B.I. quarter designer found inspiration during island visit

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 7:15pm
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For graphic designer and artist Chris Costello, loose change isn’t necessarily something to put in a bowl on the dresser at the end of the day and forget about. It may be that one of the coins in his hands has on it a design that he created. It’s his canvas. This will be the case when the Block Island America the Beautiful quarter, which Costello helped create, is released on Thursday, Nov. 15.

Costello is one of a handful of designers who works regularly with the U.S. Mint to create new coin designs that are released each year. He was chosen by the Mint for the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge coin. The Block Island National Wildlife Refuge quarter will be the fifth new quarter issued in 2018 and the 45th overall in the United States Mint’s America the Beautiful Quarters® program.

After he received the assignment, Costello, who lives just outside of Boston, took a trip to the island in February. He knew Block Island because he vacationed here as a kid. He said the design that was chosen by the Mint came from a moment of inspiration that took place at the North Light.

“I was able to go down for a day to take some photos, which helped me be inspired. It was a beautiful day. I was practically the only person there, but there was good activity with the birds,” said Costello. “I went up to the Point  and got out of my car and a black night heron flew overhead; a graceful, beautiful bird. I said, ‘That’s the design.’ Just gorgeous — the lighthouse and the curving of the beach, that was the design.”

The next step, Costello said, is to “do the design in pencil based on the photo and then submit it to the engravers at the Mint.” Costello said he submitted two designs, the second one featured “two piping plovers kind of skimming the dunes.” Piping plovers nest at the Block Island Wildlife Refuge.

From there, the engravers will create a bas relief — “a low-relief sculpture, which is essentially what coins are. They do amazing work replicating the drawing,” said Costello.”

After the design with the night heron was chosen, there was only one change made. “I had to make the lighthouse bigger,” said Costello. From photograph to pencil drawing to sculpting to minting the coin took about two years.

On Nov. 15, it will be released to the public.

When asked what it feels like to get a coin he designed in some change, Costello said, “It feels great. It’s really cool to see. It’s a great feeling.”

The United States Mint, with representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Washington Trust Bank, will launch the America the Beautiful Quarters Program starting at 10:30 a.m. and livestreamed at the following link fws.gov/northeast/live/Block-Island-Quarter.html. 

Block Island School will also live stream the event. Following the program, Block Island school students will be presented with the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge Quarter directly from the United States Mint. 

A coin exchange will then take place at the Block Island Washington Trust Bank beginning at 11:30 a.m. The minimum exchange is one roll ($10) and the maximum is 10 rolls ($100).

Coin details

This design depicts a black-crowned night-heron flying over the beach at Cow Cove looking toward Sandy Point. The North Lighthouse is seen in the background. Inscriptions are "Block Island," "Rhode Island," "2018," and "E Pluribus Unum."

The obverse (heads) of the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge quarter, like all those issued through the program, features the familiar 1932 portrait of George Washington by John Flanagan, restored to bring out subtle details and the beauty of the original model.  

Block Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1973 and covers 133 acres. It is a migratory bird stopover on the Atlantic coast, with fruit-bearing shrubs providing essential food for the species of birds that come to rest there. These wild lands are known internationally for spectacular bird watching and breathtaking barrier beaches.

For more information, visit fws.gov/blockisland and usmint.gov.