VIDEO: From aviator to artist - RED - Relevant. Essential. Denver.

VIDEO: From aviator to artist

Ivan Schlutz was born to fly planes, but a brain injury altered his flight path. Here's how he overcame tragedy to become an acclaimed sculptor.

March 14, 2019

By Lindsay Pierce Martin

His dad was a commercial airline pilot, his mother was a flight attendant. He earned his pilot's license before his driver's license. Flying planes was like riding a bike for Ivan Schlutz of Longmont.

In "Spirit Seeker" by Ivan Schultz, a Northern Cheyenne offers his prayers to the Great Spirit as the morning sun rises. Photo courtesy of Ivan Schlutz
In "Spirit Seeker" by Ivan Schultz, a Northern Cheyenne offers his prayers to the Great Spirit as the morning sun rises. Photo courtesy of Ivan Schlutz

After graduating from Metropolitan State University's aviation program in 1986, Schlutz piloted charter flights and worked on planes at Longmont Airport while interviewing for commercial pilot positions at major airlines.

"I was where I wanted to be," he said. "Everything was right there."

Then tragedy struck.

Schlutz was working on an aircraft engine in 1990 when a propeller sliced into the left side of his skull. Life-saving surgery removed about 20 percent of his brain and left the right side of his body paralyzed.

During recovery his therapists gave him playdough to squeeze with his fingers to help him regain movement in his right hand; those exercises became art as Schlutz spent hours forming pots and figurines. By 1995, Schlutz hadn't just regained movement in the right side of his body, he had also discovered a new passion and enrolled in a sculpting class with Loveland artist Fritz White.

Nearly 25 years later, Schlutz is an acclaimed Colorado sculptor.

Watch RED's video to learn how Schlutz turned personal tragedy into art and to see more of his sculpture.


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