The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree in the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program

By: Jill Westeyn
October 10, 2019

For the first time in the history of the United States Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program (AIP), there is a dual, unique bond among four artists. Two of the program’s newest members, Katelyn Arquette and Peter Beck, studied with two of the program’s veteran members, Richard Masters and Justin Kunz, respectively.

AIR artists Katelyn Arquette, Richard Masters, Justin Kunz, and Peter Beck
Artist Infusion Program (AIP) members (left to right) Katelyn Arquette, Richard Masters, Justin Kunz, and Peter Beck

Arquette first met Masters at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh art department in 2010. Arquette was looking into switching majors from kinesiology and neuroscience to graphic design (medical illustration). She arranged an appointment for a portfolio review, and it turned out to be with Masters—a design professor at the university and inaugural member of the AIP.

As for their initial meeting, Masters recalled, “It was an unforgettable moment when she opened up her sketchbook and I found myself looking at some of the best student renderings of figure studies and portraiture I had ever seen in my nearly 20 years of teaching experience.”

After the meeting, Masters taught Arquette over the course of three years. At the time, Arquette was not familiar with the AIP or Masters’ involvement in the program, until she submitted a design for the Baseball Hall of Fame Coin Design Competition in 2013, and made it to the final round. “While my design was not ultimately chosen, that is when I discovered Rick [Masters] was an artist with the AIP. I was motivated and inspired. I signed up to receive an email notification when the Mint next opened up a call to artists, and the rest is history.”

Beck initially met Kunz during the fall of 2015, while studying at Brigham Young University. Kunz was his professor for only that semester, but their paths crossed regularly until Beck graduated in 2017.

Of Beck as a student, Kunz stated, “Peter was always good natured and quiet, but his work stood out for its technical facility and attention to detail. He was very teachable and willing to take on difficult challenges, including multiple figure compositions.”

In 2018, Kunz shared information about the Call for Artists on his Facebook page. Beck jumped at the opportunity and applied. “I have always been intrigued by sculpture, coins included, and designing for the U.S. Mint gives me the opportunity to combine my interest in sculpture with my passion for drawing.”

When asked what work designed by their respective mentors each found the most inspirational, Arquette and Beck responded with the following:

“I’m [Arquette] particularly partial to Rick’s [obverse design of the] Barack Obama (First Term) Presidential Medal…I’ve always been fond of portraiture, and Rick executed this design very well with its simplicity and lovely rendering.”

“I [Beck] find Justin’s design for the Basketball Hall of Fame coin’s obverse is incredibly complex in the way the elements interact, but it still reads clearly from a distance—a difficult feat…In short, I am impressed by the way Justin cohesively brought together many important elements.”

As new AIP members, Arquette and Beck are hopeful for the opportunities and challenges ahead of them. Additionally, both are looking forward to the day when their designs are selected and minted into coins and or medals.

Established in 2003, the Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) contracts talented, professional American artists who represent diverse backgrounds and a variety of interests. These artists work with Mint staff to create and submit new designs for United States coins and medals.

A special thank you to Roger Vasquez, Office of Design Management, for his assistance.

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