Governor Dayton Walks Out of Meeting Over Civil War Paintings

"The Second Minnesota Regiment at Missionary Ridge" by Douglas Volk. (Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society)

SAINT PAUL, MN   Governor Dayton threatened to resign from the Capitol Preservation Commission and walked out of the meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, stating, “If this commission gets hijacked again for political purposes, I will resign.”  

The issue stemmed from the placement of Civil War paintings in the Governor’s Reception Room in the Capitol.  The four paintings had hung in the area since the Capitol opened in 1905, and have been removed during the $307 million Capitol renovation project.  Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), presented a booklet during the meeting that showed the paintings were intended to hang in the room before the Capitol was even completed.  Nelson also said after the meeting that she would be willing to sponsor a bill to force the Historical Society to return the paintings to the Governor’s Reception Room.

Fox 9 reported:  Governor Dayton has argued for months that before they are returned to the Capitol the Society should consider replacing some of them with artwork that better reflects the entire 150 years of state history. The Capitol Architectural and Planning Board recently agreed voting 5-3 that the four paintings should not be returned to the Governor’s Reception Room.

However, several others on the Capitol Preservation Commission disagree, including Representative Matt Dean (R-Dellwood), who sent an email to Commission members arguing for the paintings to be placed where they had been for over a century, stating, “The Capitol should not be designed around the likes and dislikes of any temporary tenant.” Dayton accused Dean of attempting “to hijack the operation of this commission for your own political purposes, for your governor campaign in 2018,” before storming out of the meeting.

Dean defended himself, saying he was trying to honor Minnesota’s Civil War veterans and their “key role in preserving the Union.”  Republicans on the commission supported Dean and his argument for retaining the paintings.

“This is the most important story in state history, and it should be told in its most important room,” argued State Representative Dean Urdahl of Grove City. “I think those paintings represent Minnesota’s most important contribution to our nation’s history and displaying those very important paintings in arguably the most important room in the Capitol is an important thing to do.”

House Speaker Kurt Daudt agreed with Urdahl.

“I think the legislature would not have appropriated money for this project knowing that we were going to be removing part of the history of the Capitol,” said Daudt.

The Commission passed a motion on a voice vote strongly recommending to the Minnesota Historical Society to return the Civil War paintings to the Governor’s Reception Room. (Fox 9)

Andrea Mayer-Bruestle

Andrea Mayer-Bruestle is a former writer for Alpha News.