The Commission of Fine Arts has rejected for a second time the
United States Mint’s proposed designs for a quarter dollar to
recognize the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.
That’s the Baltimore military post whose resistance to the British
in 1814 during the War of 1812 inspired what has become the National Anthem.
Meeting in Washington Feb. 16, the panel endorsed a design for
another 2013 quarter dollar in the America the Beautiful series with a
War of 1812 theme — one to mark Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory over the
British on Lake Erie and the International Peace Memorial on the lake.
Approval of that design for the Ohio coin came only after an
artist on the panel described the design as “the most boring” of the
eight options the Mint submitted.
But sculptor Teresita Fernandez, who was highly critical of the
Mint’s submissions, said it was the only one of the designs for the
Ohio quarter dollar she could support. Her selected design shows the
352-foot high tower that rises from a group on trees on a small island
in the lake.
Other designs showed a statue of Oliver Hazard Perry, the American
hero of that battle with the tower in the background. Five other
designs also showed the tower, one with a ghost fleet from the War of
1812 and three with the “Don’t Give Up the Ship” cry that originated
with U.S. forces in that battle.
Commission Chair Earl A. Powell III, director of the National
Gallery of Art, seized Fernandez’s suggestion and within a few
seconds, her choice had the commission’s unanimous backing.
The panel rejected the designs for the Ohio and Maryland quarter
dollars at its meeting in November and asked Mint officials to bring
it new designs to review.
Fort McHenry designs
When the commission took up the 11 Fort McHenry designs at the
Feb. 16 meeting, Powell was far from delighted.
He was upset that the Mint had failed to heed his suggestion that
Fort McHenry’s unusual five-pointed walls should be used as seen from
During the Feb. 16 meeting, the Mint offered 11 views of the fort,
seven of which were aerial views. But Powell did not like the angles
at which the fort was depicted on the designs nor was he happy that
some parts of the fort had been cropped out of view in some designs.
“Try it again,” was his terse advice to the Mint.
The designs for the coins are scheduled to go before the Citizens
Coinage Advisory Committee on Feb. 28. That panel also rejected
initially proposed Mint designs for the two 2013 quarter dollars.
Faced with design rejections by both panels at their November
meetings, Deputy Mint Director Richard A. Peterson told his engraving
staff to produce new designs.
It was not immediately clear if Peterson would order a third
effort on the Fort McHenry coin to satisfy the CFA.
Historically, the CFA has been more approving of Mint designs than
has the CCAC, which is largely composed of coin collectors and does
nothing but review designs for coins and medals and make
recommendations on future commemorative coin subjects.
The CFA is composed of architects, designers and artists, who
spend most of their meetings discussing proposed federal buildings and
monuments for the nation’s capital.
Medal designs reviewed
In reviewing designs for two congressional gold medals at the Feb.
16 meeting, sculptor Fernandez declared she was outraged by some of
the designs that were supposed to depict African Americans and Asians.
Her comments came as the commission discussed proposed
congressional gold medals for the Montford Point Marines, the first
Marine unit composed of African Americans, and Dr. Muhammad Yunus, a
Bangladeshi economist and leader in the fight against world poverty.
Fernandez said some of the women depicted on the Yunus designs
were “clearly Caucasian women,” not the Asian women that Yunus has
been aiding. She chided the Mint to be more racially aware of its designs.
Other aspects of the designs were bad, she said, questioning
whether the feet on a dove on one of Yunus reverse were accurate. She
said that reflected “very, very poor quality.”
The commission ignored the wish of Nobel Prize winner Yunus in
making its recommendation.
Yunus likes a design showing his image against one of the colorful
textile patterns from his native Bangladesh.
The commission, however, likes a design that showed him more in a
profile with a textile pattern in the background and his signature.
For the reverse the panel favors a design showing a lotus blossom
that appears under the words “banker to the poor.” The blossom carries
in his native language the words “Let us send poverty to the museum.”
The commission urged that the blossom be reduced in size.
Diana Balmori, a landscape architect, also was sharply critical of
the Mint designs, as she has been previously.
But it was Fernandez, a new member of the commission, who added
the racial issue again during the discussion of the Marines depicted
on the Montford Point medal designs.
Fernandez said the Mint had made one of the three men in an iconic
photo of log jumping into a Caucasian.
For the Montford Point Marines medal the commission took one of
the Mint’s proposed designs and reworked it in making their
recommendation. The commission suggesting that the portraits of the
three men be expanded to fill the medal.
The panel then recommended that the log-jumping scene, shown on
that obverse or the one on another design, should be placed on the
reverse instead of a scene of Marines marching in formation, which was
depicted on several of the proposed reverse designs.
Powell said the new reverse should carry the same wording
appearing on all of the reverse designs. That wording would read “for
outstanding perseverance and courage that inspired social change in
the Marine Corps.” It would also carry the dates of the unit’s
activation, 1942 to 1949, and the lettering “Act of Congress 2011.”
The unit was named after Camp Montford Point, a North Carolina
base where the black Marines were trained apart from white Marines who
were stationed on the larger Camp Lejune.
Fernandez said she believed that the designs were so poor that
many of the individuals depicted on the six proposed obverses and six
reverses were not African American.
North Carolina architect Philip G. Freeton, the newest member of
the panel, agreed that the racial identify of many of the black
Marines was not clear.
Members of the Montford Point Marines, about 300 of who are still
alive, had indicated they preferred the design showing the three
African American men and the log-jumping exercise. ■