Cultural Quarterly
Fall 2008
Volume XXI, Number 4
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Jack Zink
photo courtesy of Sun-Sentinel

Paying Tribute to Jack Zink
Articulate, Passionate
and a Tireless Advocate for the Arts in South Florida

By Leon M. Rubin

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Ironically, we had planned to profile Jack Zink, the long-time cultural affairs writer and theater critic for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, in this edition of Cultural Quarterly.  I was going to interview him – assuming he would allow us to put him in the spotlight.  I looked forward to the assignment, having admired Zink’s work for many years.

Sadly, Zink died on August 18 after battling cancer – silencing a voice and a spirit that will long be remembered.  “Jack Zink has left a legacy as an articulate and thought-provoking arts writer that nurtured the best in the arts in South Florida,” said Mary Becht, director of the Broward Cultural Division.  “Jack was an ‘institution’ in South Florida – kind, caring and ever-passionate about the arts in this community.”

To pay tribute to Zink, Cultural Quarterly reached out to the arts community for remembrances from those who knew him and had been touched by his writing, his efforts as founder and director of the Carbonell Awards and his exceptional advocacy for the arts.  We are pleased to share those comments and memories with you.

“It was 1978 and the show I was performing in (Beethoven’s Supper Club) just won its first Carbonell Award,” remembers producer and director Bobby Rodriguez of Bobby Rodriguez Productions.  “Entertainment critics Jack Zink and Ray Recchi were big fans of our show.  I called to invite them to my first big band concert and to let them know that the famous Jerry Lewis was going to be my guest conductor.  Jack made mention of this in his column, stating that it was highly unlikely.  He was quite surprised to hear that my guest did in fact show up to an SRO crowd.  Ten years later, thanks to Jack, I became the executive producer of the Carbonell Awards Show for several seasons.  These were some of the most exciting times of my life with fondest memories... Thanks Jack!”

PD Seltzer, founder of Fort Lauderdale Players, also was inspired by Zink’s encouragement.  “Although Jack's primary focus was on professional theater in the tri-county area, he was always extremely supportive of me and of my efforts with Fort Lauderdale Players,” Seltzer says.  “He'd often cover our performances, especially in the summer when we'd bring in a celebrity headliner for our annual ‘big’ musical at Parker Playhouse.  Jack was instrumental in putting The Players on the map, so to speak, and I will be eternally grateful for his encouragement and friendship.”

As his roots in South Florida grew deeper and his influence spread, Zink became known for a great deal more than the words that appeared on the Sun-Sentinel’s pages.  

“It’s almost impossible to think of the South Florida arts scene without Jack Zink,” observes Broward Cultural Council member Patrick Flynn.  “He was more than a thoughtful journalist and enlightened critic. Jack was also a great advocate and wonderful friend.  He was passionate about helping the arts bring joy and meaning to people’s lives.  He really cared, and worked tirelessly to make South Florida a better place.  Jack may be gone, but his spirit will always be in the wings with a keen eye and a sly smile.”

Mark Nerenhausen, president and CEO of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, echoes Flynn’s sentiments.  “More than a critic and a journalist, he was an advocate for the role of culture in our community, an advisor to many, a friend of artists and arts administrators, an innovator and an organizer,” Nerenhausen notes.  “While ever-attentive to the details and nuance of a performance, he never lost sight of the big picture of why the arts matter and how we can work together to achieve those broader goals.  Jack’s legacy is evident in the achievements of every arts organization in this region.”

One such organization is Mosaic Theatre, whose artistic director, Richard Jay Simon, posted a moving tribute to Zink on the organization’s website.  “As a critic, I felt he was always fair, even if he was wrong in giving us a not-so-glamorous review. He was a gentle soul whose passion for his work and this community was immeasurable,” he said.

“I’ve been thinking a lot of how this community can honor Jack Zink,” Simon continued.  “I think as individual artists or companies we have to continue doing the innovative work that will keep shaping this diverse cultural arts region into the place that Jack saw it becoming.  We work harder when we tire and we shine in the face of adversity because that’s how Jack would have done it.”

Simon went on to announce that Mosaic Theatre’s “Spirit Award,” which it presents each year to recognize extraordinary individuals who help drive the mission of Mosaic Theatre and cultural arts in Broward County forward, will be known as the “Jack Zink Spirit Award.” 

Jack Zink was “a true visionary whose impact in this region is nothing short of epic,” Simon wrote.  You can read his entire tribute at

All of us at Cultural Quarterly and the Broward Cultural Division extend our condolences to Zink’s wife, Cynthia Williamson-Zink, as well as his entire family.  We will greatly miss this talented, thoughtful man who engaged and inspired the South Florida cultural community for nearly four decades with his words, wit and indomitable spirit. 

Memorial donations can be made to St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, 2250 SW 31st Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312 or to the Carbonell Awards, P.O. Box 14211, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302-4211.

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