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Ferndale Area Artists Right at Home in Rust Belt Market

Ferndale Area Artists Right at Home in Rust Belt Market  

(Crystal A. Proxmire, 5/8/2011)

Positioned by a window with a long view of the bustling Downtown Ferndale stretch of Nine Mile, in a building full of eclectic artistic displays, Ralph Parus is in a happy place.  Hundreds of customers had been walking by his booth and he had already made his first few sales.  May 7, 2011, was not only the first weekend for The Rust Belt Market,  it was also the optimistic metal worker’s first time ever selling at one.

Parus lost his job in the electronics industry, and now spends his time doing what he loves – creating artwork and jewelry from various metals.  He’s enjoyed metal work ever since taking a class at the age of sixteen.  It even prompted him to go through the Fine Arts Program at Wayne State.  But until recently it was only a hobby and a dream.  The Rust Belt Market gives artists like Parus a low-cost way to reach people in search of high quality art.

“I spent 13 years fixing VCRs,” he said.  “It was time to try something new.” Parus turned to his passion into profit once the traditional job market let him down.  His welded paper weights, necklaces, and other decorative items have a substantive appeal, many with bulky shapes and raw metals that fit in well with the Rust Belt atmosphere. Though this was his first show, Parus has been selling his items on ETSY at

Parus was one of 60 local artists to stake a claim in the new Rust Belt Market at 22801 Woodward.  The building had been vacant since 2007 when clothing retailer Old Navy left town.  Oxford couple Chris and Tiffani Best have transformed the space into a year-round venue for local artists, which is now open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-7pm.  There are now artsy murals on the walls, sculptured architectural features, fascinating tree-branch lights hanging from extra high ceilings, and a stage in the center of the building and live music that adds to the ambiance.


There aren’t typical craft show booths at The Rust Belt either.  Tiffani and Chris Best insisted on the best when creating their whimsical artistic space, Each vendor is seemingly nestled into a space that perfectly suits whatever it is they are selling.  Even Leo, the Detroit GT truck with tee shirts for sale in the back, had room inside the market.  Harry Fresch and Shawn Bailey said they sold “tons” of shirts already, with the best seller being a piecemeal ghetto sled across the chest along with the words “Detroit, Keepin’ it together.”

Lisa Grix of Royal Oak is another artist who is part of the creative web inside the Rust Belt.  Local crafters may remember Grix as the former owner of Beads SRO in Royal Oak.  The bead store closed in 2006 and she began to work from home.  This gave her time to expand an area of art that she loved – creating spirit-filled Grixdolls.  These one-of-a-kind stick figures are inspired by African talismans.  Each one comes with a unique story, and they are available in many sizes.

“This place is so happy and upbeat,” she said.”The energy here is powerful.”

John Murray of Modern Natural Baby at 224 W. 9 Mile credited Rust Belt for bringing new business into his cloth diaper and baby accessory store.  “We’ve had so many people coming in and talking about it,” Murray said.  “We are definitely getting a whole other crowd because people are here checking it out.”

Mark Mio, owner of the Dollar Castle, said that Rust Belt was “impressive,” and he hopes it continues to bring the kinds of crowds that it did on its first day.

Find out more about the Rust Belt Market at

Read about other Rust Belt artists in our preview story from April 15 –

And check out other Ferndale Art News at –


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