Battle Creek artist hopes pennies will pay off at ArtPrize

Battle Creek artist hopes pennies will pay off at ArtPrize

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A Battle Creek artist hopes thousands of pennies will pay off in top awards at this year’s ArtPrize. The artist, Richard Schlatter, created an 8-by-12-foot portrait of Abraham Lincoln using more than 400 pounds worth of one cent coins.

This is Schlatter’s first ArtPrize entry. The artist and graphic designer said the idea started when he saw a few pennies laying around.

“I started moving them around and created this little design out of pennies, just kind of this miniature, I don’t know if it was a portrait or what but that’s what got me thinking. I took a square foot and figured how many pennies were in a square foot which was 256 and I multiply that times 96 square feet and realized it was going to take over 25,000 pennies to complete it,” said Schlatter.

The finished product, called “A. Lincoln,” features pennies of every year since the coin’s creation in 1909. Used to make Lincoln’s shirt are steel pennies from 1943, when there was a shortage of copper.

“Spent really a whole month just sorting pennies by color. So I had buckets of really dark brown ones and then bright ones in between and then everything else I took back to the bank and got more pennies,” said Schlatter.

The artist said it took him more than 400 hours to create the piece. He explained he coincidentally started the project on the anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday and finished the day he died.

“That was the day we put on the last penny and I didn’t know that until afterwards. Kind of like sent chills up my arm, I thought maybe that’s an omen or something,” said Schlatter.

The grand prize at ArtPrize is $200,000 and this year there is more than $500,000 in award money. If he wins an award, Schlatter said, he’d like to donate to Battle Creek’s Safe Place Women’s Shelter.

“They really need help. I know they’re in the process of painting and they’ve had a lead problem and so forth. And so I’d like to if I was going to win anything I think I’m going to donate a chunk of it to safe place to help them out,” said Schlatter.

The artist said he’s already thinking about a permanent home for the piece when ArtPrize is over.

“I do have an offer from the Chief of Police. They’re building a new police station downtown and they’d like to put it in the lobby of the station. So they made an offer to me to buy it to put it there,” said Schlatter.

With more than 1,500 artists in this year’s festival, Schlatter hopes to keep the winnings local.

“Be kind of neat to bring back a winner to Battle Creek. It’s just an honor to be here,” he said.

His art work is displayed at the Amway Gram Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids. His vote code is 65175. ArtPrize ends Oct. 8.


Corrected: This article was adjusted from its previous post to correct the type of metal used in the lighter-colored pennies.

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