirinsky’s booth is part of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the original event launched 58 years ago, Rader can be found with others in the State Street Art Fair, which started 50 years ago.
Adding to the displays of paintings, multi-media, clay, glass and other approaches for some 500,000 visitors will be the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair (48 years) and the South University Art Fair (18 years). Accompanying it all, of course, are food stations, children’s activities and entertainment.
“This is my third year going to outdoor art fairs and my first year in Ann Arbor,” says Zirinsky, who will be showing one large Jewish star along with a host of abstract designs. “I’ll have 35 different pieces.”
Zirinsky, who has created Torah breastplates to commemorate the bar mitzvahs of his sons, adapts machining techniques refined with the use of jewelry and hand tools.
“My work gradually moved into abstractions,” says the metals enthusiast who takes commissions among the work of his Studio Z and hauls a trailer as he goes from one summer fair to another. “It’s wonderful to see people react to them.”
Zirinsky became serious about his artistry about 10 years ago. Mostly self-taught, he took classes at the Denver Jewelry Academy.
“So much of my work looks like it’s made of multiple pieces as a weaving would be,” he says, “but there’s only one piece.”
Rader, who has been part of the Ann Arbor event for 20 years, describes this season’s collection as bolder and more colorful. Although she has made Judaica for herself, she keeps her public work secular.
“I describe my designs as a mix of architectural and organic forms,” says Rader, whose wide interest in art came from her late father, former Detroiter Isaac Paul Rader, a portrait painter who gained fame for magazine illustrations and pulp fiction covers.
“I taught myself how to make jewelry and worked on my art before actually giving up my other career. Designing each piece is the most exciting aspect of what I do.”
Rader, who loads her jewelry into a minivan for summer events, works in her home with propane and oxygen torches along with hand tools. Although she has ideas in mind every time a new project is started, the ideas often change as she arranges the elements being used.
“I like to educate the public that there are no mass-produced items at these fairs,” Rader says. “I also like to talk to budding jewelers about building a career.”
The Ann Arbor Art Fair runs July 19-22 in the heart of the city. Theannarborartfair.com.