ArtPrize winner: ‘Almost like this was meant to be’

How artist Richard Schlatter was inspired and how he'll spend his winnings

ArtPrize Nine, A. Lincoln, Richard Schlatter
"A. Lincoln" by Richard Schlatter, displayed at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel during ArtPrize Nine.


BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — They say a penny saved is a penny earned — but imagine saving close to 60,000 pennies. A Battle Creek artist did just that, and it earned him $200,000.

The public chose “A. Lincoln” as its ArtPrize Nine grand prize winner. But if it weren’t for the artist trying to save a few pennies of his own, it wouldn’t have happened.

Artist Richard Schlatter says it happened by accident.

“I was rolling some coins to take back to the bank, and I had several hundred pennies laying there to roll up,” Schlatter told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday. “I just noticed the many different colors and shades, from real dark to real light.”

That’s when inspiration struck.

“I started playing around with them on the table there and did create a little design just on the spot there,” Schlatter said. “And after about a half hour, I was really intrigued.”

ArtPrize Nine, A. Lincoln, Richard Schlatter
Photo: “A. Lincoln” by Richard Schlatter, displayed at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel during ArtPrize Nine.

Intrigued enough to create an 8-foot wide, 12-feet high portrait of President Abraham Lincoln. It weighs more than 400 pounds and has nearly 25,000 pennies. Schlatter says it took him about two months, working eight to 10 hours per day. He says he later realized he placed the first penny on Lincoln’s birthday and the last one on April 15, the day Lincoln died.

“So it’s almost like maybe this was meant to be, I don’t know,” Schlatter said.

Schlatter said he titled his piece “A. Lincoln” because that’s how Lincoln signed his name.

Now that ArtPrize Nine is over, the portrait will be moved to the Battle Creek Community Foundation, where it will be displayed for the next year or so.

“After that, I hope to move it to a museum,” said Schlatter. “The Lincoln Museum in Illinois certainly would be top of my list.”

Schlatter said he will donate some of the $200,000 grand prize he won to Safe Place in Battle Creek, which provides shelter to victims of domestic violence. He’ll also donate a portion to his church.

“So far, the only thing that we’re going to spend on ourselves is getting a new shower for my bathroom,” he said. “That’s been on my list, so I’ll be able to do that now.”

ArtPrize winners aren’t allowed to enter in back-to-back years, but Schlatter says he’s already working on his entry for the 2019 event.

“I am working on something, but it has nothing to do with coins or climbing around on ladders,” he said.

Schlatter said his favorite part of ArtPrize Nine was meeting so many people and talking to them about Lincoln.

“Just the interaction with the people and the kids and everything,” Schlatter said. “That, to me, was the real prize — not so much the money, but the connection I made with thousands of people during that time.”

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