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Des Moines Art Scene

Most people would not necessarily think of Des Moines when looking for a thriving art scene, however, this city is a hidden gem in the world of art, and certainly considered a haven for the gifted. Quite honestly, if you are looking to make a move and you are an artist, you really can’t do any better than Des Moines. This holds true for purchasing art or wanting to see a theatrical production too. Sure, there is always New York City, but the Big Apple life is not for everyone. Not to mention, your apartment there might fit in the closet of your place in Iowa!

You may be interested and surprised to learn that aspiring artists come to this city from around the world. There are three universities and a few small colleges that all have a fantastic art program. There are also plenty of galleries, theaters, festivals, etc., to showcase your work.

Des Moines Art Festival

This annual festival typically takes place during the last week of June and is considered one that cannot be missed by artists. In fact, it received the Encore award by “Bravo Greater Des Moines,” and it was the winner of the covered Grand Pinnacle award by the “International Festivals and Events Association.” Folks come from all over for this event.

Unlike many other art festivals that focus on only one area, this event includes visual, performing, and interactive art, as well as nonstop live music on two stages. If you live in the area or will be here on vacation, this is an event you do not want to miss. If you are new to Des Moines, this is a great event to volunteer at and meet some folks sharing your same interest.

Visit, Shop, and Get Involved

  • Des Moines  Art Center – Although this museum is small, it is thoughtfully laid out and offers a nice mix of artistic pieces. There is a quaint courtyard outside, a rose garden, and a small restaurant to enjoy. As you browse through, you are constantly awarded with views of work by significant artists, including Warhol, Money, Picasso, Henry Moore, Rothko, and many more.
  • Civic Center – It does not matter where you sit in this venue, you will feel as though you have the best seat in the house. Also, the chairs are incredibly comfortable and the isles are wide enough to walk through easily. The center routinely hosts Broadway shows, as well as an array of other live professional performances. The sound system and acoustics are fantastic, and the employees and volunteers are wonderful. A few popular shows to watch for include “RENT,” “Stomp,” “White Christmas,” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
  • Des Moines Metro Opera – Since opening its doors in 1973, this venue has been a very respected cultural source for the city. This is one of Iowa’s largest performing arts organizations, offering award-winning outreach and educational programs.
  • Instinct Gallery – This venue is committed to providing space for the pop-surrealist and underground art movements that continue to progress in America. Instinct Gallery offers 12 shows annually that promote acceptance of new artists and styles helping to push boundaries in the art world.
  • Olson-Larson Gallery – This contemporary gallery represents more than 60 of the Midwest’s finest artists. This venue offers seven annual exhibits, and they are always worth penciling into your schedule. Framing service is available here as well.
  • Maynard Reese Gallery – This 2,200-foot showroom focuses on the genius work of Maynard Reese who is known for his dedication for capturing nature his paintings. You do not need to be a birding enthusiast to find his work captivating.
  • Moberg  Gallery – There is truly something here for everyone in the gallery’s permanent work and rotating exhibits. Explore the darkness of the work done by M. Shawn Crahan, and then have your mind awakened by paintings completed by Frank Hansen. Other notable artists with favorite pieces at this gallery include Marc Moulton, Anthony Pontius, David Rose, Jesse Small, and Travis Rice.