Commission of Fine Arts stresses depiction of minorities, less sex, in gold coin designs

High Relief designs elicit praise, criticism from CFA
By , Coin World
Published : 01/23/15
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When members of the Commission of Fine Arts appeared to be evenly divided over a proposed gold coin and silver medal set, the panel’s secretary offered a suggestion.

Endorse two designs, urged CFA Secretary Thomas Luebke.

The four commission members present quickly adopted Luebke’s reasoning and endorsed two designs for both the obverses and the reverses of the U.S. Mint’s planned High Relief gold $75 coin and companion silver medal.

As a result, the commission will send Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew recommendations that he select the image of a young African-America woman or a less specifically ethnic woman holding an American flag and torch as the most modern Liberty that has ever graced a U.S. coin.

For the reverses, the commission also recommended Lew pick either an eagle clutching an olive branch or an eagle on a tree branch design that had the strong backing of Mia Lehrer, a Los Angeles landscape architect.

The first reverse design had been previously favored by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee in another coin design competition and was one that the panel had urged the Mint to revise for another coin.

An African-American architect from Durham, N.C., CFA member Philip Freelon has urged the Mint previously to be more aggressive about placing minorities on the nation’s coins and medals.

He praised the 25 proposed obverse designs for gold and silver sets for clearly including a number of “people of color.”

Designs too sexual?

Two of the four women on the panel voiced strong objections to some of the Liberty designs, saying the figures were too sexual.

“The sexuality of some of the designs offends me,” said Mia Lehrer.

Elizabeth Meyer said she agreed with Lehrer that “some of the images are offensive.”

Neither woman singled out what designs they found offensive.

The designs did include a number of images of Liberty robed in suggestive clothing.

Lehrer also refered to one of the endorsed designs that showed a woman holding an American flag and torch as resembling actress and director Angelina Jolie.

The panel urged that, if Lew selects the eagle holding the olive branch, the Mint should do further research to make certain it has the size of the branch in the proper proportion to the eagle.

The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee is scheduled to review the same designs in Washington Jan. 27 and 28. It will also make recommendations to Lew, who has the final say on what goes on the nation’s coins and medals.

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