Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Public art is spreading from downtown Des Moines into neighborhoods and suburbs, now featured within parks, along the city's trails and inside community centers.

Facilitated in large part by the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation, these murals, sculptures and other works can "heighten our awareness, transform a landscape, or express community values," the nonprofit's website reads, "and for these reasons can have the power, over time, to reshape a city’s image."

Check out the newest public artwork in the metro area and see what's planned for the coming months.

Des Moines

6th Avenue Corridor: After commissioning several vibrant bus wraps in recent years, the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation is partnering with the 6th Avenue Corridor Urban Neighborhood Main Street Program to liven up bus shelters in the River Bend and Cheatom Park neighborhoods.

Part of a larger improvement project in the 6th Avenue Corridor, which stretches from Interstate Highway 235 to the Des Moines River, colorful artwork will soon cover 12 bus shelters for a milelong stretch. The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority is also partnering on the effort, which features designs from Barbados-based artist Sheena Rose. 

Water Works Park: Former Des Moines Register columnists and co-founders of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, John Karras and the late Donald Kaul, are being honored with statues that will be displayed in Water Works Park this spring. The statues can currently be seen at Bike World West Des Moines.

Constructed of bronze and aluminum, "RAGBRAI: River to River” features abstract renderings of the two newspapermen alongside long, undulating strips representing the rolling hills of Iowa and dozens of circular rings standing in for bicycle rims. 

Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Fundraising for the $150,000 statue started in earnest last year with RAGBRAI kicking in just over $40,000 to get the project off the ground. In January, the Des Moines Register announced a donation of $25,000, adding the final dollars needed to cover the artwork’s cost.

The rest of the funds were collected from more than 50 teams, individuals and RAGBRAI superfans who each kicked in less than $2,000.

More: RAGBRAI forever: Statues honoring founders, rider memories, unveiled


Douglas Avenue Interchange: The final step of Urbandale's beautification efforts at the Douglas Avenue Interchange off Interstate 35/80 is to add two sculptures to the median, on opposite sides of the bridge. The Urbandale Public Art Committee sought public input on works by three finalists.

A winning submission will be announced in March and is expected to be installed this year.

1. Clint Hansen's "Love You to the Moon & Raise You to the Stars"

Hansen's pieces — each showing two figures swinging under a glowing moon and star — was inspired by his family's move to Urbandale 12 years ago. "We did our homework and liked what we saw in this thriving little suburb, great schools, access to everything we could imagine, wonderful parks, trails, ... it felt like home," he wrote in his submission to the city.

2. Sam Spiczka's "Growth & Opportunity"

Spiczka's sculptures are a left hand holding yellow shapes representing the sun and a seed kernel, and a right hand holding green shapes representing area plants and crops. The installation would "symbolize the hard work of the people of Urbandale, their stewardship of the land, and the hopes they have for the future," the Minnesota artist wrote in his submission.

3. Tony Stallard's "Urban Gothic"

Stallard's work is a tongue-in-cheek take on the famous "American Gothic" painting by Iowa native Grant Woods. The pitchfork-wielding man runs with a briefcase, and the woman sits cross-legged with a laptop. The sculptures would "bring a smile of recognition to most hardened drivers and ... inspire civic pride that in time would become a famous landmark," the London-based artist wrote in his submission.

Bravo Greater Des Moines contributed $20,000 to the interchange project, with the city's capital improvements program paying another $20,000, said Urbandale Parks and Recreation director Jan Herke. In recent years, Bravo gave $12,000 to develop an art gallery in the city, $20,000 to the "Strata" sculpture and $5,000 to help develop the library's art programming.

West Des Moines

Raccoon River Park: Installed last fall at Raccoon River Park, "Even Water" includes eight sculptures made of stainless steel and bronze. The permanent installation by California artist Cliff Garten mimics natural processes that impact local landscapes and is meant to educate citizens about area watersheds and water quality.

"Even Water" is just one part of the Water Quality Community Service Art Project. Two more components, both by Illinois artist Bounnak Thammavong, are in progress.

Upcoming: West Des Moines Parks and Recreation director Sally Ortgies said more public art projects are coming soon. The city is currently selecting art to be installed at the new Jamie Hurd Amphitheater, and is also commissioning an artist for the next phase of the "LIGHT Valley Junction" project.

Thammavong's upcoming pieces include a community-sourced sculpture called "Aqua Strata" and another called "Blossoms on the Water," Ortgies said. The latter will be unveiled at the city's annual Earth Day celebration, planned for April 25 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Terra Park: Johnston's Terra Park is now home to a towering sculpture called "Tree of Life." Added in December, Artist Hilde DeBruyne's piece is meant to be a welcoming beacon within the city's largest park.

Shadows project the words on each of the "leaves" — community, growing, welcoming —  onto the concrete below depending on the time of day. This spring, bricks commemorating the city's 50th anniversary will be sold and placed around the sculpture.

Grants from Prairie Meadows and Bravo Greater Des Moines as well as private donations funded the project.

Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Register columnist Courtney Crowder contributed reporting.

Shelby Fleig covers Des Moines' western suburbs for the Register. Reach her at or 515-214-8933.

Your subscription makes work like this possible. Subscribe today at

Read or Share this story: