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Pappajohn Sculpture Garden in Des Moines, Iowa

posted on November 13, 2009 at 12:27 PM

Art takes many forms.  It is integrated into architecture, seen in paintings that hang in museums, and sculptures displayed in front of buildings.  Financing art, also takes many forms.  Public art is often paid for, in part, by public dollars. 

It often can involve a committee process to select a project and an artist for that project.  There are other means of obtaining art in public places.  The most recent, and rather large exhibit, is a sculpture park in downtown Des Moines.

Reporter:  It's called the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park.  The Des Moines couple donated some of the finest pieces of some of the most well-known artists of the 20th and 21st century, valued at $40 million. 

The area was once two city blocks with old buildings that had seen better days.  The city had already taken it over and turned it into a park when the Pappajohns came along.  Over $6 million went into preparing the park and placing the pieces. 

Groundbreaking was October 2008.  It officially opened in September 2009.  The result is 4.4 acres in the heart of the city with 25 world-class works that anybody can see for free.

Jeff Fleming, Director, Des Moines Art Center: It took a great deal of cooperation, a great deal of partnerships, a great deal of collaboration between the city and multiple departments in the city, the donors, the Art Center, and 35 contributors, be they foundations or corporations or individuals, they really provided the funds to do this.

Reporter: It's still a city park.  Over the next five years, the Des Moines Art Center assumes ownership of the art itself. Five hundred thousand dollars has been set aside for maintenance and security.

Angela Lampe, Docent, Des Moines Art Center: Walk up close, you can see his fingers in it and how he's touched it and manipulated it.

Reporter: Art isn't cheap but many communities consider it important.  In recent decades art has been seen as not only adding to the quality of life but contributing to economic development.  And people working together to create art in public spaces helps create community.  So it's not surprising to find art in public all over Iowa. 

More than one Iowa town has a mural like this one in Bedford or features sculptures on the town square like these pieces in Fairfield, while Marshalltown boasts a Christian Petersen piece at Fisher Community Center. 

In Council Bluffs, the Iowa West Foundation has a long-term project that has identified 50 sites for art in the   community.  Some of it's already in place, like molecule man.  The presence of art in public places, that people can encounter in their daily lives, seems to be a testament that art does matter.

Nancy Rice, Des Moines: I just wanted to see the finished product and to hear the history of all the pieces.

Lonnie Parsons, Des Moines: And we were real excited about the sculpture park.  We just thought it was just a tremendous thing for Des Moines.

Fleming: Art through the ages in my opinion, those art objects become artifacts of human experience.  These are artifacts of our current experience or our contemporary life, the art of our time.  It really responds to what makes us human.  That imaginative spirit, that creative spirit, those artifacts of human experience, and that should be and can be available to everyone.

Tags: art artists Des Moines Iowa parks sculpture