ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota wants to know what you think about the art in the State Capitol.

The group that oversees the three-year Capitol restoration is asking Minnesotans to take an online survey that raises the possibility of significant changes not just to the art on display that some consider offensive, but also installing more modern art that reflects Minnesota today.

“We now have a chance to tell more Minnesota stories through art,” said Minnesota State Rep. Diane Loeffler, (DFL-Minneapolis), who is a member of the Minnesota Capitol Preservation Commission.

Loeffler is one of three co-chairs of a special art committee looking at the old art in the Capitol with fresh eyes. She says it’s not just about the art that’s there, it’s also about what’s missing.

“You know, people from other states think of us as the land of 10,000 lakes, but there isn’t one picture of a lake in the state Capitol,” she said.

Loeffler also notes the absence of almost any art depicting women and minorities. The Department of Administration is asking Minnesotans to take a six-question, online survey that raises questions about Capitol paintings that reflected popular beliefs in 1905, but are considered offensive today, like one well-known painting showing Minnesota soldiers firing into an Indian village, or some wildly inaccurate depictions of Native American dress that Loeffler says is offensive to Native Americans.

“They find themselves distracted by depictions of their people that aren’t respectful, and don’t necessarily gibe with the historical record,” she said.

The Capitol renovation uncovered hidden skylights in large rooms that may be used in the future as public art galleries. What goes into them could correct a century old record of Minnesota history.

“And if we bring school kids here to the Minnesota State Capitol to learn about Minnesota’s history, we want the stories that they see and hear to be as accurate as possible,” Loeffler said.

The Art Subcommittee of the Capitol Preservation Commission is also considering rotating or removing all of the Minnesota Governor portraits that have lined the Capitol walls since the 1940s, and which are taking up much of the available wall space.

Pat Kessler

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