Zack grew up in rural Holland in SE Pennsylvania, and by the time he graduated high school, Holland was sucked into the Philadelphia metro and lost its identity to suburbia. Armed with degrees in Theater and Philosophy from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, he had zero job prospects so he moved to London to pursue theater.
Two years later his visa expired and he did what every other American theater major does – he moved to NYC. Zack spent 8 years in Brooklyn running theater companies and working in restaurants to determine that NYC didn’t need another theater or restaurant, and he looked around to see that he was in a bubble of people who thought like him, acted like him, ate like him, etc.
Knowing there were many people who thought differently than he did, he went on an epic 22-city road trip across America over the summer of 2007 to find them and settled in Des Moines. Knowing no one in Iowa, Zack got to work meeting as many artists as he could in order to found the Des Moines Social Club in 2009, a non-profit arts and education center that today sees over 300,000 patrons annually. DMSC was Zack’s first foray into using creative placemaking as a cultural and economic development tool.
In 2015, Zack felt the pull back to rural America and founded Alchemy Community Transformations as the Creative Placemaking department at McClure Engineering Company. Zack is not an engineer, but he does have an obsession with 3D printed buildings and solving the rural housing crisis. In 2020 Zack, along with his team at McClure, spun out to become Atlas Community Studios, a wholly independent placemaking and economic development group.
He serves on the boards of Iowa Public Radio and the Iowa Rural Development Council. He lives with his wonderfully patient and supportive wife Sarah and their three kids Mira, Benjamin, and Fiona. Zack is an Opinion Contributor for The Hill and his work has been written about in the New York Times, Time Magazine, Politico, The Atlantic, and dozens of community publications. Zack loves exploring rural communities, producing new pieces of theater, creating restaurant concepts, and has an unhealthy passion for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bachelor of Arts
Theater Arts & Philosophy
AWARDS & HONORS
2011 Des Moines Citizen of the Year
Des Moines’ Business Record 40 Under 40
New Leaders Council 40 Under 40
Iowa Governor’s Volunteer Award
DSM Young Professional of the Year
Des Moines Social Club – Founder and Director
Capital development fundraising and financing
Business plan development (non-and-for profit entities)
Corporate / community relationships