When President Obama signed legislation in October 2009 authorizing the U.S. Mint to issue 350,000 silver dollar coins commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), little did Little Valley artist Barbara Fox know that her design would be chosen for the face of the coin.
In 2007, Fox responded to a “call for artists” by the U.S. Mint to enlarge its pool of professional artists and designers as part of the Artistic Infusion Program (AIP). Fox — an oil and watercolor artist — decided to apply, confident that her commercial art experience, as well as her work in relief artistry, enhanced her chance of being chosen.
“My application process required sending a portfolio, resume and references. I passed the ‘professional artist’ test, so then I was given an assignment to design a coin,” explained Fox. “I was chosen, along with 6-8 other artists from around the country, to join the artists who had been in the AIP for several years. We had a few training sessions, and I was given my first assignment in 2008.”
The competition was stiff with eight full-time designers/engravers working at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia and about 12 artists in the AIP. As a master designer, Fox designed 10-12 coins over the next few years before one of her designs was chosen to be minted.
She said, “I learned a lot during this time; I was given lots of great direction and generous support from the Mint’s art director, and I honed my skills at portraiture at my weekly figure drawing session.”
When the U.S. Mint needs coin designs, they assign artists to the coins. Fox said the design process always includes strict parameters.
“Designing for coins is challenging. We must interpret the narrative (sometimes one sentence, sometimes a five-page essay), design in a round format and add the necessary lettering in an attractive manner. We work on an 8-inch template, and I have learned that the more detail in the drawing, the better, even though the coin is so tiny as to make the details invisible,” said Fox. “Additionally, we designers must keep in mind that the final product will be a bas relief sculpture. We cannot use color or shadows in our design, as these cannot be sculpted.”
In the case of the 2013 Girl Scouts coin, Fox said the finished designs were edited by the art director at the U.S. Mint, then reviewed by the Citizens Fine Art committee and the Citizens Coin Advisory Committee. Since this was a collectible coin, the stakeholder, the Girl Scouts of America, also reviewed the designs. The final approval of the coin design is made by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
“I was assigned the obverse (heads side) and given the narrative ‘Show how Girl Scouts build courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place.’ I did two designs, one showing a group of Girl Scouts planting a tree and flowers, and the portrait design shown here,” said Fox.
She said the committees liked her portrait design, because it showed the different ages and ethnic diversity of Girl Scouts. The coin’s inscription includes the words “courage,” “confidence,” and “character,” which reflect the Girl Scouts’ mission to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” The design also includes the Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary logo and the words “In God We Trust.”
“For my design, I was lucky to have drawings of two young women in our community from my figure drawing sessions. The middle girl is Cedella Sergel and her image is just as I drew it. The older girl on the right, Ana Pierce, had to be edited several times, so it no longer looks like my original drawing (sorry Ana!). I bought the photograph of the third girl from a stock photography service,” Fox explained.
The U.S. Mint is very particular about sources and the artists must provide proof that their designs are original, including copyrights to photos or designs used as reference and model releases from anyone who has posed for them.
Once a design is submitted, Fox said it can take up to a year before the chosen artist is notified, then sworn to secrecy until information is released to the public.
Being chosen to design the Girl Scouts coin had extra special meaning to Fox.
She said, “I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout until I was 12 years old, so I was very happy to be given this assignment. It is the favorite of my designs chosen to be minted.”
Fox’s designs have also been selected for the First Spouse coins featuring Lucretia Garfield, Lucy Hayes, and Frances Cleveland; the National Park quarter for Montana (Glacier National Park) and for Maine (Acadia National Park); 5 Star Generals Commemorative coin; American Eagle Platinum Coin; and William Howard Taft Presidential $1 coin.
The Girl Scouts of America coin is available as a silver proof and an uncirculated silver dollar. Both are available on the website www.usmint.gov.
To meet Fox and see her work, visit her open studio on Routes to Art weekend from May 18–19, 2013, at 7590 Maples Road, just outside of Ellicottville.