I know the nation’s arts community joins me in mourning the loss of one of our country’s staunchest arts advocates, Joan Mondale. As the wife of Walter Mondale, vice president to President Jimmy Carter, she used her public position to place a bright spotlight on the vital role that artists and arts organizations play in strengthening American communities.
Mrs. Mondale intersected with Americans for the Arts on a number of notable occasions, beginning with her service on our board in the mid-1970’s, when we were known by one of our predecessor names, the American Council for the Arts. In 1977, she was the guest speaker at the tenth annual meeting of the Business Committee for the Arts (now a division of Americans for the Arts).
I first met her at the Americans for the Arts annual convention in 1987 in Portland, Oregon, where she was a fervent keynote speaker and great motivational figure for hundreds of local arts agency leaders. I later had the privilege of serving with her on the national advisory board of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), where we shared a passion for fine craft—she as a potter and me as a woodcarver. And in 2008, Americans for the Arts was pleased to honor her with the Public Art Network Award, in recognition of her lifelong nurturing of art in public places.
She was a long-time museum guide who, while her husband was in office, ensured that the home of the vice president, and later, the ambassador to Japan’s residence, were infused with art. A frequent board member for arts organizations and an avid speaker for their gatherings, Mrs. Mondale was particularly effective in her most visible role as honorary chair of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities during the Carter Administration.
On behalf of those of us who work in the arts who had the pleasure of knowing her and admiring the important work she did in promoting the public value of the arts, we salute “Joan of Art.” Her voice will be deeply missed.