Students to design coins for U.S. Mint

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Rebecca Armstrong, a senior majoring in illustration at Virginia Commonwealth University, received an email last year about a job opportunity for an unlikely employer: A U.S. government agency.

“It’s so cool. I tell all the people in my classes that I’m contracted by the U.S. Mint,” Armstrong said in an interview. “I never thought I would ever say that.”

After submitting her resume, an art portfolio and a sketch of a Maryland state quarter, Armstrong was chosen to be an Associate Designer for the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program.

Participants in the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program are invited to create designs for coins and medals. The program consists of 18 Master designers, who are professional artists, and six Associate Designers, who are undergraduate or graduate student artists that have familiarity with sculpture, engraving, graphic design, drawing and other visual arts.

“The United States Mint included both professional artists and art students in order to get fresh design perspectives and to stimulate interest among younger artists in the rich tradition of coin and medal design,” said Stacy Anderson, Program Analyst in the United States Mint’s Sales and Marketing Division

Based on the success of the program, the Mint announced that it is extending participants’ contracts for another year and seeking applicants to fill two Master and 14 Associate designer positions. Applications are due Feb. 11, 2005.

“This historic program has produced outstanding results in its first year,” U.S. Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore said in a recent press release. “With this new call to artists, we again seek the best in America, to lend their creativity to our Nation’s coins and medals.”

In November 2003, the Mint issued its first call for up to 20 professional and 20 student artists to help “enrich and invigorate the designs of U.S. coins and medals,” a press release said. After receiving 306 applications nationwide, an application review board, consisting of Mint and National Endowment for the Arts officials, recommended six students and eighteen professional artists to the program.

If they choose to and accept the design contract, Master designers receive $1000 and students receive $500. Though an artist can submit multiple designs, the Mint only pays the artist for one. Since the program’s launch, the Mint issued three contracts to members of the Artistic Infusion Program, who designed the 2005 nickels commemorating the Lewis and Clark expedition. Artists will be designing coins for the 50 State Quarters Program, which is set to release five coins a year until 2008.

According to Anderson, who manages the Artistic Infusion Program, it is realistic that some student’s designs will be able to compete with professional artists’ designs. Student designs were finalists for the 2005 nickels but the Mint ultimately chose to use the professionals’ designs.

“The students’ designs have been competitive,” Anderson said. “Designs by our student artists have been in the final, narrowed down groups for both the 2005 and 2006 nickel redesign initiatives.”

In April 2005, the Mint will hold its annual meeting in Philadelphia for newly accepted program members. During the meeting, members attend seminars, get design advice, and learn about the coin making process.

“The United States Mint looks forward to receiving applications from art students at schools across the country,” Anderson said. “We hope to educate more students about the beautiful art of coin and medal design and provide them with the opportunity to share their wonderful design talent with the nation.” Rebecca Armstrong says that the program has given her “real world” experience with illustrating and legal issues and contracts surrounding the industry. She also says that the Mint supplies program participants with criticism for their sketches.

“I really like the idea that there is a possibility one of your designs could be mass produced,” Armstrong said. “This whole program has just been a blessing.”

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