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First meeting on public art at the Capitol notes controversial paintings

Thirty people attended the first of many public meetings on how the existing art at the Capitol should be used, and what other artwork might be appropriate when the renovated building is reopened.

A series of public meetings about art in the state Capitol kicked off in Rochester Tuesday, with about 30 people attending to learn more and offer suggestions.

They were told that some of the existing paintings are controversial in their depiction of Native Americans, said the Rochester Post-Bulletin.

The meetings are being held by the Capitol Preservation Art Subcommittee, which is considering what to do with the existing art and how to expand the selections when the $300 million renovation of the Capitol building is complete.

State Sen. Dave Senjem of Rochester helps lead the subcommittee and said there is concern about how Native Americans are portrayed in some paintings and some want them removed.

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Opinions at the meeting ranged from leaving those pieces in place to removing them. 

The story quotes Rochester resident Tom Brinkman, who supports leaving the controversial paintings but would offer Native American artists to have a chance to respond to those works with artwork of their own.

“There ought to be two very clear interpretations: One is describing the context or interpretation back in the era when the artist did it or when the event happened, and then equal to that a no-holds barred interpretation of how we view it now. And no matter how ugly it is, I think it should be there,” Brinkman said.

Senjem told the group:

The challenge is what is the role of the art in the Capitol? What purpose does it serve? What kind of stories do we really want that art to tell — both looking forward and even looking back at what we have in the Capitol at this point?