A change in your change: Utahn may help to design new coins
Justin Kunz, a Utah artist selected for the U.S. Mint design program, hopes to "represent the state well." (Courtesy of the Kunz family)
By Christy Karras
The Salt Lake Tribune
Justin Kunz has been thinking a lot about change lately -- the kind rattling around in his pocket. He has been selected by the U.S. Mint as one of 24 artists from around the country who will submit designs for new American coins and medals of all types.
Kunz is a Sandy resident and Brigham Young University graduate who works as a 3-D video game artist for Avalanche Software in Salt Lake City. He also works as an illustrator, paints and draws on the side and teaches at BYU. He applied for the program after seeing an item about it on the evening news and several weeks ago learned he was one of the 18 professional and six student artists selected from 306 applicants. "They expect it to be a renaissance in American coin making," Kunz said.
Kunz and the other artists chosen flew to Philadelphia last week to help inaugurate the Mint's "Artistic Infusion Program" by learning more about the history and science of coin making. On a tour of the Mint, Kunz had to go through "airport security times three," including handing over all his spare change.
Henrietta Holsman Fore, director of the U.S. Mint, said the program came after collectors, called numismatists, asked for a greater emphasis on artistry in American coins.
The artists, from a variety of backgrounds and working in many styles and media, were selected with the help of judges from the National Endowment for the Arts. Artists were judged on their artistic excellence, prior accomplishments and potential for future contributions, Fore said. "I think we are going to have a very fresh approach to the artistry of our coins," she said. "Americans will have a little bit of art in their pockets."
This is the first time the Mint has issued a call for artists in its 212 years. Other countries have government-sponsored schools for artists working in the unique bas-relief medium. "We have to reach out to the mints of the world to see how they do it," Fore said.
Several artists from the pool of 24 will be asked to submit designs for new coins and be paid an honorarium, plus additional earnings if his or her design is chosen from among those submitted.
Kunz said he would love a shot at designing the Utah quarter.
"I'm proud to be from Utah and hope I represent the state well," Kunz said.