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Will artwork match quarter ambitions?

How do you portray the majesty of our national parks on a coin the size of a quarter?

It’s obviously in the eye of the beholder, and those judging designs presented for review to the Commission of Fine Arts and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee didn’t exactly see eye to eye.

The CFA, which met Sept. 17, and the CCAC, which met Sept. 22, gave their recommendations for designs of five 2010 coins that are part of the America the Beautiful quarter series honoring national parks and other sites.

Designs were reviewed for coins representing Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Yosemite National Park in California, Grand Canyon National park in Arizona and Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon.

For Hot Springs, the CFA design No. 2, which depicts the doorway of the park’s main building with a fountain in the foreground, while the CCAC preferred No. 4, which featured the fountain.
For Yellowstone, the CFA rejected all designswhile the CCAC liked No. 1, favoring it with 25 out of a possible 27 points in its voting. The design shows a bison in the foreground and Old Faithful in the background.

“The CFA felt the quality of the designs presented were not worthy of the program,” CFA Secretary Tom Luebke said of the reasoning for rejecting all of the Yellowstone designs.

“They liked the idea of depicting Old Faithful with an appropriate image, but they weren’t happy with what they saw,” he said.

It is a challenge to differentiate one park from another on the coins, Luebke conceded. The CFA felt the Mint should focus on whatever iconic image is associated with the park to set it apart, he said.
And we aren’t talking about a mural. Designers are challenged with presenting  renderings of trees, rivers, streams and mountains on a small scale.

“They are putting it on about 1 square inch of space,” Luebke noted.

For Yosemite, the CFA liked design No. 4, which depicted the Half Dome rock formation, but did ask for fine tuning of the rendering. The CCAC preferred No. 3, which shows the rock formation  from a different angle.

For the Grand Canyon, the CFA picked No. 1, but asked that it be reconfigured. The CCAC also chose No. 1.

“The Grand Canyon is already on the state quarter so this has to be something different,” Luebke said. “It’s a challenge. Commission members liked No. 1 because it represented a deep perspective, but felt it needed adjustment.”

For Mount Hood, the CFA and CCA agreed on design No. 3. CFA members felt it had the best composition and simplest design, Luebke said.

As for the basic design template for the quarters, Luebke said the CFA prefers a complete circle rather than a flat edge at the bottom of the design area.

CCAC Chairman Mitch Sanders said his committee was pleased with the designs for the parks quarters.

“There were many positive comments and our preferred designs were enthusiastically embraced, as evidenced by the high ratings,” Sanders said.

“My personal belief is that the program lends itself to excellent numismatic art because each coin will be dedicated to a single subject or scene.”

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