Sunday, June 29, 2008

Art in the Heartland

This is the 11th year for the Des Moines Arts Festival as hosted by the Downtown Events Group. It continues a fifty year tradition of locally-produced and directed fine arts fairs. A handful of paid staff members and over a thousand volunteers work each year on this Art Fair. Every year it serves as a highlight of their efforts to revitalize and re-energize the evolving downtown scene in Des Moines.

Held on the broad, open vistas of the Western Gateway Park at the edge of downtown Des Moines, several streets are closed to vehicle traffic and a visitor-friendly and spectator-inviting atmosphere is created for the weekend.

This year over 1400 (!!) applications to show were received. As they needed to be culled to fit the 175 available spots in the show, a jury of fellow professional artists used a blind selection process to select those to be invited to participate.

Fifteen categories are represented, ranging from 2-D and 3-D Mixed Media through Digital, Fiber, Glass, Jewelry, to Sculpture and Wood.

A quick look at the list of artists presenting this year shows they come from as far away as Washington and Florida, from California to South Carolina. As a member of the International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA) the Fair has a growing reputation for quality in the art fair world.

The Fair also supports new Iowa artists through the Emerging Iowa Artists program and also supports art in school classrooms throughout central Iowa through the Nurturing a Student’s Vision program.

Of course, food, music, drink, and family fun are also an integral part of the Fair. It truly is an event valued by young and old, singles and families, any and every person that enjoys viewing the world through the eyes of artists.

Of the many artists exhibiting this year, a couple grabbed my attention.

It was hard to miss the woven wire sculptures of Michael Gard. Starting with a clay sculpture, which is then reproduced in wax, the wire itself (brass, aluminum, copper, silver, etc.) is then woven over the wax sculpture. When the piece is completed, the wax is melted away leaving the finished 3-D art work.

They are light, airy, strong . . .and incredibly beautiful. Now if only I had the jack to afford even a small one... The one shown is one of the larger sizes displayed, apparently 48 inches large, if it follows the example on his web site.

Another artist that captured my eye and my imagination was Gregory Story. From Fort Worth, Texas Story captures his visions in ceramic creations. Jars, bottles, floor 'totems', 'wallballs', etc.

I wanted to take a picture, but Gregory asked that I not, that instead I could use images from his website to illustrate his work. Unfortunately, his website is 'Flash'-based and I am too busy and clueless to ferret out the image URLs. I am sure you can google his name or 'wallball' and find his page. Sorry Gregory.

Some Des Moines residents complain there is 'nothing to do' here. I would suggest that there is much to do if one is willing to look around and take advantage of the opportunities available.


Here are a few more pictures of the grounds, some art-work, prepared by kids visiting the various exhibits, and a giant mural created from individual panels 'painted' by Fair visitors.

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