Iditarod artwork raises money for family of injured Anchorage firefighter

Published: Oct. 28, 2017 at 8:14 PM AKDT
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Jeff Shultz and Jon Van Zyle have spent decades visually capturing the majesty of the Iditarod, but through two very different mediums: Schultz is the race’s official photographer, while Van Zyle is its official artist.

But after a terrifying accident involving Schultz’s son, Anchorage firefighter Ben Schultz, the two decided to combine their crafts, creating one piece of artwork to sell as a fundraiser for the family.

Ben Schultz was severely injured after falling from a 100 foot ladder during a firefighting training exercise on June 5. He remains hospitalized at a Colorado treatment center that specializes in brain and spinal injuries, and is making a steady recovery.

“He's doing a lot better. He knows who he is and where he's been and he's happy, he's healthy,” Jeff Schultz said. “He has short term memory problems right now but he's learning to re-walk and he's doing just a whole lot better.”

To help support the family through Ben’s recovery, Schultz and Van Zyle decided to create and sell a collaborative piece of art showcasing both of their artistic styles. They picked one of Schultz’s Iditarod photographs, showing veteran musher Mitch Seavey at the summit of Rainy Pass during the 2011 race. Van Zyle then added to the photo with acrylic paints, putting in a cozy log cabin and some additional scenery.

“Probably the hardest part was matching the color of the photo with the color of the paint to erase so to speak erase certain things, but it's no big deal,” said Van Zyle.

The quintessentially Alaskan scene was reproduced on 125 metal prints that were then signed and sold to buyers across the country. The prints sold out within three weeks. For the artists themselves, it's just the latest example of the outpouring of support the Schultz family has received since Ben's accident.

“It turned out nice I think, but I think the main thing is the kindness and the generosity of the people who payed money to help Jeff's boy,” Van Zyle said.

"My wife calls it collateral beauty," Schultz said. "Even in this tragedy there's such good stuff coming out."