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A floor made of pennies at the Holmes

Here’s how the floor will look when finished, a collage of colors and coins. PAULA QUAM/DL NEWSPAPERS

Many are already impressed at how the old, historic Holmes Theatre has been renovated and shined up like a new penny over the past 10 years.

But now, no truer words could be spoken.

Theater staff is busy pulling together a snazzy, new project that has them asking the public for mere pennies — literally.

“We are laying down a copper penny floor,” said Becky Mitchell, excitedly.

The idea is to collect as many of the coins from the community as possible in an attempt to get 573,888 pretty brown pennies to lay over 2,353 square feet of the second floor of the Holmes.

Theatre staff are not only asking the community for pennies, but will also be asking for its help in laying them.

“We think it’s such a great opportunity for school groups, different organizations, families —whoever wants to help — get together and really make this a community project,” said Mitchell, who helped lay a small section of penny flooring up by the ballroom in order to give people an idea of what it will look like.

“The different shades of copper from shiny, new pennies to old, almost black ones, adds a unique and interesting element to the floor that will have such an artistic twist to it,” said Mitchell, “It’ll definitely be the talk amongst other communities and venues.”

The pennies will have to be glued down one-by-one, then grouted and sealed with a protective epoxy covering over the top.

“It’s just too cool not to do,” said Mitchell, who says she’s already feeling the excitement throughout the community as people are making their way up to the Holmes bring her pennies.

Penny donation jars are already popping up at area businesses for the project; in fact, Mitchell says she’s even had people stop her when she’s out and about just to hand her their pennies.

“You know I think this is such a great way for people to take pride in their theatre and to have that piece of ownership in it,” she said, talking about how much the Holmes Theatre has grown over the last 10 years, going from only a few events a year to seemingly one event after another.

She says now they’d love to see the visual arts aspect of the building grow with its venue’s popularity, and believes the penny floor will help boost the building’s “wow” factor.

The busy entertainment hub has also been a venue for several international performers, some of which have already donated their country’s coins to be randomly mixed in.

“I think it would be fun to have kind of a scavenger hunt to try to find all of the different coins,” she said, pointing out one in the sample section from Turkey and one from South Africa.

Penny donation bins will be set up in the Holmes Theatre, and Mitchell says anybody who comes in with pennies can be put on the Penny Hall of Fame, to be filled with names of the donors and displayed in the Holmes.

“So if somebody comes in with just a roll of pennies or donates time to help lay them, our plan is to put everybody’s name on there,” said Mitchell.

A grant from the Lakes Region Arts Council and the Minnesota State Arts Board is helping to fund some other aspects of a larger-scale project for the theatre, including updates to the lobby mobile, a gallery display for artists to show off their work, a mosaic display going up the stairs and more.

Theatre staff is taking penny donations now, and will be kicking off the work sessions to lay the floor on Oct. 25 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Work sessions will follow throughout the weekend and the following week.

Mitchell says one person can lay one square foot in about an hour, so how long the project will take to finish will be determined by volunteers.

 “If people latch onto this, it can be great, if they don’t … well, it could be bad,” she said, laughing.

For more information on how to get involved in the penny floor project, contact Mitchell at 218-844-4221 x117.

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