Des Moines is always surprising newcomers. From our emerging, under-the-radar food scene to our extensive trail system (traveled more than one million times a year!), we’re home to more than a handful of hidden gems.
But of all the secrets Des Moines keeps, its best may just be its public art.
World-renowned sculptures and murals by local and international artists dot downtown and the surrounding area, providing the backdrop for our daily commutes and Saturday morning strolls through the farmers market.
These works of art don’t fade into the background though — read on to discover some of the pieces that stand out to our associates.
“My favorite sculptures in the Pappajohn Sculpture Park are Juno and Ancient Forest — a pair of bronze-cast wood horses. I like them because it’s not as literal as a skeleton, but it’s figurative of the nature of life. We live and then our memory fades from the earth. I see these horses as in the process of fading away (though not rotting) — becoming ghosts.” – Bill Zahren, copywriter
“My favorite is the Crusoe Umbrella by Claes Oldenburg. I’ve always enjoyed his work celebrating and reimagining everyday objects, and this one was inspired by the book Robinson Crusoe. But what makes the umbrella even more perfect in Des Moines, to me, is its proximity to my other favorite piece of ‘advertising’ art in the city: the neon Travelers umbrella. It looks almost as if the Travelers umbrella took flight from the rooftops on Grand Avenue and landed as an Oldenburg sculpture in Cowles Commons.” — Patrick McGill, managing director, Strategy
“A Monumental Journey by Kerry James Marshall on the corner of Second and Grand is my favorite piece of art in Des Moines. It honors the 12 African American attorneys who founded the National Bar Association in Des Moines in 1925. It’s been described as ‘the blackest place in Des Moines’ and serves as a gathering spot and a symbol of the black community’s presence and achievements in our city.” — Rae Fehring, strategic communications director
“I have quite a few on my list. First, the gate commissioned by the Metro Waste Authority made from recycled materials in the East Village. It’s pretty to look at and a good reminder to reuse and repurpose all the stuff in our lives. I also think the wooden train playground piece at the Iowa State Fairgrounds is a beautiful and functional piece of art that your kids can play on. Plus, it’s a beautiful park with a lot of other sculptures and living art gardens. But my must-see art recommendation is the Heritage Carousel in Union Park — the hand-painted Iowa images and the one-of-a-kind carousel animals are stunning. It is well worth the 50 cent admission. (P.S. The pirate cat is the best animal to ride!) — Keesia Wirt, senior content strategist
“There are so many creative murals around downtown and the East Village, but my favorite is the Locust Mural on the Court Avenue mural wall (located on the side of Roca). It’s bright and quirky and not at all cliche.” — Avery Amensen, strategic communications supervisor
“The artwork throughout the Capitol has always captured my attention. There are so many beautiful pieces of art, and the gold dome is a nice accent to it all. Pieces such as the mural ‘Westward’ and the inner dome work to tell a visual story of the history of our state. ” — Erich Baker, program director
Next time you’re in Des Moines, keep your phone in your pocket and look for some of the amazing free art around our city. We think you’ll love it as much as we do!