Too many Civil War scenes in Minnesota Capitol? Just asking, Dayton says


Mark Dayton admits he's no art critic or historian. But the governor is wondering if Minnesota's Capitol building has more paintings of Civil War scenes than it really needs. And, for that matter, should all 38 former governors occupy wall space with their portraits?

The Associated Press reports Dayton raised the questions – without supplying answers – during a meeting of the State Capitol Preservation Commission Tuesday.

As the Pioneer Press reports, the Capitol building is undergoing a $272 million renovation scheduled for completion in 2017. One of the building's most ornate spaces is the Governor's Reception Room, where most of the murals on the walls depict Minnesota soldiers fighting in the Civil War.

Dayton called the artworks historically significant, the newspaper says, but went on to pose a couple of rhetorical questions: "Do they represent the whole complexion of Minnesota? And how does the art here fit into the art in the newly renovated state Capitol?"

The president of the Cass Gilbert Society, which honors the Capitol's architect, pointed out that the building was completed in 1905 as a monument to the Civil War, the Pioneer Press reports.

That was 40 years after the war ended. State Rep. Dean Urdahl noted that at the time many Minnesotans were either veterans of the war themselves or had family members who had fought in the conflict, Minnesota Public Radio reports. MPR says Urdahl thinks the Capitol's existing artwork should be restored rather than replaced, and the lawmaker says the renovation will open up areas where new art can be added.

Dayton tells WCCO visitors to the Capitol should be exposed to more of the state's history than paintings of war scenes.

As for the portraits of past governors, Dayton suggested to MPR that they be consolidated in a single area rather than scattered throughout the building.

A Minnesota Historical Society page has details about the Capitol building and its most prominent artwork, including the Civil War murals in the Governor's Reception Room.

So now that questions about the Capitol's artwork have been asked, what happens next? Dayton tells the Pioneer Press he wanted to start a discussion about the issue in hopes of reaching a consensus. MPR reports that state historians will have the final say and that changes appear unlikely.

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