Fred Machetanz was a prominent Alaskan painter and illustrator who specialized in depictions of Alaskan scenes, people and wildlife. He first came to the territory in 1935, when he traveled to Unalakeet to visit his uncle and 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 US Navy and requesting a posting to the Aleutian Islands during World War II. After the war, he trained for a short time at the Art Students League in New York, studying lithography and then returned to Alaska in 1946.
Machetanz married Sara Dunn, a writer, in 1947, and the two settled near Palmer, Alaska, in 1951. 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.
He was named Alaskan of the Year in 1977, and American Artist of the Year in 1981 by American Artist magazine. Machetanz was also awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Alaska and The Ohio State University. As a result of their philanthropic activities, several facilities are named for the Machetanz's, including the football field at Palmer High School, a building at Mat-Su College, and a theatre in Wasilla.