In September 2009, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park was completed in Des Moines' Western Gateway, valued at approximately $40 million. Serving as a trustee for the Des Moines Art Center, Mr. Pappajohn helped bring the beautiful 4.4 acre park to life with his passion for the arts and generous donations. The contribution of 28 artworks by John and Mary Pappajohn has made it the most important one to this day for the Des Moines Art Center
Featuring artworks by 22 of the world's most renowned artists, the park is located at the entry to downtown Des Moines. Accessible and pedestrian-friendly the park truly is one of the most convenient outdoor areas in a city! We sure wish we had one just like it. The gorgeous landscape of the sculpture park is an art in its own and it showcases the sculptures beautifully, creating the unique oasis of art in Des Moines.
We at Museeum fell in love with the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and just had to reach out to its team and ask them a few questions.
The Pappajohn Sculpture Garden has been open since 2009. Have you seen it grow and progress in the past 8 years?
Yes, enormously. We’ve added three new sculptures since it opened including the Keith Haring, the Yoshitomo Nara, and Olafur Eliasson’s panoramic awareness pavilion, which is site-specific to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park.
Has the Sculpture Park become an important part of the Des Moines community? If so, please elaborate.
Yes, the community has embraced the park. Thousands of people visit the park each month and the Jaume Plensa sculpture Nomade has become an icon of Des Moines.
Also, there has been a revitalization of the neighborhood including new restaurants, Wellmark’s corporate offices within a new eco-friendly building, and Kum & Go is constructing their new building designed by renowned architect and engineer Renzo Piano.
The 4.4-acre Park has been beautifully landscaped and thought through it seems, can you tell us more about that? Did it’s location (in the midst of the city) influence it?
The landscape was designed by New York-based architects Diana Agrest and Mario Gandelsonas who worked with Des Moines for many years creating the Vision Plan for the Western Gateway. The placement of the sculptures was done by Art Center Director Jeff Fleming.
Within the impressive collection of sculptures what would you say is the park’s highlight?
There are so many, but I think because the Nomade has become iconic for Des Moines, and that it was the first one installed, many would consider it a highlight.
How does the Sculpture Park change throughout the seasons of the year?
Because our climate changes so often the park changes with the seasons and the time of day. It was so beautiful the last time it snowed and when the weather warms up, the park is one of the most popular locations in the city.
With what concept or idea in mind was the Sculpture Park curated?
John and Mary Pappajohn had the original collection of 15 works in their yard at their south of Grand home. Daily, but especially on Sundays, people in their cars would line up in the street to drive by and view the work. When construction started on the park, John and Mary decided to share their sculpture with the community and donated the sculpture to the Des Moines Art Center. It has been a great partnership between the Pappajohns, the Art Center, and the City of Des Moines. Director Jeff Fleming placed the sculpture in “rooms” or “galleries” east to west: realist, figurative, abstract, and minimalist. The larger works like the Mark di Suvero T8 mark the site.
We know that you can reserve the park for special events. Could you tell us more about the type of events you’ve held in the park?
Actually, we don’t allow events in the park, however there is green space just east of the park where concerts are held. The acclaimed Des Moines Arts Festival, founded by the Art Center is held on the streets surrounding the park every summer. Des Moines also supports the food truck trend and in the warm months food trucks park along the west and east sides of the park and hundreds of people picnic in the park.
We are excited to find out what some of the future plans are for the Sculpture Park, is there anything in the works?
Nothing to announce currently, however we are always open to possibilities for new sculpture.