WASHINGTON — The new Iowa quarter should feature an aerial view of the effigy mounds known as the “Marching Bear Group,” a key advisory panel recommended Tuesday.
The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee reviews designs for all new coins, including the “America the Beautiful” series of quarters now being released in sets of five per year.
The 56 quarters in the series honor a national park or site in each state, Washington, D.C., and the territories.
For Iowa’s quarter, set to be released next year, the committee has struggled to identify the best design to represent the state’s Effigy Mounds National Monument.
“This is a hugely difficult park to illustrate,” Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, a member representing the general public, said during Tuesday’s deliberations.
The monument, located in a picturesque portion of northeast Iowa along the Mississippi River, includes more than 200 American Indian ceremonial and burial mounds. Many are shaped like animals such as bears and birds.
The National Park Service describes the mounds as a “regional cultural phenomenon.” The mounds preserved at the site are considered sacred by many Americans — in particular, the 20 culturally associated American Indian tribes, according to the park service.
Those include the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska; the Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa; Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska; the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska; and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.
The advisory committee reviewed an initial portfolio of 13 designs for the Iowa quarter last year but asked for more proposals. It reviewed the old designs along with 14 new ones on Tuesday.
During the discussion, several members alluded to the difficulty in depicting low-rise earthen mounds on a space the size of a quarter. But two camps quickly emerged around a couple of the new designs.
Design No. 2 depicts a peregrine falcon holding an arrowhead with an image of a bird-shaped effigy mound. Mayapple wildflowers commonly seen in the park are featured to the left and right of the arrowhead.
The falcon represents a falcon release program in the park, while the arrowhead is a reference to those credited with building the mounds, as well as to the National Park Service’s conservation efforts.
That design was praised for the skilled rendering of the falcon, its use of negative space and overall clean artistic feel.
“This is a beautiful, beautiful design,” said committee member Heidi Wastweet, an American medalist and sculptor. “It’s well composed. It’s well drawn. It encompasses not only the mounds but the other aspects of the park and I just don’t think we could have asked for anything more.”
But other members of the committee suggested that while the design was aesthetically pleasing, it puts too little emphasis on the park’s centerpiece — the mounds themselves.
Steve Roach, who also represents the general public on the committee, favored Design No. 9, which shows several of the mounds from the air, with some trees for perspective.
Each member of the committee was able to award 0, 1, 2 or 3 points to each design. Ultimately, No. 9 won the day with 17 points. The runner-up was No. 2 with 14 points. None of the other designs cracked double digits.
The committee’s recommendations will be forwarded to the U.S. treasury secretary, who will make the final decision.
The Commission of Fine Arts, which also weighs in on new coins, is scheduled to revisit the Iowa design at its meeting Thursday.
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