A man in the moon, a giant leaf, a whirlpool and rotating sculptures are just a few of the new pieces of art found around Central Iowa. In recent months, communities and organizations installed new sculptures and murals to their outdoor collections that give residents a taste of artwork in surprising locations.
Now that the weather is warming, local art lovers can head outdoors to enjoy these new works (and even take a selfie). Here, a look at eight new works to find all over the Des Moines metro area.
Rotating sculpture pad at Mainframe Studios
Drive by the main entrance to Mainframe Studios, a nonprofit organization that provides workspaces for local artists, to find “Man with the Moon,” the first work to grace the building’s new rotating sculpture pad
The 14-foot tall sculpture created by Jay Vigon — a California transplant who’s had his hand in designing work for names like Stevie Wonder and Prince — and James Bearden — a local graphic designer and metal worker — went up on Jan. 12 outside of Mainframe Studios, 900 Keosauqua Way.
“Man with the Moon,” sculpted from steel and colored brass patinas, uses an abstract design to depict a figure simultaneously resembling a crescent moon and a human.
The venue intends to rotate sculptures in the space, so “Man with the Moon” eventually moves on, But it’s also available for purchase, Mainframe’s director Siobahn Spain noted in the announcement of the rotating sculpture pad. More information about the sculpture pad for artists or interested buyers can be found at mainframestudios.org.
Art bus shelters across Des Moines metro
DART (Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority) transforms dozens of bus shelters around the Des Moines metro into works of art.
“We’re adding both new standard shelters as well as new art shelters,” explained Matthew Harris, the business and community partnership manager with DART. “The way that process works in an ideal state is DART collaborates with local communities and their stakeholders to select an artist and develop a concept.”
At the moment, the bus shelters sporting a more artistic flair are still sparse. Riders can find four art shelters in place with more planned to be installed into 2023.
Fans can find one work on a shelter near the Drake University campus along University Avenue near 27th Street, while three others are located along Sixth Avenue. One sits outside Imperial Kuttz barbershop at 1541 Sixth Ave.; the other Sixth Avenue shelters are near the intersections of Washington Street and Jefferson Street.
“It’s certainly taken longer than we would have anticipated with some momentum paused during the height of the pandemic,” Harris said, “but it really gave us an opportunity to really refine and redefine our scope.”
‘Threshold’ at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
In mid-December, the Des Moines Botanical Garden installed a 16-foot tall, steel sculpture at the center of the not yet completed Founders Garden.
The piece, titled “Threshold,” was created by artist Juanjo Novella at his studio in Spain before being shipped across the Atlantic for local installation. Fully assembled, the sculpture resembles a fallen autumn leaf.
“Threshold” was constructed to honor Tom Urban, the former mayor of Des Moines who died in July 2020. One of the youngest in the city’s history revitalized interest in the botanical garden.
The Founders Garden, where the sculpture is located, opens soon and is part of an estimated $23 million project that introduces a cafe, elevated canopy and lowland play area to the garden.
‘Pleasant Hill Gate’ at Hickory Glen Park
The 26-foot-tall “Pleasant Hill Gate” stretches higher than the botanical garden’s new sculpture.
Spanish artist Juanjo Novella created “Pleasant Hill Gate,” a piece made possible by Bravo Greater Des Moines and installed in Hickory Glen Park, a 77-acre park in Pleasant Hill, east of Des Moines, at 6675 SE Sixth Ave.
“Pleasant Hill Gate” has echoes of its botanical garden counterpart since it also resembles an autumnal leaf. In this case, however, “Pleasant Hill Gate” is also designed to resemble a doorway to welcome visitors into the city.
‘Lift Off’ at Des Moines International Airport
“Lift Off” was created by New York City-based artist Alice Aycock, who has a long catalog of sculptures that resemble a whirlpool or the movement of air. Aycock’s works find a home in airports in Philadelphia and Kansas City, Missouri.
Aycock assembled the Des Moines sculpture, 21 feet tall and 18 feet wide, from pieces of white powder-coated aluminum at the entrance of the Des Moines International Airport, 5800 Fleur Drive. The Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation commissioned the sculpture, considered on long-term loan to the Des Moines Airport Authority from the foundation.
Aycock completed assembling the $850,000 sculpture in December.
‘Sweet Pops of Brilliance’ in Urbandale
Urbandale rotates out some of its sculptures found at the outdoor Urbandale Art Park, located next to city hall at 3600 86th St..
The sculpture park features more than 30 sculptures, according to Jan Herke, the director of parks and recreation for the city of Urbandale, and that number continues to grow.
Recently, Urbandale’s Public Art Committee rotated out “Great Blue Heron,” “Parent and Child,” and “Strawberry Fields” to replace them with four new art pieces.
The committee kept 2021 newcomer “Sweet Pops of Brilliance” from Craig Snyder, installed at Ashleaf Park along Mary Lynn Drive in Urbandale.
Last spring, the committee kept three of the sculptures on display and added them to various locations throughout Urbandale. “Sunrise” by Skip Willits was installed at Lakeview Park, Tim Adams’ “The Sound of Color” was installed in Murphy Park and the corner of Douglas Avenue and 86th Street now hosts “Flight” by Matt Miller.
The committee is already placing a new set of sculptures in front of Urbandale City Hall. These include “Concentric” by Tim Adams, “Shifting Gear” by Hilde DeBruyne, “Xuberant!” by Craig Snyder and “Cactus Dog” by Steven Maeck.
This new set of sculptures remain on display through March 2023, and Urbandale’s public art committee will likely select at least one to become a permanent feature of Urbandale’s collection.
“Art means something different to every person and there have been so many different opinions,” Herke said. “That’s what’s been so neat for it here in Urbandale and everywhere. It gets people talking… It shows a pride in the community.”
More information about Urbandale’s public art features can be found at urbandale.org.
‘LAPS’ in the East Village
Time is already running out for how long you’ll be able to see “LAPS: A Journey Through Time — Here and Now,” located in Des Moines’ East Village through April 30.
A half dozen eight-foot-tall hourglasses populate the lot at 401 Robert D. Ray Drive., across the street from Brenton Skating Plaza.
“We are excited to be the first in the country to bring this interactive outdoor art installation to downtown and to our region, and we are eager to have our community engage with public artwork in this fun, interactive way,” said Tiffany Tauscheck, chief operations officer at the Greater Des Moines Partnership, in a press statement.
The massive hourglasses feature wheels along the side that visitors can spin to flip the hourglass over. Light and sound then emanate from the base of the structure. Olivier Landreville designed the sculptures in collaboration with Serge Maheu.
‘I AM’ in the Des Moines skywalk
Skywalk users along Grand Avenue and Eighth Street may notice a new work of art installed on March 31.
Located at 701 Grand Ave., “I AM” is the result of a skywalk project developed by Operation Downtown — which aims to beautify and clean downtown Des Moines — in partnership with ArtForce Iowa and the Iowa Department for the Blind.
The art itself is part of Des Moines artist Jill Wells’ Artist X Advocacy (AXA) mentorship program, which worked with three legally blind artists, who are also clients with the Iowa Department for the Blind, to create this work.
“AXA’s primary goal is to cultivate environments that are directly related to public art works and advocacy with the community,” Wells said of the program. “But the piece de resistance is a public work of art.”
“I AM,” which is the first art piece to come out of AXA, according to Wells, is meant to represent empowerment for the blind community. The two four-foot by five-foot canvases are interactive pieces that have “I am” statements in braille, coated in epoxy, on their surfaces.
The braille surrounding the bold “I AM” lettering completes the statement with sentiments like “a runner,” “a visitor of interesting places” and “trustworthy.”