One of a series of four new pennies honoring the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth was released today. The design was sculpted by artist Charles L. Vickers for the United States Mint. On the reverse side of Vicker's new penny is a low relief of a young Abraham Lincoln sitting on a log reading a large book. It seems that Lincoln has found his true calling in the realm of words as he takes a break from his rail splitting duties in Indiana.
Vickers has created an inspiring image that speaks as much of our time as Lincoln's. With high school drop out rates at 20% in California it is nice to be reminded daily that the mind needs to be exercised as much as the body. Lincoln's story is inspiring and as a nation we are fortunate that President Obama understands Lincoln's legacy.
Sculptor Charles L. Vickers' story is inspiring as well. Vickers served with the 101st Airborne Division before heading off to New York in pursuit of his dream to become a professional artist. Vickers studied at the Art Students League, the Frank Reilly School of Art, the Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts. Not all art careers begin with an MFA. Much like young actors, many young visual artists find their way through a series of lessons and classes rather than a degree program.
Most artists do not find immediate gallery representation or steady employment in the arts. Looking for a break, Vickers left New York in 1976 and moved to the city of Eakins, Philadelphia, eventually finding a position at the Franklin Mint. In the interesting nether-world between the blue chip art world and commercial design, Vickers has found his place. The United States Mint site describes how Vickers has progressed:
"Since leaving as a Senior Sculptor in 1985 and establishing his own studio, Charles’ design work has earned him recognition throughout the world and he has been commissioned to work on many private collections"
We are fortunate that Charles L. Vickers joined the United States Mint’s sculptor-engraving staff in December 2003. In the future when I hear the change rattling in my pocket, I will be sure to pull out the coins and see if Vicker's Lincoln is journeying with me.
(The pennies are being produced at U.S. Mint sites in Philadelphia and Denver. They are minted in 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc -- the same metallic content as the first Lincoln penny issued in 1909.)
Charles L. Vickers
courtesy the U.S. Mint
Charles L. Vickers - US Mint