The Candy Project

“Okay! So let me get this right—me and my mom are going to go to Galena to pick out [one hundred dollars worth of] candy?”

– Carter Collins

In March 2021, I commissioned first grader Carter Collins to ideate a project by asking: “What would you do with one hundred dollars?” The following series of interviews are sections of the ideation process to bring Collins’ hundred dollar project into fruition. 

Carter decided that he wanted to buy one hundred dollars worth of candy for every person at Bryant Elementary School in Iowa. Carter went to Kandy Kitchen in Galena, Illinois and personally selected various flavors of salt-water taffy to share with his school. While discussing the purpose of the project, he decided to give his teacher, Mrs. Oberhoffer, all of the candy to conduct a math project for the students. 

After discussing Carter’s aspirations with Mrs. Oberhoffer, she decided that every person in the school would guess: How many pieces of taffy are there in this candy pile? The three people who make the closest guess will take a photo with Carter and help him distribute candy to the rest of the school. Carter and Mrs. Oberhoffer will count the candy together on May 14th and the candy will be distributed the last week of the school year. 

Carter Collins curated, designed, and built the candy pile inside a display case in the hallways of his school. The final shape of the project was influenced by artist Félix González-Torreswork [Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.] also known as “candy piles,” which weighs 175lb at all times and encourages viewers to take a piece of the candy. 

To learn more about the final outcome of this project, visit

Emma Duehr Mitchell: What are some things that you think cost one hundred dollars?

Carter Collins: This [a toy wand]? I am just kidding, because this realistically only cost like 20 dollars.

Emma: Realistically, what do you think is worth one hundred dollars?

Carter: That house?

Emma: That house costs thousands of dollars.

Carter: That car?

Emma: That, too, cost thousands of dollars.

Carter: That bed?

Emma: Maybe the mattress, sure. 

Carter: What about me?

Emma: You are priceless. 

Carter: What does priceless mean?

Emma: Like there is no amount of money that is as valuable as you are. 

Carter: [giggles]

Carter Collins holding a $100 bill. Photo taken by Samantha Duehr.

Emma: What would you do with one hundred dollars?

Carter Collins: I would really like to go to the candy store and take all the candy.

Emma: For yourself?

Carter: Yup!

Emma: What if I said that I would actually give you one hundred dollars to do an art project with?

Carter: From where?

Emma: The money would come from another artist, who is my teacher! The hundred dollars has to fund an art project that involves other people, so not just yourself. What would you do then?

Carter: I would give my teacher the hundred dollars. 

Emma: What do you think your teacher would do with a hundred dollars?

Carter: Umm. She would buy us all a bunch of snacks —we wouldn’t have to share it— and we could return to the classroom after lunch. 

Emma: So you’d want the hundred dollars to buy snacks for everyone?

Carter: Yes, for all twenty of us. 

Emma: That’s a lot of snacks for twenty people. 

Carter: Maybe we could share with the whole school. 

Emma: What kind of snacks?

Carter: Like Sour Patch Kids or Fruities—if you don’t know what Fruities are they are like this little candy, like rectangular but carved more like a sphere. It’s not like a normal circle. It looks like this [draws in chalk]. This is what a Fruity looks like. Now I just have to draw the same thing on the other side. Like a cylinder. That’s what it looks like.

Emma: What do you think your teacher could do with that much candy? 

Carter: Well we could do a math project with it. The only thing we are doing in first grade right now is adding and subtracting. We would probably do something like that. 

[A few weeks later]

Carter: How is the project?

Emma: What do you mean?

Carter: You know, the project with the… the… THE CANDY PROJECT!

Emma: Well, actually I have some exciting news!

Carter: What is it?!

Emma: So, I talked to your teacher. 

Carter: Oh, really? How did you do that?

Emma: I sent her an email. She and your principal are okay with you bringing in a hundred dollars’ worth of candy for the entire school for the project. 

Carter: Really?! Wow. 

Emma: What do you think?

Carter: What is the opposite of horrible?

Emma: Incredible?

Carter: Yup!

Emma: So the next step is that SOMEBODY needs to go pick out the candy!

Carter: You?!

Emma: No, you!

Carter: Mom, when is the next Halloween? She said October… I’ll get trick-or-treating—or, Emma, I need you to buy as much candy as you can find.

Emma: Remember that this all started with me giving you one hundred dollars––so I am giving you the hundred dollars and sending you somewhere to pick out the candy yourself!

Carter: Which is where?

Emma: The candy store [Kandy Kitchen] in Galena [Illinois]! 

Carter: MOM!!!! Are you going to buy all of this?!

Emma: No Carter, I am giving YOU the money. You are buying it.

Carter: Oh!

Emma: You have one hundred dollars to pick out candy to bring to your school. 

Carter: Are you actually going to give ME the hundred dollars; and when?!

Emma: Grandma Heidi has it. 

Carter: I was just there last night and she didn’t give it to me!

Emma: Well that is because I just gave it to her today.

Carter: Well where did she put it? Because I don’t have it!

Emma: She will give it to you tomorrow when you go to the candy store. 

Carter: Where is that at?

Emma: In Galena.

Carter: Oh! Yeah! I love that place!

Emma: I know you do! So, you’ll pick out all the flavors that you think students in your school will like.

Carter: Okay! So let me get this right—me and my mom are going to go to Galena to pick out [a hundred dollars’ worth of] candy?

Emma: Yup, that is right!

Carter Collins holding the one hundred dollars that funded his Candy Project in front of Kandy Kitchenu in Galena, Illinois, March 2021. Photo taken by his mother Samantha Duehr.

Carter: When do I bring it to school?

Emma: Maybe like next Friday.

Carter: Today is Friday!

Emma: Next Friday. 

Carter: Okay, did Mrs. Oberhauffer say what she was going to do with it?

Emma: The project is going to include math, like your idea. 

Carter: Okay! I can do a backflip with the phone in my hands. 

Diane: Galena’s Kandy Kitchen, this is Diane, how can I help you?

Emma: Hi, my name is Emma and I am interested in buying a bulk amount of candy from your store and would like to make sure you have enough in stock.

Diane: Yeah, okay. What kind of candy? Due to the pandemic, we are running a little low on candy. I still don’t know why. 

Emma: They need to be individually wrapped, not sour, and not contain nuts. 

Diane: Okay well we have caramels, licorice, swedish fish, jelly beans, gummi bears, Goetze’s Bulls-Eyes, and Chuckles. We also have a bunch of taffy and those are always fresh and made locally.

Emma: Do I need to order this in advance or do you have enough in stock to come in anytime? 

Diane: We have a full stock of taffy right now and shouldn’t be a problem. It took a month to get this order in and we just placed another one that we should get soon. I have plenty of the assorted kind. When will you be coming? 

Emma: Actually, I am not the one picking it up or picking them out. I’m sending over a six-year-old boy to pick out all of the candy himself. 

Diane: Oh wow! He is going to have a blast doing that! How much do you need?

Emma: One hundred dollars’ worth.

Diane: Oh, okay that’s a lot. We do $8.99 a pound so you’ll be getting a lot. 

Emma: Yeah, it’s for an art project. I told him I’d give him a hundred dollars to do a project with and he decided to buy a hundred dollars worth of candy for his entire school. 

Diane: Wow that’s incredible and really nice of him. He will have a lot of different flavors to choose from. He will definitely leave with a big bag of candy. Thank you for calling us in advance and supporting us. 

Carter Collins purchasing the one hundred dollars worth of taffy from Kandy Kitchen in Galena, Illinois. March 2021. Photo taken by his mother Samantha Duehr.

Emma: How much taffy can he get for a hundred dollars? There are about 400 people in his school. I need to make sure there is enough for everyone.

Diane: Well there are thirty-seven pieces in each bag and that is one pound, so I think you’ll be good. 

Emma: Great! Would it be okay for him to come in tomorrow? 

Diane: Yep! I am here every day at 10:00am so I will keep an eye out for him. What is his name?

Emma: Amazing. His name is Carter Collins. Thank you so much for your time.

Diane: My pleasure. Have a nice day. 

Carter Collins holding the one hundred dollars worth of candy outside of Kandy Kitchen in Galena, Illinois, March 2021. Photo taken by his mother Samantha Duehr.

Carter: I got the taffy

Emma: Oh yeah? How did it go?

Carter: It was SOOOO much candy.

Emma: How much do you think there is?

Carter: I would guess like ten thousand pieces.

Emma: Is that your final guess?

Carter: Well two whole bags full! Probably about ten hundred. I haven’t counted yet. 

Visit to see the final outcome of the project.

Emma Duehr Mitchell (she/her) is an artist, educator, and curator living and working in Portland, Oregon. She works with collective storytelling, notions of care, and exchange through domestic practices such as gardening, craft, and mail. Her work examines the intersection of public and private spaces, personal and collective value, and agency in qualifications. With an emphasis on approachability and social engagement, her work occupies neighborhoods, metropolitan surroundings, social media, and museums. 

Carter Collins (he/him) was born in 2014 and is living and attending first grade in Dubuque, Iowa. He is Emma Duehr Mitchell’s nephew. 

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