WSU Tri-Cities art classes join forces for collaborative exhibit

By Lacey Desserault

Physical currency has been reimagined by students in two art classes at Washington State University Tri-Cities, who joined forces for a unique exhibit showcasing new designs for money. The designs are on display in the CIC building on the WSU Tri-Cities campus.  

Paper note artists (L-R): Tony Olivares, Cole Purvis. Coin artists (L-R): Ellie Welch, Justus Jones, Connor Cox

The two classes, Art 103: 3D art and design, and Art 332: digital art and design, were tasked with rethinking what the future of currency could look like by using skills they learned throughout the semester. Students from each class were divided into pairs and given the opportunity to design a bank note and coin pairing, as well as the monetary symbols used on each of them. The designs were first hand-drawn, then designed electronically. The bank notes were then printed on paper, while the coins were 3-D printed, then cast in aluminum through sand casting.  

Professors Marguerite Finch, who teaches 3D art and design, and Peter Christenson, who teaches digital art and design, developed the assignment to consider the history behind currency as one of the first versions of mass-produced art by the Greeks and Romans. With the advent of credit cards, physical currency is used less frequently, so the assignment required students to think creatively and collaboratively about the interpreted values of their end products.  

“I have always enjoyed collaborating with other instructors on assignments and appreciate this opportunity to work with Professor Christenson and his class,” said Finch. “Prompts like this give students an opportunity to creatively work through a problem and see visually how you can develop a concept in different ways, but that can still be unified as an end result.” 

Student art project on a white pedestal including handmade coins and paper bills

Paper note artists (L-R): Connor Mitchell, Zianna Moon. Coin artists (L-R): Michael Rosenstock, Brianna Blakely

Connor Mitchell, a student in the digital art and design class, appreciated working with one of his favorite professors while having creative freedom to consider the possible uses for his designed currency. “We decided to utilize aquatic elements in our designs as a way to create something that could be used in international trade. I enjoyed creating something that may not be the most practical, but is rather a fun and creative exercise.” 

The currencies will be displayed in CIC until the end of January.