The final stages of renovations at the Minnesota Capitol have prompted an unexpected controversy over some of the artwork put up around the building.
Unlike the earlier disputes over Civil War-era paintings in the Governor’s Office, this controversy centers on short biographies placed next to the portraits of each of the state’s former governors. As MPR News first reported, none of the state’s living former governors — Tim Pawlenty, Jesse Ventura, Arne Carlson and Al Quie — were consulted about the plaques, and some of them are not pleased.
Pawlenty told MPR that his biography read like a “political commentary.” Ventura disputed using a motto that was attributed to him: “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.”
The Minnesota Historical Society said it would listen to the former governors’ concerns. Now, it’s also hearing from some current occupants of the Capitol, including Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester.
Nelson, a member of the Capitol Preservation Committee and the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board, wrote a letter to the Historical Society’s president saying she was “aghast that quotes were placed next to the portraits of our living Governors without their knowledge and consent.”
“I urge you to abandon the quotes next to portraits or at a very minimum develop a transparent process for quote selection,” she wrote. “I appreciate the desire for historical interpretation and there are many places for such. Attempting to do so next to each Governor’s portrait is not the best site.”
As of late last week, the portraits and biographies remained up.