“How Often We’re Blind to Our Own Talent”: RIP Joan Mondale, Arts Champion

Howard L. Sachs/Prensa Internacional/ZUMA

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Joan Mondale, author and former Second Lady, died on Monday in Minneapolis at the age of 83. During the late 1970s, when her husband Walter Mondale was vice-president, she became famous for being one of the fiercest advocates of the arts on the national political scene. She was an avid potter and patron, earning herself the nickname “Joan of Art.” For instance, she worked with the Department of Transportation to transform railroad stations into art galleries and raised money for Democratic candidates by auctioning works of art. As honorary chairwoman of the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, she was President Carter’s de facto arts adviser.

“Not since Jacqueline Kennedy has fine arts had an ally so close to the White House,” the Sarasota Herald-Tribune wrote in 1977.

Here’s Mondale (via the Christian Science Monitor in 1977) discussing the importance of art in American life, often in the frame of politics both local and national:

What I feel that I can do is help people become aware of how pervasive and extensive the arts are, how they affect each one of us in our daily lives—what kind of builds we live in, what kind of clothes we wear, what we see with our eyes. We are often blind to the beautiful things around us.

What I’m mostly concerned about is how often we’re blind to our own talent. I think that within each human being there is a creative spirit, and some of us have been fortunate enough to have good teachers and parents who’ve brought this out and encouraged it, but others haven’t.

“Both [politics and art] seek to tell us about the good and the bad around us,” Mondale stressed. “The artist often dramatizes the same mood for change and improvement for which the politician is seeking answers.”

Here’s a photo of Mondale playing drums after a press conference at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, in 1978:

Joan Mondale playing drums

Richard K. Hofmeister/Smithsonian Institution (via Wikimedia Commons)

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate