The art director for the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards can trace his passion back to a local neighborhood, a classic American novel and a neighbor with an eye for talent.

J. Patrick Adair’s work will be on display during the SAG Awards at 8 p.m. Sunday on TNT. He will be backstage while the actors are picking up their trophies and delivering their speeches.

“Backstage is really the place for me,” he said. “It’s such a great feeling the night of the show when the guests are coming in and the lights are going up. That’s the end of my job, and I can sit back and watch the show.”

Adair attended Greer Elementary School and Jack Jouett Middle School before starting at AHS, from which he graduated in 2000. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2004 after double majoring in drama and media studies.

The drama bug bit while he was at AHS, and Adair initially was interested in acting.

“[Drama teacher] Fay Cunningham really fostered my interest in performance at that point,” he said.

His flair for building models was well known by the time his neighbor across the street handed him a novel and said, “ ‘See what you can create from this,’” Adair said.

Richard Warner, a professor in the UVa Department of Drama, had just given him a copy of “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller.

“It was my first experience making things out of foam board, so I really struggled to get the shape of the set to match what I had in my head,” Adair said.

The project helped ignite a passion for set design, and Adair still enjoys creating the models that will be used for the SAG Awards and other events. Clients share his fascination when he unveils his concepts, too.

“People’s eyes really light up when they see the models,” Adair said. “It’s that dollhouse effect of seeing your vision come to life.”

The model for the awards set will be backstage with him on Sunday evening for last-minute reference as needed. But after all the hard work Adair and his colleagues have been investing in the SAG Awards set since Jan. 11, all the audience will see is an elegant environment for dazzling gowns and honored achievements.

“If I’ve done my part right, you’re focused on the actors,” he said. “My work recedes and pushes their work forward.

“We envision a world, we conceptualize it and we bring it to life on a very fast-paced schedule. It’s hard work. It’s so important to remember how many people are involved in bringing it to life.”

Adair has spent a decade working in television, and his other recent projects include “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” “Conan” and Food Network’s “Baking Championships.”

Adair has another Virginia tie that many audiences will appreciate — the label design he’s in charge of for Reason Beer.

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