News Release

UMN Crookston to Hold Session to Discuss Kiehle Auditorium Socha Murals December 9

By Shawn Smith, University Relations on
Monday, December 6, 2021

CROOKSTON, Minn. - The University of Minnesota Crookston will hold a session to discuss the John Martin Socha murals on Thursday, December 9 at 7 p.m. in Bede Ballroom. The discussion will be facilitated by Sandra McNichol of the Crookston Community. The format will be a talking circle approach, a process that draws on indigenous ways of teaching and for which she is trained and certified. 

“As shared in previous communication from the UMN Crookston campus, we will not permanently destroy the murals and we acknowledge that the content of the murals is inconsistent with our values at UMN Crookston,” said Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause. “The goal of the listening session is to engage in respectful dialogue that will inform future decisions about the place and role of the murals within our broader educational work.”  

If you are interested in attending the event please RSVP with Chris Winjum (or 218.281.8343) so UMN Crookston can plan for the size of the group. You can attend in person or via Zoom. Please inform Winjum of what mode of communication you will be utilizing for the discussion.

The murals are located in Kiehle Auditorium. They were created by John Martin Socha, a native Minnesotan and a graduate of the University of Minnesota. Socha taught at Marshall High School in Minneapolis and studied at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and with renowned Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Numerous Socha murals and other works are exhibited throughout the United States and Mexico. Several of Socha’s works are on display in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Socha was commissioned to paint the murals in Kiehle Auditorium as part of the United States Federal Art Project (1935-43), part of the larger Works Progress Administration initiative. The Northwest School of Agriculture Class of 1932, who donated funds for the art materials, presented the murals to the school November 7, 1942. More information on the Socha murals can be found here.

UMN Crookston’s land acknowledgement statement says, “The University of Minnesota Crookston is situated on the lands of the Native Nations and carries the legacy of their struggle for survival and identity. Elements of their story, represented in the murals in Kiehle Auditorium, reflect painful events in history interpreted through the lens of a dominant culture. As a part of our core value to embrace the richness and value of differences, ideas, cultures, and communities, we acknowledge these Native Nations, to learn from their ways of knowing and being, and to work with them to create a more equitable and inclusive future for this region.”

About UMN Crookston

One of five campuses in the University of Minnesota System, the University of Minnesota Crookston cultivates curiosity by engaging students in hands-on learning connecting theory to practice. As the experienced leader in delivering education online, the Crookston campus offers a distinctive learning environment providing personal attention and mentorship to develop leaders, lifelong learners, and engaged citizens. Visit Crookston at  

About UMN

The University of Minnesota System, with campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester, and the Twin Cities, is driven by a singular vision of excellence. We are proud of our land-grant mission of world-class education, groundbreaking research, and community-engaged outreach, and we are unified in our drive to serve Minnesota. Learn more at


Shawn Smith

University Relations


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