Joan Adams Mondale

2008 Honoree - Public Art Network Award


Joan Adams Mondale has been an aficionado and patron of the arts from the time of her graduation from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, where she majored in history and minored in art and French. After graduation, she began her art career at the Boston Museum of Fine Art as a slide librarian, and then as an assistant in education at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, serving as a docent for guided tours and lectures for children and adults. She moved to Washington, DC in 1964 which provided her many opportunities to pursue her  love of the arts, including guided tours which she led at the National Gallery of Art. She published Politics in Art in 1972 and resumed her work as a potter, studying weekly with a master in Northern Virginia. In 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected president of the United States and Mrs. Mondale’s husband, Walter Mondale, was elected vice president. In recognition of the importance of the arts, in 1977 President Carter appointed Mrs. Mondale Chairperson of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. She traveled countless miles throughout the country focusing attention and encouraging public and private support for the arts. Through her strong advocacy of the arts, Mrs. Mondale came to be known as Joan of Art. With the appointment of her husband as United States Ambassador to Japan in 1993, Mrs. Mondale moved to Tokyo to lend her support to the arts. She arranged for the loan of paintings, prints, photographs, and crafts from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The elegant art objects were exhibited in the official residence, under the auspices of the State Department’s Art-in-Embassies program. She arranged for bilingual volunteer guides to provide tours, thereby encouraging an understanding of America through the arts. She promoted art in public places in Japan, tirelessly showing slides and videos of American public art. She visited the studios and homes of many Japanese potters, glassblowers, weavers, and others artisans to demonstrate her support of, and to honor, Japan’s traditional crafts. She also returned to Stillwater, MN each summer during her three-year residency in Japan to craft her own pottery which she presented to Japanese officials on ceremonial occasions. She wrote a book, Letters from Japan, about her experiences there. Throughout her 40 years of advocacy of the arts, she has found the time to forge her own artistic identity and now back in her home state of Minnesota, she continues to grow artistically working closely in the creation of pottery under the eye of her mentor of many years, Warren MacKenzie. She willingly lends her name to, and promotes, aesthetic causes, thereby enhancing a lifelong nurturing of the arts. She serves on the boards of the Minnesota Orchestra; The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC; and the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee of the U.S. Postal Service. She was appointed chair of the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit Public Art and Design Committee. She previously served on the Macalester College and Walker Art Center boards.