Here’s how The Penny Project was born:
One day, Bob Neal and Jeanne Huff, who were neighbors two doors down, were sitting at The Flying M coffee shop in Boise. They were talking about working on a project together. Bob wanted the project to be a new sort of art form that would fit the 21st century. Jeanne, the silver lining girl, wanted the project to make others happy. They both decided that was essential to any project: that it make others happy, even if for but a fleeting moment. They also talked about how people were afraid to be happy; it was still so soon after 9/11/2001. They wanted to do something that would, just for a moment, take that fear away. Something universal. Something that wouldn’t cost very much.
After tossing out a number of ideas that just weren’t quite right or cost too much — lottery tickets, valentines, Easter eggs (they worked but only for one day a year), they walked out to the car. Jeanne spied a heads up penny, bent down, picked it up and called out: “Look! ‘Find a penny, pick it up, all day long, you’ll have good luck!’ ”
“I think this is it,” said Bob.
And so, The Penny Project was born.
The Penny Project was — and is — an interactive art project/installation.
The premise is simple: the artist manipulates the subject’s world to inject a moment of happiness or joy.
How to Create Your Own Penny Project
- Plant a few heads-up pennies on the ground or sidewalk or mall or wherever.
- Make sure they are in a location where there is heavy foot traffic — we spent many days at the local farmers’ market, for instance.
- Position yourself with your camera or smart phone so that the pennies are close by. Make sure you are comfortable, sitting in a chair or on a bench or standing or leaning.
- Then, watch and wait.
- When someone sees the penny and goes in to pick it up, start clicking.
- You may have to practice a bit to capture the “moment of joy” moment. Remember: practice makes perfect Penny Project photos.
- Share your Penny Project photos on The Penny Project blog.
You can also do what we did and create an art installation with the photos. Bob made black-and-white Andy Warhol-esque posters with them. I wrote a book filled with penny lore, original poems and a couple of short stories. We passed out pennies and disposable cameras at the opening. It was cool and fun. And it documented hundreds of moments of joy.
Bob’s last art wish was to take The Penny Project worldwide.
Here’s Bob talking about the Penny Project: