A University of Wisconsin Oshkosh art professor’s work will be featured on the Medal of Honor commemorative coin for 2011.
Richard Masters’ design of an Army Infantry soldier carrying another wounded soldier to safety was selected to appear on the reverse side of the silver dollar commemorative coin. The coin represents what the Medal of Honor stands for, which is going beyond the call of duty with courage and self-sacrifice.
Masters has worked with the U.S. Mint since 2004 as a member of the Artistic Infusion Program. He has designed two other coins, including a log cabin penny in celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, and the Nebraska state quarter.
“Coins are small objects that we all use and pass but we take for granted,” Masters said. “They are actually small forms of public art that stay around for thousands of years and show the national character of a country.”
While getting to know his students at the beginning of a design class, Masters discovered that one of his students, sophomore fine arts major Eric Brown, of Neenah, was involved in the Army Reserves.
“I decided I needed models to pose mainly to be original,” said Masters. “I like to take my own pictures for my designs because there is more space to be creative.”
Brown, who has been involved with art at some level his whole life, was willing to pose with his friend in uniform to help Masters come up with some unique ideas. Masters was then able to use the photos to help begin the drawing process.
“Like I tell my students, I start with thumbnail sketches and try to think with my pencil,” Masters said. “I doodle out ideas until one merits further development.”
Masters worked on the design for about a month until it was finished and ready to be submitted to the U.S. Mint.
When Brown heard the design was chosen he said he was happy for Masters. “It’s nice to see someone who I would consider a friend and mentor succeed,” Brown said. “I’m very happy with the outcome of the design. I think it conveys the message and spirit of the Medal of Honor perfectly.”
After 9/11, when Brown was only a freshman in high school, he became interested in joining the Army. When he graduated in 2005, he became involved with the Army Reserves and has become more in tune with the meaning behind the heroic medal.
“The Medal of Honor, to me, is the embodiment of what it means to be a soldier,” Brown said. “It is reserved for those who in the most dire and dangerous of scenarios act in a selfless manner at great personal sacrifice.”
After a tour in Iraq, Brown transferred to the UW system from a private art school in Milwaukee because of the Veterans benefits offered by the state.
“I chose art as a direct passion and outlet and decided to pursue it professionally,” Brown said. “It’s always been my major.”
Masters described Brown as a good student who seems to have a certain level of maturity due to his training in the Army Reserves. The qualities that Brown gained from being a soldier allow him to be a great representation of the heroes that came before him, and those who will come after him.
“It feels good to be a part of something so permanent,” Brown said. “Even if the likeliness had to be changed, I will still know that’s me on the back of the coin.”