New Capitol Art Tour Focuses on Controversial Art; History Center to Feature Native Artists

A painting of Father Hennepin “Discovering” the Falls of St. Anthony now hangs in a 3rd floor space in the Capitol.

The long and contentious debate over art in the Minnesota State Capitol resulted in some victories. Offensive paintings have been relocated within the Capitol or removed altogether. In addition, the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) has started a new tour that focuses on interpreting Capitol art in a new way, including the controversial pieces that remain.

The tour is called Making Meaning of State Capitol Art, and will be held Tuesday, Sept. 12 and Friday, Sept. 29 at the Minnesota State Capitol. Both tours run noon to 1 p.m. According to the announcement, you can: “Explore the varied meanings behind some of the art at the Minnesota State Capitol in a small group dialogue with Joe Horse Capture, director of American Indian Initiatives at MNHS. This is an opportunity to listen to different opinions and share your own story.”

As a reminder, two controversial paintings that hung in the Governor’s Reception Room — one showing Father Hennepin Discovering the Falls at St. Anthony and the other of the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, have been moved to a third floor space known as the Cass Gilbert Library. Two other paintings have been removed altogether: The Attack on New Ulm and the Battle of Ta Ha Kouty.

Senate mural: “The Discoverers and Civilizers Led to the Source of the Mississippi.”

The painting of the Battle of New Ulm will be on display at the James J. Hill House, part of the free exhibit, Attack on New Ulm: One Painting, Many Perspectives. Come and share your thoughts about its role in Minnesota history. The exhibit will be on view Sept. 16 – Jan. 14.

A particularly offensive mural remains in the Minnesota Senate Chambers. Called “The Discoverers and Civilizers Led to the Source of the Mississippi” it is a tour de force of Manifest Destiny and flies in the face of our deeply held beliefs in freedom of religion. It remains a complete mystery why our state leaders allowed this painting to remain after the recent renovation. The message it sends is as troubling as the Confederate memorials now being removed in southern states.

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