An effective advocate for the fine arts, Joan Mondale earned the nickname Joan of Art in Washington during the vice presidential term of her husband, Walter E. Mondale, in the late 1970s. She died on Monday in Minneapolis at age 83.
While her husband served under President Jimmy Carter, Joan Mondale took the role of de facto art advisor to the president and Honorary Chairwoman of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanties. She lobbied Congresss for more arts spending and filled the vice president's residence with American art loaned from museums, changing the collections each year and inviting the press in to help publicize the artists.
An avid potter, Joan Mondale was a champion of many art froms, getting the National Park Service to carry crafts in their gifts shops, and supporting sculpture and graphic arts. She especially promoted contemporary painters such as Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Frank Stella, and Ed Ruscha.
While in Japan in the 1990s when Walter Mondale served as ambassador, Joan Mondale turned her focus to public art. She told The Daily Yomiuri, an English-language newspaper in Japan, "Public arts say that people who walk throught the space are important,"
She is survived by her husband and two sons, Ted and William, and four grandchildren. A daughter, Eleanor Mondale Poling, predeceased her.