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Proposal would establish committee to choose what art is displayed in the Capitol

Rep. Dean Urdahl testifies before the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee April 25 while presenting HF4256, a bill that would establish a Capitol Art Advisory Committee. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Renovations at the Capitol have opened new spaces to display art, and a proposal in the House would create a committee to determine what art should be displayed and where it should go.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), would continue the State Capitol Preservation Commission and create a Capitol Art Exhibit Advisory Committee to counsel the commission on art exhibits in public areas of the Capitol.

The House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee approved HF4256, as amended, Wednesday and sent it to the House Legacy Funding Finance Committee. A similar proposal is included in the omnibus Legacy finance bill, which was approved by the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday and sent to the House Floor.

With this bill, the commission would have a “slightly different role” so it can continue into the future to help oversee the preservation and maintenance of the recently restored Capitol, Urdahl said. This will help avoid what’s happened for the “last 100 and so years” where needed repairs of the building have been put off and no official decision is made, he added.

WATCH Committee discussion of the bill 

Restoration efforts at the Capitol opened up a lot more public spaces, which could be available to display art. With that, Urdahl said “it seemed wise” to create a committee to advise on what art should be in the Capitol and where it should go.

Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) asked if the art committee would make decisions on two controversial paintings removed from the governor’s office and placed on the third floor of the Capitol after the renovations. Urdahl said the committee could make recommendations on what to do with those paintings, which would then go to the full commission that would have to ratify the recommendation.

“I don’t know exactly what the future of those two paintings is going to be,” Urdahl said. “The plan right now is they are staying on the third floor, but at some future date … another decision could be reached.”

The companion, SF3797, sponsored by Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester), is awaiting action by the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.

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