This article from Minneapolis describes a man's quest to build a map of the U.S. using coins.
A Brooklyn Park man has mapped out a massive, coin-operated piece of “big crazy artwork” -- a U.S. map made of 24,000 pennies enclosed in glass.
The living room in John Ebert’s Brooklyn Park townhouse is, well, unlivable.
The sofa and chairs have been pushed into the dining room. In their place are large sawhorses supporting a massive pane of glass covered with small tubes. Pieces of taut string extend from several points to the living room ceiling and connect to a GoPro camera.
Every time Ebert fills up one of the tubes with pennies, the camera clicks, making another frame in what will be a stop-motion video of Ebert’s “big crazy artwork”: a map of the United States made out of 24,000 pennies and enclosed in glass.
Think of it as crop art, with copper-coated currency in place of corn kernels and rye seeds.
“I get a lot of comments like ‘You must be brilliant to do that’ and ‘You must be crazy to do that,’ ” he said, “sometimes from the same person.”
Ebert has calculated that by the time the map is done in May, he will have poured almost 700 hours and $3,709 into the project.
A color test
The only thing he hasn’t determined is what the heck he’ll do with it.
“When it’s done, I’ll get three or four strong people to move it,” said Ebert, 51. “Nothing is arranged. I’d unveil it, and if there were 10 people we could do it in my garage, but if there were 100 people, we could do it in a gallery or a hotel convention room and have a party.”
And after the unveiling of the 7- by 4-foot, 554-pound behemoth?
Well, he isn’t sure about that, either.
“I hope to sell it. Otherwise I’ll try to get it into a museum or an art gallery,” he said. “If no one buys it, I might build a house and put it in there.”
Ultimately, Ebert’s goal isn’t to gain fame or fortune. He just wants to complete his mission of “setting up a pretty big challenge for myself, and methodically taking two or three years to get it done.”
Oh, and to get his living room back.
Ebert is chronicling his project on a website called, appropriately enough, Determination.
Making that map a reality was almost equal parts electronic and physical work. Ebert’s meticulous nature and his software skills (he’s a data-services engineer by day) helped the planning immensely.
Ebert wrote computer programs to plan the construction, borders and colors of each state, as well as the geographical perspective. (For example, most two-dimensional maps make the Canadian borderline from the Dakotas to the Pacific Ocean look curved, when in fact it is straight on the globe.)
The colors were “a whole other program,” he said, made more difficult by the fact that pennies come in three basic hues: shiny, dark and in between. Through arduous sorting, with longtime friend Kelly Weyrauch sometimes pitching in, Ebert was able “to stretch the in-betweens into two colors” and give himself four shades to make the states distinct.
That meant examining every last penny — “by far the most boring and miserable part of the job” — to pick the ones whose “heads” would form the front of the map and whose “tails” would bring up the rear. More physical labor ensued: building the frame (where his hobby as a woodcarver came in handy) and drilling thousands of acrylic tubes, blessedly for only one hour at a time.
“That’s the only time it feels like work,” he said, “but there is a meditative quality to it. It can be relaxing.
“But 90 percent of this has been fun.”
To read the complete article, see:
Penny wise: Brooklyn Park man builds a massive U.S. coin map
Wayne Homren, Editor
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