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Lawmakers to host public meeting on capitol artworks

WILLMAR — The Minnesota State Capitol Preservation Commission will conduct a public meeting Monday to discuss historic art in the Capitol.

While the Capitol is in the midst of a three-year, $300 million restoration project, the issue of what to do with its art remains unsettled.

The commission meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Monday on the second floor of the Ridgewater College Student Center, 2101 15th Ave. N.W., Willmar. The meeting is one of a series around the state to discuss the artwork and listen to the views of Minnesotans.

Members of the Minnesota State Capitol Preservation Commission will lead the discussion, including panel co-chair former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson and commission member Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township.

The Capitol has been home to nearly 150 pieces of art such as murals, paintings, statues and busts. Some of the works have been a source of controversy, as they contain images that could be considered offensive to Native Americans or other ethnic groups. Urdahl said in a news release that he plans to discuss the historic significance of the art during the meeting.

He was a history teacher for more than 30 years in the New London-Spicer School District and has authored several books set in the Civil War era and the years which followed.

“My goal in talking about the art is to provide people with historical context so we can reach sensible solutions,” Urdahl said in the release. “The Capitol was designed, in part, to serve as a monument to our past, particularly the Civil War. History is not always pretty and some of the artists’ works reflect that.

The question is whether we should keep those artifacts on display to share difficult stories with future generations, or take them down and present a more sanitary version of history.”

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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