Artists Design New Money

Art News - If the U.S. financial system goes south, at least we can turn to the
burgeoning "local currency" movement. John Isaacs -- who shows with Kinz +
Tillou Fine Art and also runs his own design studio, John Isaacs Design --
was commissioned to design a new currency for the Berkshires region in
Western Massachusetts, an area that encompasses Great Barrington, North
Adams, Pittsfield, Williamstown and 26 other towns. Dubbed "BerkShares," the
money now has more than 2,000,000 units in circulation and is garnering
major media coverage as the economic crisis highlights various schemes to
prop up local economies.

Intended to encourage shoppers to spend in the Berkshires, BerkShares are
published by the nonprofit organization BerkShares Inc., which sets the
exchange rate for the new money at 90 shares to $100 -- essentially offering
users a 10 percent discount at participating stores. Some 13 area banks
offer the ability to trade money for BerkShares, and a host of shops in
Great Barrington and surrounding areas accept them, ranging from A Touching
Experience Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork to Zenn New Media, a software
development firm.

As for the design of the money itself, Isaacs says that he took inspiration
from the Euro, describing U.S. money as particularly ugly. He also adds that
his experience designing art catalogues helped him configure the new
currency, calling the task "an exercise in building resonance and elegance
from furnished images and text, typography and color."

Each of the five notes features an image from an area artist:
Sheffield-based painter Bart Elsbach did a black-and-white landscape for the
single; Morgan Bulkeley Jr. offers a folk-art-style image of a skunk, fox,
raccoon and cat on the five; Janet Rickus’ earthy image of a row of turnips
adorns the ten; the twenty has Warner Friedman’s understatedly surrealist
rendition of a white pavilion whose windows look in on a rolling green
landscape; and Joan Griswold’s Hopper-esque image of a storefront at night
graces the fifty (which also features the comforting visage of Norman
Rockwell).