ST. PAUL – The public is invited to discuss an ongoing restoration of the nearly 110-year old Minnesota State Capitol during a meeting 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16 at Ridgewater College in Willmar.
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.
One of the continuing topics of conversation for the three-year, $300 million restoration project pertains to the future of historic art in the building. The Capitol is home to nearly 150 pieces – murals, painting, statues and busts.
Depictions in some of those works recently have become the source of controversy, something Urdahl said he plans to discuss during the Willmar meeting. He was a history teacher for more than 30 years in the New London-Spicer school district, and also has authored several books set in the Civil War era and the years which followed – the same period the Capitol was constructed.
"My goal in talking about the art is to provide people with historical context so we can reach sensible solutions," Urdahl said. "The Capitol was designed, in part, to serve as a monument 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."
Other issues during the restoration, Urdahl said, include fixing a crumbling exterior, addressing safety concerns, updating mechanical systems and improving accessibility.
The meeting will take place in the upper level of Ridgewater's Student Center, 2101 15th Ave. N.W. in Willmar. A number of similar forums will take place at other statewide locations.