ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A public fight over art work at the newly-renovated State Capitol erupted into anger on Tuesday.

Governor Mark Dayton stormed out of a meeting that was considering his proposal to permanently remove those paintings from his office when the Capitol re-opens in January. This beautiful State Capitol is nearing the end of a $350 million top-to-bottom renovation.

But on Tuesday, it was a political war over what’s inside. Civil War paintings that Gov. Dayton says represent only a small part of the state’s history.

The outside now completed, inside still in flux. The six Civil War paintings depict battle scenes, including legendary Minnesota regiments at Gettysburg and Nashville.

They’ve been part of the Governor’s Office since the Capitol opened in 1905. But Gov. Dayton has suggested they be removed because he says the paintings don’t “represent the full complexion” of the state.

At a Capitol preservation meeting packed with military veterans and Civil War re-enactors who oppose removing the paintings, Gov. Dayton unexpectedly erupted in anger at Republicans.

“You hijacked the operation of this commission for your own political purposes, for your own 2018 campaign purposes, and I’m not going to be a part of it,” Dayton said.

Gov. Dayton abruptly stormed out of the meeting, singling out Republican State Representative Matt Dean for special score.

“The building itself was built as a memorial to Civil War veterans,” Dean said.

Dean is leading the fight against any effort to permanently remove the paintings from the Governor’s Office.

“It’s not our office building. It belongs to the people of the State of Minnesota, not just today, but 100 years ago but 100 years from now,” Dean said.

A couple of hours after his dramatic exit, Gov. Dayton said he’s not against Civil War paintings, but believes artwork in the building should reflect the rest of Minnesota.

“Is that broadly representative of 150 years of Minnesota history? Clearly it’s not,” Dayton said.

The Capitol Preservation Committee had already decided to remove two Native American paintings from the Governor’s office: The Signing of the Treaty at Traverse Des Sioux, and Father Hennepin at St. Anthony Falls won’t return because they were historically inaccurate portrayals of Minnesota native tribes.

So what will happen to the paintings? The Commission voted to keep the paintings in the Governor’s Office, but the final decision is up to the Minnesota Historical Society, which recommended removing them, and possibly creating a special public space in the Capitol to honor Civil War veterans.

So it’s not over yet.

Pat Kessler

Comments (7)
  1. “Wanda Gag House Association President Sharon L. Glotzbach of New Ulm opposes any move to hid Gag’s painting “Attack on New Ulm.”

    In a letter dated Thursday, Nov. 19, to Minnesota House art subcommittee member, author and former history teacher Dean Urdahl, Westerman and the 13 other subcommittee members, Glotzbach described the other side of the story in detail.

    “On behalf of the Wanda Gag House Association (WGHA), and our more than 120 members in Minnesota and throughout the United States, I strongly object to the proposal to censor the art in our Capitol and specially Anton Gag’s “Attack on New Ulm.”

    “It is alleged that, among other things, the clothing of the Dakota in the painting is inaccurate in that they are shirtless. There is ample evidence that Anton Gag interviewed both Dakota and surviving defenders who were present at the attack so that his presentation would be authentic. (Today’s accusers are at a serious disadvantage because no survivors of the battle are alive now 153 years later).

    “It is well established that Gag traveled to Morton numerous times to interview Dakota participants. Dakota posed for Gag so he could draw and paint the likeness of each sitter, and they received in return a duplicate painting of themselves for their cooperation. Further, Gag visited the Minnesota Historical Society to do research there early in 1887.

    “Today’s accusers have little historical grounds to challenge Gag’s portrayal of the Dakota attack on New Ulm. They seem to be dealing in opinion, not fact, hardly a basis for censorship of both art and history.

    “It is the mission of the WGHA to preserve, protect, and interpret Gag’s work. We encourage you and your committee to do the same with the Capitol’s art and especially Gag’s painting ‘Attack on New Ulm.’ The refurbishment of the Capitol building is no license to re-define art and/or censor it.”

    So not only has this painting been removed ON NO GROUNDS, but the “tolerant left” now is trying to remove civil war paintings?!

    One would think they would be more receptive to the paintings of war, as they are paintings of a triumph over something they find so repulsive, that is, their strawman of “southern culture” from over a hundred years ago that they seem to imagine still to exist today.

    And as to Father Hennepin, it is probably a combination of hostility to religion and once again political correctness to even allow Father Hennepin to IMAGINE he had discovered anything and to have this expressed in a painting. No, that is too far. He doesn’t even be deserved to be known about apparently.

    Be honest, people. Those paintings that depict Indians in the capitol are more respectful than what the average depiction in native American’s homes that they buy commercially.

    Shame on Dayton and all the historical revisionists who would destroy history for political points!

  2. How does someone like this get elected? Oh I forgot, this is the same group that elects someone like Jesse Ventura. Is Minnesota done with being the laughing stock of the US?