Iditarod: The First Ten Years Visual Arts

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has been represented through art almost from its very beginning.  Paintings, posters, patches, badges, belt buckles and buttons have all been created to celebrate, commemorate and spread the word of The Last Great Race.


Chapter 8 of Iditarod: The First Ten Years is titled “The Creatives: Putting the Race in the Public Eye”.  Here are  lesson ideas for visual arts projects. The anchor standards cited are National Core Arts Standards 2014.  Grade level specific visual arts standards can be found HERE.

NOTE:  Respect all copyright guidelines.

pg. 155 – The Iditarod Shield designed by Bill Devine. It is one of the most iconic symbols of the Iditarod.  Originally made of wood and hand-painted, the shields were used all along the Iditarod Trail as trail markers.  

lesson idea:  Students design an original Iditarod shield of simple line and color which could be a stand alone icon for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (Anchor Standard #5. Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation. Anchor Standard #6. Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.)

pg. 158 – The Official Finisher’s Patch, designed by Rod Perry,  worn exclusively by finishers of the race. Read the article, “The Finishers’ Patch, an Exclusive Icon” by Rod Perry and how he describes his vision of what it should be like and why.

lesson idea: Students identify an “epic, prestigious” accomplishment they have achieved or would like to achieve. Using Perry’s description of components and colors as a guide, task students to design an original patch that they feel would best resemble their accomplishment. (Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.  Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.  Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.  Anchor Standard #10. Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.)

pg.  167 – The Iditarod’s Official artist, Jon Van Zyle, describes how art and mushing combined to lay a lifelong path of success and inspiration.  Read “Art and Mushing: Two Trails that Converged”.  He states “…each of us played an important role during those early years of conveying the spirit of the race and the mysterious allure of Alaska.”  

lesson idea: Students study some of the many Jon Van Zyle art contributions included in the book and write a response on their interpretation of the intent and meaning in them. (Anchor Standard #8. Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.)

pg. 175 – “Fred Machetanz: Alaska’s Eminent Artist” by Jon Van Zyle Fred’s style was unique, beautiful, and based on the color blue.  Blue is a cool color, lending itself well to his paintings of Alaska and dog sleds that graced the covers of “Iditarod Trail Annuals”. Some of those covers can be found in our online museum HERE. Other examples of his art can be found HERE.

lesson idea: Students create at least 2 different Alaska/dog sledding theme paintings using different color palettes to create different feelings. (Anchor Standard #5. Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.)

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