Des Moines Art Center Celebrates 75 Years of Iowa Art

Jeff Flemings, Executive director of The Des Moines Art Center

When thinking of Iowa Art, most people think of American Gothic and that’s where the conversation ends. But Jeff Fleming, of The Des Moines Art Center, explains why Iowa is art savvy, and why smart business leaders and civic leaders use art as a secret weapon to grow local economies and development. 

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75 Years of Iowa Art

The Des Moines Art Center is 75 years old and therefore they’re celebrating 75 years of Iowa art. (Actually, more like 100 years.) The list of Iowa artists is so large they had to use an entire gallery to hold all of it. We also discuss why the arts are usually first to get in periods of economic uncertainty, and why that may be one of the worst economic decisions you can make. 

Also, do you know where all the Downtown Des Moines Sculpture Park Art was stored before it was installed between Grand and Locust? Hint: it was in someone’s yard! 

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What artists are represented?

  • Grant Wood
  • William Charles Palmer
  • Amy Worthen
  • Erma Lucille Lukenbill
  • Hans Breder
  • Philip Guston
  • William Bailey
  • Marvin Cone
  • Larry Zox
  • Elizabeth Catlett
  • Anna Gaskell
  • Alex brown
  • Phillip Chen
  • Laurel Farrin
  • Larissa Cable
  • Rita McBride
  • Mitchell Squire
  • Jordan Weber
  • David Dunlap
  • Miriam Schapiro
  • Tilly Woodward

Who qualifies?

At the 75 years of Iowa art exhibition, you will find artists who lived or worked in Iowa in the last 100 years. There are 100 pieces in the exhibit representing paintings, sculpture, printmaking, video, photography, ad ceramics.

The Economics of Iowa Art

In this interview Jeff Fleming also discusses the surprising economics of art. Often, people view art as something “nice to look at” but that’s a very limited scope. In reality, artists are responsible for economic growth and community development.

In the words of local architect Kirk Blunck, “Economic development follows the artists. They will move into a neighborhood, development will follow, and they are run out by the very economic activity they create.”

Today, we have data, research, and even fMRI scans to show the arts are crucial in brain development. We know the arts teach problem solving skills and make better more innovative products. Is that enough to prevent the arts from ever being cut again?

The Des Moines Art Center

Des Moines Art Center Lobby
Des Moines Art Center Lobby

The Des Moines Art Center has an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture, modern art and mixed media. It was established in 1948 by the Des Moines Association of Fine Arts, which was founded in 1916. The museum has unique architectural features that combine three connected buildings uniquely designed by renowned architects, Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei and Richard Meier.

To learn more about The Des Moines Art Center, the auditorium, restaurant, or the Downtown Des Moines sculpture park check out their official website.