Arne Carlson’s longtime devotion to the University will be forever immortalized in a portrait of the former governor clad in maroon and gold.
In the portrait, Carlson is wearing a maroon “M Club” jacket and leaning on a Morrill Hall pillar with Northrop Auditorium visible in the background. The picture was painted by former University student Stephen Gjertson.
The painting was unveiled Thursday in the Capitol rotunda and will later be hung as the 37th portrait depicting former state governors.
Carlson, a New York City native who attended the University’s Graduate School, spoke of his fondness for the University and his daughter’s successful cancer treatment at Fairview-University Medical Center.
“You have to ask what you’re emotionally linked to, and that is the University,” Carlson said during a speech at the unveiling ceremony. “When you walk by the University, you get goosebumps.”
Carlson’s portrait is the first to show a governor in informal dress, but is not the first to include personal touches.
Former Gov. Al Quie is depicted holding a cowboy hat while standing next to one of his horses. The 36th gubernatorial portrait shows Rudy Perpich in front of an open-pit mine, symbolizing his Iron Range heritage. That portrait will soon be replaced by one with him and his wife, Lola.
Carlson joked about his placement after Perpich and before current Gov. Jesse Ventura.
“People will ask who is the boring individual in between,” Carlson said.
The painting was funded from a $20,000 state appropriation. Twenty artists competed to paint the Carlson portrait before the commission was awarded to Gjertson.
Sam Gerbarski, chairman of the project which commissioned the painting, said Gjertson chose Northrop as a backdrop because it is home to the University bands. Gjertson was involved with the University Marching Band while a student.
Gerbarski also described the portrait as Carlson’s “salute to the future of the University.”
The painting contains myriad details about Carlson besides the letter jacket, Gerbarski said. A yellow alfalfa butterfly and native Minnesota goldfinch are pictured along with a blue Alpine butterfly from Sweden, Carlson’s ancestral home. A fly, a symbol of the corruption to which government is prone, and a honeybee, symbolizing the diligence needed to prevent such corruption, are also depicted.
Carlson, who has been a Minneapolis City Council member, legislator, state auditor and two-term Republican governor, reflected Thursday about his life in public service.
Paraphrasing Adlai Stevenson, a former Democratic presidential nominee, Carlson said, “The gift of public service is the greatest gift the public can give to anyone.”
Josh Linehan welcomes comments at jlinehan.umn.edu. He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3212.