Joan Mondale, who burnished a reputation as "Joan of Art" for her passionate advocacy for the arts while her husband was vice president and a US ambassador, died today. She was 83. Walter Mondale, sons Ted and William, and other family members were by her side when she died, the family said in a statement released by their church. "Joan was greatly loved by many. We will miss her dearly," the former vice president said in a written statement. Born in Oregon in 1930 to a Presbyterian minister, Joan met Walter at Macalester College in Minnesota and joined him as his wife when he was tapped to fill a vacant Senate seat in Washington.
An arts lover and an avid potter, she was given a grand platform to promote the arts when Walter was elected Jimmy Carter's vice president in 1976. Carter named her honorary chairwoman of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities, and in that role she frequently traveled to museums, theaters, and artist studios on the administration's behalf. She also lobbied Congress and states to boost public arts programs and funding. "Sometimes we do not realize how important our participation in politics is. Often we need to be reminded of our duty as citizens," she wrote. "Artists can do just that; they can look at our politicians, our institutions and our problems to help us understand them better."