Like a lot of people, freelance curator John Schuerman has been thinking about money, but he's coming at it from a distinctive perspective.

Schuerman and Lia Rivamonte, who leads the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts in Fridley, are the driving forces behind an exhibit about money that opens Friday.

Money is "one of the greatest inventions of all time, yet there's a dark side to it as well," Schuerman said. That's the premise of "Medium of Exchange: The Art of Cash," which runs through Aug. 4.

For the show, Schuerman pulled together 10 artists whose mediums and styles vary wildly. They reflect on their personal spending, being broke, corporate greed and corporate good, political capital, the recession and the look and feel of currency, from the handwritten check to the plastic credit card.

"This is a chance for anyone thinking about their relationship to money to get another perspective on it," he said.

Friday's opening reception will include a poker game on the Banfill-Locke Center's lawn. Buttons with provocative phrases such as "Hire me to raise your children" or "You can buy my vote" will be passed out, Schuerman said.

Schuerman plans a related panel discussion on July 12 and hopes to include financial representatives.

Joblessness to luxury hotels

Some of the artists had been working aspects of the money theme already, such as Karen Searle of St. Paul.

She pieced together shredded-up dollar bills that have been taken out of circulation by the U.S. Mint (they're available by the bag in surplus stores). One piece, a woman's cloak, probably has thousands of now worthless dollars wrapped up in it.

It hints at the "light and dark" sides to money, Schuerman said. "It's also a personal meditation on what she can do to find more of it."

Among the other pieces on display are snapshots of ATMs, including several that appear to be at a luxury Las Vegas hotel, and digitally manipulated images of dollar bills.

Beth Parkhill, of Minneapolis, fashioned a handful of self-portrait assemblages, "Money Bags," in which she reveals her spending habits at different times in her life.

One money bag symbolizing her teenage years shows that money was tight in her family of seven children in a single-parent home; she was the eldest. With her limited funds, she bought soda, candy, jewelry and push-up bras along with pacifiers for her baby sister.

Weekly flights to NYC

Later on, as a consultant for a national bank, she had a so-called higher standard of living. Her suitcase/money bag, which she carried on weekly flights to New York City, spills out with silk blouses, gold belts, pain medicine, relaxation tapes and more.

These days, Parkhill, who works as a social enterprise mentor, aspires to a more sustainable, earth-friendly brand of consumerism.

'Voting with my dollar'

"I'm voting more intentionally with my dollar out of choice. I don't have children, but I care about the future of the planet," she said.

Similarly, for "The Bank of our Commonwealth," Minneapolis artist Rachel Breen will ask people to invest a dollar in the idea that "wealth is only as good as our connections to each other," she said.

On the show's opening night, she'll be stitching dollar bills together in a chain, using a foot-powered sewing machine. The chain, which Breen started last summer, contains just more than $200 at this point.

Donors get a certificate of investment and can sign a logbook. It's a visual way of getting people "to wrestle with the understanding of what value is. How does value get decided anyway? What does it mean to be wealthy?"

Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.