Al Zaruba's cross cultural upbringing started with eleven years on the island of Guam in the western Pacific. Later he attended high school in the Panama Canal Zone, where he graduated in 1971. He then moved to Los Angeles where he attended Long Beach City College, with a focus on fine art. He joined the Navy in 1974, which resulted in a transformative decade.
Beginning in 1978 he served for 18 months in military intelligence in the Philippines, during the height of the Vietnamese refugee crisis. Human rights abuses deeply changed him and became the foundation from which his professional work arose. His visual renderings then caught the attention of his superiors, which led to an an appointment in 1980 with the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron, as their art director and photographer. During those four years of coast to coast travel, he was briefly considered for a flight on the Space Shuttle, before being physically disqualified due to an a middle ear bone replacement surgery.
As a consequence, he left the Navy in 1984 to pursue his BFA in Los Angeles, which included a junior year in Paris, where he began sculpting. He then completed his MFA at MICA in 1990, during which he became the assistant to the internationally acclaimed sculptor, Sal Scarpitta for 10 adventurious years, installing exhibitions and traveling back and forth to Europe. In 2003- 04, he was appointed a senior Fulbright Scholar to Seoul, Korea for one year. During that time, he lectured extensively in Korea, researched in Japan and was invited to lecture at the Central Academy in Beijing. In 2004, he was invited to return to MICA as an adjunct professor where he served for 14 years. In 2019, he will be traveling to Israel and Egypt for new adventures.
Twice Al has been awarded a Pollock-Krasner Fellowship, along with four MD State grants, among other awards. In 2003-04 he was selected as a Senior Fulbright Scholar to Sung Kyun Kwan University in Seoul, Korea, where he helped open MICA's exchange program. During that time, he lectured extensively around Korea, did research in Kyoto and Nara, Japan and was invited to lecture at the Central Academy in Beijing. He has taught at MICA in the First Year Experience and GFA Departments since 2004.
In 2019, he will travel for an extended stay in Israel and the Sinai, researching Bedouin traditions. Other residencies include TAC at the Tannery in Santa Cruz, CA in 2017, as well as in Ireland in 2014 and 2015. Others include Rochefort-en-Terre in Brittany, France, the Space Program in NYC, Sculpture Space and the Vermont Studio program. Among other collections, his work is in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland, the Everson Museum, NY, The National Museum of Naval Aviation, FL, the Pentagon and the Sung Kyun Kwan Art Museum in Seoul, Korea.
His studio practice has been based in Baltimore, MD since 1990.