Joe Fitzgerald is a painter and a printmaker. A fifth generation Washingtonian, his great grandfather was Frederick Douglas' next door neighbor. There is no evidence that they were friends. Mr. Fitzgerald attended the University of Maryland, where he majored in Fine Art. His sole triumph there was meeting another wonderful artist, Jean Hill, whom he eventually talking into marrying him.
A brief wrestling match with graduate school at the State University of New York at Oswego convinced him that he had no gift for teaching, and left him in permanent awe of those who do.
He spent 33 years working for the good people of America in daytime jobs at an assortment of federal agencies, the Postal Service, the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the National Library of Medicine, from which he retired in May, 2005. For several productive years, he designed and produced computer art and animation. He then moved into the less satisfying field of managing the production thereof.
From the time when he was forcibly computerized in the mid 1980s, he has felt the need to make actual artwork with his hands. He works in oil, pastels, and woodcuts and has had over a dozen one-man-shows over the years. His art is in a number of private and public collections, including several American embassies abroad. His work is shown at the Foxhall Gallery on New Mexico Ave., N.W. in Washington, D.C. He is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Art.
In 2004, he was among 24 artists selected from over 300 applicants to be in the U.S. Mint's Artistic Infusion Program to redesign America's coinage. Their first assignment was the 2005 nickel. After a rigorous process involving review by several groups, including the National Commission on Fine Arts, his designs were chosen for the obverse of both 2005 Westward Journey nickels, and the reverse of the one released in August, celebrating the culmination of the Lewis & Clark expedition. He is only the 23rd person in the history of the United States to have designed both sides of a circulating coin - and the only one still alive.
The United States minted over a billion of his nickels, which, with any luck, will last for hundreds, even thousands of years. He has never been prouder of anything.