U photo show honors Wellstones

The Weisman show opens today, a day after officials concluded pilot error caused the senator’s plane crash.

Stephanie Kudrle

The Weisman Art Museum will open a photographic exhibition today commemorating the lives of Sen. Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila Wellstone.

The event comes one day after the National Transportation Safety Board ruled that pilot error caused the Oct. 25, 2002, plane crash near Eveleth, Minn., that killed the Wellstones and six others.

“It gives people a chance to reflect,” said Terry Gydesen, whose work is displayed in the exhibition. “It’s a message to carry on his legacy.”

Gydesen worked for a year on the show and a book titled “12 Years and 13 Days Remembering Paul and Sheila

Wellstone.” She said the exhibition – which includes photographs she took over 12 years while following Paul Wellstone – is a tribute to the Wellstones.

The exhibit, which will run through Dec. 18, documents Wellstone’s life and career through black-and-white photographs.

A Minnesota native, Gydesen said she started following Wellstone during his first Senate campaign and was then inspired to document his career.

“I was captivated by his passion and energy,” she said. “I wanted to be a fly on the wall, observing Paul.”

Ann Benrud, Weisman program director, said the Wellstone exhibition suits the Weisman persona.

“Our museum represents (exhibits) with broad implications, both social and political,” she said. “And Wellstone put forth a lot of ideas for discussion.”

Gydesen said she is still saddened by Wellstone’s death, but she worked hard to produce the exhibit so Minnesotans could share the photographs.

Tuesday afternoon, the National Transportation Safety Board voted that pilot error caused the crash. Board officials said the King Air A100 plane slowed too much and lost altitude after approaching the airport too quickly. Investigators were unable to say why the pilots did not correct the mistake.

Wellstone; his wife Sheila; their daughter Marcia Markuson; campaign workers Mary McEvoy, Will McLaughlin and Tom Lapic; and pilots Richard Conry and Michael Guess all died in the crash.

Jeff Blodgett, Wellstone Action executive director, said the results make it clear the crash should not have happened.

“I think the findings are extremely disturbing,” Blodgett said. “Those pilots should have never been allowed to fly people in that plane.”

Blodgett also said he hopes the people who allowed the pilots to fly will be held responsible.

Wellstone Action is a nonprofit organization founded by the senator’s surviving sons, Mark and David Wellstone, and former campaign workers. The organization’s goal is to continue and carry out Wellstone’s work and goals.

Wellstone’s group was en route to a funeral in northern Minnesota at the time of the crash, which occurred days before the Senate election in which Wellstone was running for a third consecutive term.

Republican candidate Norm Coleman defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale, who replaced Wellstone on the ballot.

– Kristen Frey and The Associated Press contributed to this report