The Des Moines Arts Festival
The Des Moines Arts Festival spans three days for a reason — so clear your calendars this weekend.
The 15th annual event features more than just art, although there’s plenty of that. There’s wine. There’s theater. There’s music.
The quick details
What it is: The Des Moines Arts Festival features 185 professional artists and 22 Emerging Iowa Artists who will be showcasing their work in 14 mediums. There are also interactive activities, including the assembly of a giant, pop-art puzzle (more on that later). The Interrobang Film Festival rounds out the weekend, featuring screenings at the Downtown Library festival site.
When it is: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Where it is: Western Gateway Park, 15th and Locust Streets, surrounding the Pappajohn Sculpture Park.
Where to park: Park your bike for free on the corner of 15th Street and Grand Avenue. If you’re driving, parking is available at the Nationwide/Allied Insurance parking ramps at 10th and Mulberry streets and 13th and Mulberry streets. Or, park on the corner of Ninth and Locust streets in the city parking ramp. Valet parking is also available at 13th and Walnut streets.
Bathrooms: On 15th and Locust streets and along Grand Avenue at 12th Street.
Don’t bring: Outside beverages, your skateboard or your pets (sorry, Fido).
185 professional artists: Browse dozens of artists’ work in mediums including 2- and 3-D mixed media, sculpture, drawing, fiber, printmaking and more. While, yes, some of the art is expensive, much of it is also affordable. Bring home a new bowl for your kitchen, a sculpture for your garden or a wall hanging for your living room.
22 Emerging Iowa Artists: This annual showcase spotlights visual artists who are Iowa residents and are either currently enrolled in higher education, or recently graduated (within one year). The program gives the artists the opportunity to promote their talents and sell their artwork. In addition to the publicity artists receive, the Awards Jury will jury all of the participating artists, awarding an Emerging Iowa Artist a $1,000 Best of Show award for the Best Student Artist.
Interactive art activities: One of the most popular aspects of the Des Moines Arts Festival, interactive activities give festival-goers the opportunity to participate in the creativity. In addition to music, dance, painting activities and more, two large-scale interactive projects will be available:
Paint the Skywalk — Help create a 10-by-13-foot mural that will be permanently displayed on the wall inside the Des Moines Partnership Building in July. Guests will be able to help create a mural inspired by the work of emerging artist Abby Butson, an art student at Grand View University. Her original painting will be scanned and divided into 1-by-1-inch images, so guests can transfer their interpretation into a blank 6-by-6-inch Masonite panel. Help create the mural at the Principal Booth.
Pop Art Puzzle — “We have no concept of what this will look like,” Amy Eaton, Marketing and Media Relations manager for the Festival, said. “But it will be fun to watch.” A much buzzed-about activity this year, the Pop Art Puzzle will be a collaborative effort to build a huge, three-dimensional sculpture at the festival. Paint one of 1,500 large puzzle pieces with eco-friendly paint and create a piece of the puzzle. As the festival proceeds, so will the progress of the puzzle sculpture. We would suggest stopping by daily to watch the piece of art take form.
Performing Arts: In addition to browsing art and making it yourself, don’t miss several performing arts showcases from local and Midwest entertainers, ranging from dance performances to martial arts demonstrations, all performed on the GuideOne Performing Arts Stage.
Live music: Some come to the Arts Festival year after year simply for the music. Live music will be performed all day, all weekend, including five local bands on Friday, blues legend Shemekia Copeland headlining Saturday (8-10 p.m.), and a project by the Central Iowa Music Lab on Sunday.
Interrobang Film Festival: For the film buffs, the Interrobang Film Festival combines a traditional film festival with a public screening. Accepted films will be screened throughout the festival, in categories ranging from features, shorts, short shorts (less than one minute long), documentary, mids and free form. Read more about the film festival on Page 13.
Jazz and Wine Pavilion: Jasper Winery will host the Jazz and Wine Pavilion, where you can taste and buy quality wines from the local winery, as well as brews from Madhouse Brewery and Anheuser- Busch. This year, the Pavilion will feature mimosas (made with sparkling Edelweiss wine) and sangria, a refreshing way to enhance your day.
Food courts: Visit two food courts this year, which will be outfitted with dozens of food vendors from central Iowa and the Midwest. A few we’re excited to try: Mo’Rub soul food from Des Moines, Island Noodles from Wisconsin, and Hey Brothers Ice Cream from Illinois.
ArtFest Midwest celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, featuring more than 240 artists from Iowa and surrounding states. Dubbed “The Other Art Show,” ArtFest Midwest is always held the same weekend as the Des Moines Arts Festival, giving art lovers another location to browse and buy art that was created by local hands.
The quick details
What it is: An “affordable art show,” which boasts a similar quality of art once found at the original “Art in the Park” held at the Des Moines Art Center several years ago. It also gives exposure to local and regional artists in air- conditioned comfort.
When it is: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Where it is: Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, East 30th Street and East University Avenue.
Where to park: Parking is free at the fairgrounds. If you’re planning on traveling to both shows (downtown and at the fairgrounds), take one of the free shuttles that will be running between the two shows. Shuttles to the downtown show will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday. The buses will pick up approximately every 15 minutes and will stop in front of the main north entrance to the Varied Industries Building at the Fairgrounds, and at 12th and Walnut Streets downtown.
240 artists: ArtFest Midwest features local artists with affordable artwork. This year, approximately 40 percent of the artists are from Iowa, and 90 percent are from the Midwest.
KidzDuArt: Bringing the whole family? Stop by the KidzDuArt zone, which has been expanded this year with more options for hands-on art projects to make and take home. Kids can also participate in a free Make-A-Puppet workshop, where they can create a free figurine to take home, and get their face painted.
Demonstrations: Various Iowa artists will give demonstrations throughout the weekend, including potter Kristin Hill, jeweler Rachel Sims, sculptor Ron Dinsdale, painter Chris Abigt, 3-D mixed media artist Peggy Johnston and drawer Laurie Rhiner.
“Fire-Works” project: Ceramics artist Jeff Shawhan will give pottery firing demonstrations, and will provide guests the opportunity to paint and fire their own bowls and pendants (for a fee).
Assemble a plan
Assemble a plan
Sure, you could wander aimlessly around the grounds and experience plenty of what the festival has to offer. If you want a little more direction, consider this plan as a starting point.
Friday: Take a long lunch break or head to the festival right after work. Events kick off at 11 a.m. Friday, and the unique piece of art you want may sell fast. Start with a stroll around the grounds and buy what you love. If you can get to the festival over lunch, grab a bite to eat from one of the eclectic food vendors and nosh while watching the Belin Quartet on the GuideOne Performance Stage from noon to 12:45 p.m. Other live music performances include Thankful Dirt (11 a.m.-1 p.m.), Rebel Creek (1:30-3:30 p.m.), James Biehn (4-5:30 p.m.), Bonne Finken (6-7:30 p.m.) and The Nadas (8-10 p.m.).
Saturday: After picking up produce at the Farmers Market or enjoying brunch downtown, paint a puzzle piece for the Pop Art Puzzle sculpture, and create a block for the Skywalk Mural. Beat the heat by taking a free shuttle to ArtFest Midwest, “The Other Art Show,” at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The fine arts show features 240 artists from Iowa and surrounding states, artist demonstrations and more, all in the air-conditioned Varied Industries Building. In the afternoon, watch a few film shorts or a full-length feature film at the Interrobang Film Festival, then secure a close-up spot for a performance by musical headliner Shemekia Copeland, a blues singer, from 8 to 10 p.m.
Sunday: Stop by the Food and Wine Pavilion for a mimosa or sangria to kick off the last day of the festival (singer Michelle Lynn will perform in the pavilion from 10 a.m. to noon). Watch a martial arts performance by Farrell’s on the GuideOne Performance Stage, then watch the Central Iowa Music Lab students’ latest project on the Aviva Main Stage from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Check on the progress of the Pop Art Puzzle Sculpture and Skywalk Mural, and browse the artists’ booths one last time .