Dear Mr. Ryder:
In its public meeting of 15 April conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed design alternatives for a common obverse and the first two of five reverse designs in the American Women Quarter Dollar Coin Program, for issue beginning in 2022. The Commission provided the following advice and recommendations.
George Washington (obverse). The Commission members expressed enthusiastic support for alternative #1, originally developed by sculptor Laura Gardin Fraser in the early 1930s; they described this alternative as having the character of classic American coinage. They commented that the portrait of President Washington is powerful, the profile pose is appropriate for a coin, and the composition is strengthened by the slight overlap of the portrait with the inscription “Liberty” at the top. They also commended the quality of the presented image, derived from Fraser’s original sculpted design, in comparison to the line drawings of the other alternatives, many featuring fully or partially frontal portraits that would be difficult to sculpt successfully in bas-relief at the scale of the coin.
Maya Angelou (reverse). Consistent with the preferences of Ms. Angelou’s family and the Smithsonian Institution representatives, the Commission members recommended alternative #2, placing Ms. Angelou’s portrait against the silhouette of a bird in reference to her poem, “Caged Bird,” and her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Observing that the portrait as presented would be extremely small and likely unrecognizable, they suggested enlarging it slightly, with the outstretched arms extending to the edge of the coin; they acknowledged that the pose and the overall composition would successfully convey the theme without relying on an identifiable portrait. They also suggested careful study of the shape for the bird’s beak, body, and tail to be consistent with a songbird rather than a bird of prey.
Sally Ride (reverse). Consistent with the preferences of Dr. Ride’s partner and the Smithsonian Institution representatives, the Commission members recommended alternative #1, depicting Dr. Ride beside a circular window with a view of the Earth. However, they suggested refining the scale and articulation of the spacecraft window to improve the composition’s legibility and to clarify the setting of the Challenger Space Shuttle, which will be critical to the success of the design. They also suggested consideration of including a NASA patch in addition to the mission patch on Dr. Ride’s uniform, as well as verification of the proper placement of the patches on the right or left side.
The Commission looks forward to the review of design alternatives for the remaining coins in this series to be issued in 2022 and in subsequent years. As always, the staff is available to assist you with future submissions.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
David Ryder, Director
United States Mint
801 9th Street, NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20220