Deborah Acker-Zolnoski to share father Charles Acker’s work at the JHSM 60th gala at the Scarab Club.
Photos courtesy of Deborah Acker-Zolnoski
With the art-focused Scarab Club as the setting, the history of the late Jewish artist and teacher Charles Acker will be detailed in a presentation by his daughter, Deborah Acker-Zolnoski, who is developing a pop-up display of his work.
A member of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan (JHSM), Acker-Zolnoski will be part of the JHSM diamond jubilee gala, where guests will be surrounded by the sculptures of another Jewish artist, Lois Teicher. A current Scarab Club exhibit, “Woman of Steel,” showcases the history of Teicher’s abstract sculptural projects.
The gala, to be held Nov. 5, also will feature a violin performance by Gabriel Bolkosky, who performs a diverse repertoire of classical and contemporary works and has released seven CDs. He will be joined by pianist Tomoko Mack.
Event chairs are Judge Avern Cohn and Lois Pincus Cohn.
Part of the event, which includes a strolling 1959-themed vegetarian dinner, will recognize four members: Sheri Schiff as outstanding volunteer, Ruthe Goldstein as outstanding educator, Michael Kasky as outstanding producer of historical knowledge and Allen Warsen as an outstanding leader among JHSM’s 1959 founders.
“I’m so thrilled to be able to talk about my father’s legacy — what a great artist he was and the different types of art that he produced,” says Acker-Zolnoski. “He went through phases — among them drawing distinctive houses, creating pictures from triangles, recalling his World War II experiences and focusing on equestrian images, including those representing the Detroit Mounted Police.
“My dad was more of an introvert as he created all his artwork in a home studio. I have at least 1,500 pieces of original fine art. For him, it wasn’t about the marketing at all. If somebody admired a picture, he would give it to them.”
Charles Acker, 1918-2007, was a self-taught, mostly realistic artist starting in boyhood. He preferred working with colored pencil and ink but also turned to watercolors. He had a method of using a bit of water and blending colors.
With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and educational administration from Wayne State University, Acker became an art teacher in Detroit Public Schools and introduced his students to the use of all media. For five years, he was arts and crafts director at Camp Tanuga in Kalkaska.
“My dad taught school, came home from work, ate dinner and went directly to his art room,” recalls his youngest daughter, who took note of the special lighting and supplies he installed.
An award-winning student artist, Acker did show his work in a limited number of local art fairs. After working as a camp counselor for the Fresh Air Society, he went on to become a sergeant during World War II, when his drawing skills were utilized for map-making responsibilities.
“When he was in the trenches, he did some drawing,” Acker-Zolnoski says.
Although Acker’s three daughters did not take up artistry, they value their father’s work and have favorite images in their own homes and in the homes of their children. Acker-Zolnoski especially admires and displays a picture of a Victorian home based on what her dad noticed during camping excursions in Michigan.
In 2008, Acker-Zolnoski established a website with her dad’s work. After donating some pieces for nonprofit fundraising, she decided to offer items for sale so admirers could keep what she considered wonderful pieces hanging in their own homes.
“I love to speak and share his artwork,” she says. “He was an amazing man who kept so much artwork to himself. Toward the end of his life, he was in a rehab center and still drew. He just had to draw.”
The 60th anniversary gala of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan will be held 6:30-10 p.m. at the Scarab Club, 217 Farnsworth, Detroit. $218 (members) and $250 (non-members). RSVP, due Tuesday, Oct. 29, to (248) 432-5617. michjewishhistory.org.