It will be another six to eight months before a state board settles the fate of the Christopher Columbus statue toppled by protesters last month outside the State Capitol.
The Capitol Arts and Architectural Planning Board (CAAPB) decided Thursday to postpone deciding what to do with the statue, instead creating two task forces to help guide deliberations and public input around the controversial task of adding and removing public art and monuments.
“Today we will not discuss the future of the Columbus statue,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, who chairs the CAAPB. “The public deserves a robust, transparent and accessible process.”
The CAAPB has oversight over the art and architecture on the Capitol grounds and shares authority with the Minnesota Historical Society for artwork inside the Capitol. In the 115-year history of the State Capitol, memorials have only been added, not removed.
Protesters on June 10 toppled the statue of Columbus that had stood on the Capitol grounds since 1931, a gift to the state from an association of Italian-American Minnesotans to memorialize immigrants.
Long before the recent civil unrest, the statue of the Italian explorer had been a bone of contention for American Indians and others who hold Columbus guilty of genocide. Protesters said taking down the statue with a rope was a step toward healing for Native communities.
The 10-foot bronze statue is being stored at an undisclosed Twin Cities location by the Department of Administration. Fox 9 News reported last month that it would cost $154,000 to repair the statue and its granite base, according to a state official.
At a news conference Thursday, Flanagan said the statue will remain in storage until the new task forces have completed their work and the CAAPB has decided whether to reinstall the statue.
The task forces will ensure that all Minnesotans are “seen, heard and valued,” Flanagan said.
One of them, the Decision Process Advisory Task Force, will develop a process to add, modify or remove monuments, memorials and works of art on the Capitol grounds. The Public Engagement Advisory Task Force will forge a plan to engage citizens in the debate.
The task forces will shape the process for future decisionmaking, Flanagan said, and take up to eight months to bring back their recommendation to the CAAPB. “We won’t rush it because we need it to be done right,” she said.
Each task force will have up to 15 members, including members of the CAAPB, lawmakers and members of the public. The governor’s office will make the appointments and members of the public may apply for positions online next week, Flanagan said.
“This is something that is probably long overdue,” said Rep. Raymond Dehn, D-Minneapolis, who sits on the CAAPB. “We are going to start running out of space. There may come a time where we decommission works on the Capitol not because of what they necessarily signify [but because] there might be something more important that comes along.”