The newly remodeled building will have additional space for art, particularly in a new basement commons area. Loeffler said she hopes that's a place where newer works — perhaps by Minnesota artists — could be emphasized. She suggested art that portrays the state's many distinct geographical regions or work that highlights some of the state's greatest accomplishments.
Historic or allegorical art like Minnesota's is common in capitol buildings across the U.S., but some states' collections are broader. The New Mexico Capitol in Santa Fe houses a rotating modern art collection that its curators describe as one of the most comprehensive in the region.
Such art has not been without controversy. In Washington state, the House of Representatives voted in 1982 to cover a series of murals titled "The Twelve Labors of Hercules" because some lawmakers felt the images were obscene. The murals were later removed from the chamber and now hang at a nearby college.
Kate Solomonson, an associate architecture professor at the University of Minnesota, said she loved that the debate had been opened. She called the Capitol a "living building" that should not be treated as a time capsule.
"It's full of life," said Solomonson, who is working on a pair of projects focusing on Cass Gilbert. "It has served as a backdrop for countless demonstrations. Interior spaces have hosted endless debates."
She suggested the building's curators consider art that takes on the same issues lawmakers did.
"Why could we not have artwork that deals with political issues?" she wondered.
In Minnesota, a subcommittee of the commission overseeing the renovation will decide on the building's artistic assets.
"What is the story we want to tell about Minnesota to the people who come here?" Loeffler asked. "It's going to be a lively discussion."