Tons of Fun Travel of Kenton recently took a group on a 12 night tour of Alaska with a 7 night northbound Voyage of the Glaciers, 1 night in Vancouver, 2 nights in Denali, 1 night in McKinley, finishing up with one night in Anchorage. Tons of Fun Travel owners, Stephanie & Robert Temple escorted the group of 53 on their journey. The majority of the group were from Hardin County and while doing the 24 months of planning for the trip, Mrs Temple knew that many in the group would like some type of exposure to the paintings of Kenton native, Fred Machetanz. In researching opportunities to see a Machetanz display while in Alaska, many in the group were disappointed to find that the Anchorage Museum of Art & History was undergoing renovations and the Machetanz exhibit there would not be available to view. Mrs Temple made contact with a local Alaskan tour company, Salmon Berry Tours, that she works with on customized Alaska vacations, and explained the dilemma and a search began. Tons of Fun Travel was able to surprise their group in Anchorage with a private viewing of one of the largest Machetanz exhibits at the Obeidi’s Fine Art Gallery. Even though, this gallery is closed on Sundays, on July 31st, owner Mousa Obeidi opened his gallery so the Tons of Fun Travel group could have a private viewing of the vast collection of authentic Machetanz prints on display.
According to sources, Fred Machetanz, born February 20, 1908 in Kenton, Ohio, was an Alaskan painter and illustrator who specialized in depictions of Alaskan scenes, people and wildlife. Growing up on N. Detroit Street and graduating from Kenton, he was the art editor of the yearbook which he collaborated on with Mary Lou Johnson. He then attended Ohio State University where he designed the artwork for the OSU football covers. He also studied at the Chicago Institute of Art & Design. He first came to the Alaska territory in 1935, when he traveled to Unalakleet to visit his uncle, Charles Traeger, who ran a trading post there and offered him a 6 week visit. He spent 2 years developing a portfolio of Alaskan scenes. After leaving Alaska, he spent some time as an illustrator in New York, but longed to return to Alaska. He returned in 1942 after volunteering with the U.S. Navy and requesting a posting to the Aleutian Islands during World War II. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was responsible for intelligence for the North Pacific Command. After the war, he trained for a short time at the Art Students League in New York, studying lithography under Will Barnet, and then returned to Unalakleet in 1946
Machetanz married Sara Dunn, a writer, in 1947, and the two settled near Palmer, Alaska in 1951. It was told that Sarah had planned to write about Alaska and Brazil and that was the reason for her arrival in Alaska, but she never left, so no stories about Brazil were written. They published several books together and collaborated on films for Walt Disney, the Territory of Alaska, and Encyclopedia Britannica. They also made many promotional and lecture tours through the lower 48 states from 1948 through 1960. The turning point in Fred's painting career came on April 21, 1962, when Bob Atwood, editor and publisher of the Anchorage Times, arranged for a one-man show of his paintings. The works at the show sold quickly, and the success allowed Fred to pursue painting full-time. Machetanz died in October, 2002 at age 94.
Local residents may remember that in the 1950s, Machetanz and his wife, returned to Kenton to do lectures at the local schools and brought sled dogs with them for their lectures. Another item of local interest, in the book “Barney hits the trail”, the mother depicted in the book is Sara Machetanz, the father is local man, Jim Conner, and the boy is local Jerry Wolf, and the girl is Eileen Malone, sister of Jane Phillips Furbush. Bill Malone, Jane’s brother, is the boy on the cover of the OSU/Purdue homecoming cover done by Machetanz.
For the Hardin County Sesquicentennial in 1983, a collection of Machetanz paintings that were owned by local residents were put on display at the Hardin County Courthouse. The Sullivan Johnson Museum in Kenton has a very nice Machetanz exhibit in the upstairs. It can be viewed by the public, Tuesday-Friday afternoons. Machetanz paintings are also on display at the Mary Lou Johnson Hardin County Library and Kenton Sr High Library. While traveling in Alaska, whenever, we mentioned Fred Machetanz to local store/art/gallery owners, it was obvious that he was much loved and reknowned by the Alaskan people. Machetanz was the Uncle of Eleanor Jane Faulkner, who was just 3 years younger than Machetanz. EJ Faulkner taught at the Kenton Schools for many years. His great nephew, Dave Faulkner, still resides in the area, and we were able to speak with him in reference to our article.
Thanks to Sue Sanders & Dick Aller for their assistance with researching the facts.
Submitted by: Stephanie Temple, Owner-Tons of Fun Travel
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