Bill pushes art decision that’s already been made

The 1937 portrait of Gov. Floyd B. Olson by Carl A. Bohnen, and all former governors’ portraits, will be reinstalled in the state Capitol with or without a legislative directive. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Legislation mandating the permanent display of all portraits of former governors inside the renovated state Capitol is on its way to a vote in the Minnesota Senate.

Members of the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections committee approved the bill Thursday on a voice vote.

The proposed requirement surfaced after an advisory panel on Capitol art discussed the possibility of displaying only some of the portraits.

Stephen Elliott, director of the Minnesota Historical Society, told lawmakers that he was “gratified” by the interest in Capitol art. But he said the society board already decided to reinstall all the portraits.

“We’re in agreement with the goal of this bill, but we’re not sure at this point of the necessity of the bill,” Elliott said. “We don’t intend to revisit the issue of the governors’ portraits. They’re heavy. They’re difficult to move around, and once reinstalled they’re there, they’re done.”

Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, said he commended the Historical Society for its decision. But he said his bill was spurred by public frustration over some of the recent discussions about state Capitol artwork.

“Citizens are frustrated that these types of things come into question,” Koran said.