Life as Art: Zaczkiewicz’s winding road

Art Zaczkiewicz. (Photo: Lauren Thomas)

Art Zaczkiewicz. (Photo: Lauren Thomas)

Whether he’s pedaling around town, hanging out at a popular spot or teaching people how to eat better, Arthur Zaczkiewicz is one of Kingston’s most recognizable locals. We caught up with him to get his backstory, his present-story and his perspective on what’s going on.

Carrie Jones Ross: Where did you grow up?

Arthur Zaczkiewicz: My childhood was enchanted, but had a few black clouds. I was born in Queens, and spent my early youth living on the water in Broad Channel (in Jamaica Bay).

CJR: Recollections?

AZ: Fond memories of fishing all the time, having barbecues, and swimming off the dock — our backyard was the canal. Later we moved to Hauppauge, which is in Suffolk County. Felt like we had moved to the country — so many trees. Magical. Of course there were problems. And a profound change after the untimely death of my father. I have a twin brother, fraternal not identical, and two older sisters. Mom taught herself how to drive a Jeep during World War II. Good memories all around.


CJR: College? Thereafter?

AZ: After graduating high school, studied filmmaking and photography at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. More enchantment, then disillusionment. Dropped out and worked as a photographer on Long Island. Also did gigs as a bartender, environmental lobbyist and landscaper on Fire Island. Went into the U.S. Army in 1988, and served in the first Gulf War — Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I was a crewman on an M1-A1 tank. Sixty-three tons of dangerous machinery.

CJR: What then?

AZ: Got out of the service after four years, and worked here and there as a security officer for defense contractors. A recession hit and I went back to school. Joined the student newspaper at Nassau Community College and soon became its editor. It had a circulation of 30,000 and served the campus as well as the local community.

CJR: Ever interview anyone famous?

AZ: I interviewed Ed Koch! After graduation went to SUNY New Paltz, which transformed me into a journalist. I edited the student newspaper and also worked for the Huguenot Herald (now the New Paltz Times). After graduation, I worked for the Times Herald-Record. Won some awards. It was great.

Went down to New York City and worked for business-to-business magazines covering a variety of industries from home goods to electronics. The longest stint was for Women’s Wear Daily, owned by Fairchild Fashion Group and Condé Nast). WWD is considered the fashion industry’s “Bible.” I ran the business and financial desk as its senior editor and trained editors and reporters to develop and nurture sources in the investment banking industry. We broke some big stories and had The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal chasing our stories. My ego inflated.

CJR: Why the big ego?

AZ: It’s important to note that an editor at a business publication is someone who generates stories, trains writers, studies the market and becomes an expert in that market.

CJR: Then what?

I left WWD — as Geddy told me at the time — to follow the “Siren song of greed.” I worked for a conferencing company and produced 40 business conferences for “c-level” executives such as CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, etc. Then the recession hit. And I had to learn how to transform myself once again. So I was a co-founder of the Kingston Land Trust and worked on several social justice projects, which led me to where I work now.

CJR: Where do you work?

AZ: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County as nutrition program supervisor. Prior, I served as community educator for the 4-H program, as the interim issue leader for 4-H and as the interim issue leader for Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play.

CJR: Kids?

AZ: One. Marina. She lives in Gardiner with her mother. She’s eight and an amazing figure skater. She’s on an Olympic training track and just nailed a blue ribbon at the Mid-Atlantic regionals. I was worried that she was spending too much time practicing — five days a week. When was she having time to have fun, I asked. Marina quickly corrected me: “Dad. Skating is fun.”

CJR: Hobbies?

AZ: Biking. Hiking. Flyfishing. You can add photography — for fun — too.

CJR: Tell me about a few of your past 20th and 21st-century lifetimes.

I was in a hurricane at sea once. Crazy stuff. I used to participate in shark-fishing tournaments too. Once, I fell off of a roof. During the Gulf War I was in the largest tank battle of the century and engaged the [Iraqi] Republican Guard. As an editor and reporter, I’ve met some interesting, famous and confused people such as Martha Stewart, George Bush (Sr.), Tommy Hilfiger, Peg Leg Bates and Don King, among others. I’ll let you decide which ones were interesting and/or confused.

In Kansas, as an armored crewman, I held the battalion record for loading the 120mm main gun the fastest. Loading the gun takes several steps and involves quickly lifting a 40-pound dummy round and inserting it into the gun tube. Imagine hurling a load of wet laundry into an eight-inch opening. I did it in two seconds flat.

CJR: What’s the coolest thing you ever photographed for the newspaper?