Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan plans to “cover” a number of controversial paintings located in the Minnesota Capitol’s transition offices, which allegedly contain “insensitive” and “historically inaccurate” depictions of Native Americans.
Flanagan, who will become the first indigenous woman in the nation to hold executive office, said during a recent interview with TPT’s Almanac that she will “likely cover” the paintings.
“For the transition, we’ll likely cover those,” she said. “Yeah, that is the plan, because when my daughter is in that space, or other indigenous people, especially young people, I don’t want them to, you know, sort of see those images without be able to really have a lengthy, thoughtful conversation about them.”
According to TPT, at least one of the pieces of art has already been relocated from the governor’s reception room, but Flanagan wants the artwork “shrouded.”
The Minnesota Historical Society notes that the artwork in the Capitol was reexamined during the building’s 2017 renovations when an Art Subcommittee was convened. In particular, the committee was tasked with discussing two questionable paintings, one called The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux and the other titled Father Hennepin Discovering the Falls of Saint Anthony.
The committee was composed of several local professors, historians, and legislators, who found that the art dates back to the building’s construction in 1905 when one of its explicit purposes was to serve as an art museum.
“It wasn’t like you had a lot of art museums, so this was the place the public would come for culture, to see fine art and classical art,” Minnesota Historical Society Capitol Art Manager Brian Pease told MinnPost in 2017. “That’s an important element that sometimes gets overlooked because it’s a government building.”
The committee ultimately decided to move the two paintings to a less prominent area and put them on exhibit, which includes information compiled by the subcommittee as well as video interviews with its members.
In one of those videos, Flanagan suggested that she would like to see more artwork from contemporary Native American artists in the Capitol.
“I look forward to being able to have more artwork in the Capitol that is done by contemporary Native artists that is telling the whole story of who we are as Indian people—our history, but also where we’re going,” she said.
During the 2017 renovation, another painting titled Attack on New Ulm, which depicts a violent scene from the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, was moved to Minnesota’s James J. Hill House. Another war-themed painting was also removed from the Capitol, but was not put on exhibit.
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