UAA | University Art Analysis — Husband and wife duo support art at UAA with mural

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

UAA students and faculty don’t have to stray far from campus to catch a glimpse of Alaska’s magical northern lights. The Engineering and Computation building stairwell houses a multi-paneled mural that depicts the aurora. Jon and Jona Van Zyle, an Alaskan artist couple, are responsible for painting and donating the artwork.

The aurora borealis is captured on a series of panels that winds along the wall of the stairwell in the Engineering and Computation Building. Photo by Gabby Vance.

In 2004, the Van Zyle’s donated “The Sky’s the Limit” mural. The mural is constructed from multiple different panels of different sizes placed next to each other at varying heights.

“I like [the mural],” freshman nursing student Emily Dulski said. “It looks very realistic.”

Jon Van Zyle’s three-decade-long artistic career centered around Alaska. His paintings and prints portray the Alaskan wilderness, landscapes and the Iditarod trail race. Van Zyle ran the Iditarod in 1976 and 1979, according to In 1970, he was named the official Iditarod artist and in 2004 he was inducted into the Iditarod Hall of Fame.

Jon Van Zyle was named the official Iditarod artist in 1970, and also raises Siberian huskies with his wife Jona. Picture courtesy of

As the official artist of the Iditarod, Van Zyle supports the race every year by creating the official poster.

“His acrylic paintings go beyond the race though, and encompass so much of the Alaskan beauty,” according to

Jon Van Zyle has created art in various forms throughout his artistic career, including prints, posters, stone lithographs and illustrated children’s books. Van Zyle was also featured in multiple one-man exhibits across the U.S. and Europe, according to

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“We don’t have children, but we can leave a legacy for creative young people, the future artists,” Jon Van Zyle said in a fall 2004 UAA accolade. “We want to encourage the university to continue to support the arts and we want to support the university in its work to maintain programs and opportunities in the arts.”

The Van Zyle’s are known for their generosity and support of the arts, such as their commitment to the Iditarod, according to the accolade. By donating the mural, they hoped to inspire young artists to keep art alive at UAA.

“Art is one of the first things cut out of school budgets,” Jona Van Zyle said in the accolade, “yet art is such an integral part of our lives. It’s more than painting. Artists design your car, your clothes, your furniture. If you stifle young people’s creative instincts in school, what will happen in the long run for the larger community?”

“The Sky’s the Limit’’ mural is located in the stairwell of UAA’s Engineering and Computation Building. Photo by Gabby Vance.

Thanks to the Van Zyle’s donation, UAA students and faculty have a permanent reminder of both the northern lights and art at the university. “The Sky’s the Limit” lightens up the stairs of the ECB and supports UAA’s art programs.

Have you seen art at UAA you want to know more about? Contact Gabby Vance at [email protected].