Three days of art, music and film will take over Western Gateway Park in Des Moines as the Des Moines Arts Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary June 24-26.
Stephen King, the executive director of the Des Moines Art Festival, has been with the festival for 16 years and has seen it expand to include more artists and programming.
“As we all know, Iowans like to hibernate during the winter,” King joked. “So it’s a great opportunity for them to jump over there and see everyone again. I also think one of the biggest draws is the artists, being able to see the two artists who have been here before and then also just going out to see who’s new, what the new work is like and trying to explore something new.”
According to King, the festival will feature 32 more artists than last year, for a total of 190 visual artists.
Artists come from 34 different states and Nova Scotia. Of the 190 artists, 17 are from Iowa and 53 come from the neighboring states of Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin.
“To me, it’s like a family reunion,” King said. “I know a lot of these artists, just from past experiences and the Des Moines Arts Festival, so it’s always nice and fun to see them on the weekends. I love looking at art, I love buying art. art – as my wife will point out – but it’s definitely my favorite.”
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With many artists losing income during the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns, King sees the Arts Festival as a way for the community to support independent artists.
“In addition to their talent, we need to help support their business,” King said. “I certainly think Des Moines as a community has proven how incredibly supportive it is of individual artists. I think one of the things that the Arts Festival offers is that opportunity to meet the artists, to find out who is that person and understand what the story is behind the work they produced.”
Here’s what you need to know about the 25th Annual Des Moines Arts Festival.
What is the Des Moines Arts Festival?
The festival traces its roots to 1958, when the Des Moines Art Center hosted the All Iowa Art Fair to celebrate its 10th anniversary, according to the Des Moines Arts Festival website.
The art exhibit went through several name and location changes until 1998, when it was moved downtown along the Des Moines River and renamed the Des Moines Festival of the Arts.
While the first All Iowa Art Fair attracted only a few hundred guests, the Des Moines Arts Festival now has an annual attendance of over 200,000. The Arts Festival has welcomed more than 2.5 million visitors since moving downtown in 1998.
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“I can’t tell you the number of times the companies that helped sponsor the festival shared with us how important arts and culture is in our community,” King said. “Things like these festivals are important to our communities for a great place to live, quality of life, employee retention, not to mention the tax base it brings in and helps support the community as a whole. .”
A portion of the arts festival’s proceeds go to support the Des Moines Art Center.
Parking and admission to the Des Moines Arts Festival
Entrance to the festival is free. However, VIP packages are available for purchase on the Des Moines Arts Festival website starting at $80 and include access to the festival’s Silent Rivers VIP club, an express lane at the food venues, a commemorative poster and other benefits.
VIP parking is located at 212 Walnut Street, at the intersection of 12th and Walnut streets.
For non-VIPs, Nationwide Insurance offers free parking on its ramp at 1100 Walnut St., between 10th and 12th streets, starting at 11 a.m. Friday and throughout the weekend.
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Plus, DART’s free D-Line shuttle loops every 10 minutes from the Iowa State Capitol to Western Gateway Park. The D-Line operates 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
For those hoping to avoid traffic altogether, cycling is another option. The festival will have a free bike valet sponsored by Friends of Central Iowa Trails. The valet will be located on Locust Street between 15th and 16th streets. The valet will close 30 minutes after the end of the festival each day.
Emerging artists at the Arts Festival
Since 2003, the Festival of the Arts has supported young, emerging artists through the Emerging Iowa Artists program.
Iowans enrolled in any institute of higher learning are welcome to apply. Young artists are selected by the same jury process that selects professional artists. It offers emerging artists the opportunity to exhibit and sell their works alongside festival professionals, at no cost to them.
This year’s seven emerging artists are:
- Haleigh Anderson d’Ames, a student at Iowa State University
- Ashley Craddock from Ankeny, student at Grand View University
- Becca Hickok from Des Moines, student at Drake University
- Kayana Janai from Des Moines, student at Grand View University
- Megan Rohr from Oskaloosa, student at Central College
- Luke Schuster of Johnston, student at Universidad de Antonio Nebrija
- Alima Sula from Cedar Falls, studying at Kirkwood Community College
Art, films and music to discover
The Interrobang Film Festival will return to the Des Moines Central Public Library, 1000 Grand Ave., during Arts Fest, with a juried competition portion, public screening portion, and workshop portion. Head to the library to see films such as ‘Steps to the Moon’, ‘Livestock on the Land’ and ‘Jimmy in Saigon’, or watch one of the short film sessions with three or more showings together.
For a more hands-on Arts Fest experience, check out one of the many free interactive arts activities on offer. Prairie Meadows and the Altoona Lions Club will offer a rotating art station, and the Blank Park Zoo will help guests create seed balls to plant. Make a bird’s nest at the Iowa Bird Rehabilitation Station, or design and paint your own custom t-shirt with help from Supply Hive volunteers. Whatever your artistic niche, the many interactive activities of the Arts Festival will satisfy you.
The 25th Anniversary Kickoff Concert with William Elliott Whitmore will take place at 7:30 p.m. on June 23 on Roots Stage in the parking lot east of 1416 Locust St. Whitmore grew up on a family farm in Lee County, Iowa, according to his description as an Arts Fest artist. He traveled the country performing folk music with blues, soul and punk rock influences.
Other musical artists performing during Arts Fest include G. Love & Special Sauce, an alternative, blues and hip-hop band from Philadelphia, and James Tutson and the Rollback, a soul/rhythm and blues band from Philadelphia. ‘Iowa City. Musical artists will be taking the stage at Arts Fest all weekend, so check out the full list of Art Festival performers to find a show.
Throughout the festival, artists will provide demonstrations of the techniques they used to create their work. An artist, Alicia Velasquez, will demonstrate traditional Native American beading techniques. Another artist, Ashley Craddock, will show how she uses wood burning tools to create her art. For a complete list of artist demonstrations, times and locations, visit the Des Moines Arts Festival website.
New to the arts festival this year is a Pride Month-inspired Drag Brunch at 10:30 a.m. on June 26 on the Hy-Vee Main Stage. The drag brunch costs $40 per ticket, available for purchase online, and includes brunch, soft drinks, and a chance to mingle with drag performers.
A free drag show will take place after brunch, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Drag performers include Nikki Love, Mae Banks, Jack Frost, Riri Sanchez-Herrera, Kitty B, and Sharaya Sinz Diamond.
“We really built a stronger programming schedule for the festival this year,” King said.
Closed roads near Des Moines Arts Festival
Des Moines residents should keep in mind the road closures that will occur during the festival. Locust Street between 17th and 10th Streets will close at 9 a.m. on June 24 and reopen at 6 a.m. on June 29.
Grand Avenue between 16th and 10th Streets will close at 6 p.m. on June 24 and reopen at 6 a.m. on June 29. The cross streets (12th, 13th and 15th streets) will close at 9 a.m. on June 24 and reopen at 6 a.m. on June 29.
Grace Altenhofen is a reporter for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @gracealtenhofen.