ST. PAUL (KMSP) - During the renovation at the State Capitol, some of the paintings currently hanging on the walls may be replaced. The reason is some of the paintings have been deemed offensive and historically inaccurate.
A special subcommittee will be making preliminary recommendations by the end of the month to decide what to do with the paintings. They are likely to keep the governor’s portraits in some form or another. However, the fate of the paintings featuring Native Americans is still undetermined.
“The stories of gain and loss, and building our wonderful state for Minnesotans, is a story of loss for native Americans,” said Antom Treuer who is a professor Bemidji State University.
Treuer who specializes in the Ojibwe language and American Indian studies says some of the pieces portraying Native Americans are insensitive or inaccurate.
“For example there's one of father Hennepin discovering St. Anthony Falls holding up a cross. Half naked Indian women running around. At the time, father Hennepin was actually a captive of the Dakota Indians,” Treuer said.
As the capitol undergoes the massive renovation, Treuer is part of a subcommittee made up of lawmakers, art historians, and experts in the field. They are tasked with helping determine the fate of these paintings.
“So there is an awesome responsibility put on us by the state of Minnesota to get it right,” said Paul Anderson who once served on the Minnesota Supreme Court.
For the past six months, the subcommittee has taken public input and assessed surveys. They are now a step closer to making a recommendation. Some of their findings so far: Minnesotans want change and they want the presentations to be more relevant.
“And they want to engage with the capitol in a way that's more than just walking by a static picture of the head and shoulders of a governor from 100 years ago,” said Diane Loeffler D-Minneapolis.
The plan is for technology and virtual displays to enhance the experience of visiting the Capitol, while the more divisive paintings could be housed in separate rooms or rotated out. While there is plenty of consensus so far, representative Dean Urdahl R-Grove City says challenges remain stressing and pleasing everyone will never happen.
“What is the standard that we remove art? That one person finds it insensitive, a group, or thousands of people or what?” said Urdahl.
The second phase of this will focus on bringing in new art work to the capitol, likely showing more of the ethnic diversity that's part of the changing Minnesota landscape.