Peculiar midwest sculpture park does not disappoint

By: Tasha Fabela-Jonas

Art lovers, beware! Tucked near the entrance into downtown at 1330 Grand Ave. in Des Moines, Iowa is a 4.4 acre sculpture haven, The Pappajohn Sculpture Park. The park has been intriguing visitors with odd statuary since 2009 and features 29 works by 22 of the world’s most proclaimed artists. John and Mary Pappajohn have donated over $40 million worth of artwork, which is the most momentous contribution ever made to the Des Moines Art Center.

Open sunrise to midnight, the park is very inviting with a walkway that weaves in and out of a green space with each sculpture visible from the path. Visitors can venture off the walkway and get close up views of the art but are not allowed to touch, climb or sit on the masterpieces. You can take a guided tour with advanced notice, but even easier is an audio tour you can take yourself by going online or dialing (515) 657-8264.

A few of our favorite and most alluring pieces include: “MOONRISE. east. january” and “MOONRISE. east. august,” each created in 2005 by Ugo Rondinone. The painted cast aluminum on steel plinth heads make you tilt your own head in awe of the size and expressions on both faces.

“Nomade” made by Jaume Plensa in 2007 is a huge painted stainless steel hollow seated figure with cut-out letters that may or may not spell something out. We thought it was a great selfie opportunity. And finally, one of our other favorite pieces at the park, this one sculpted in 1950, is “In the Morning” by Anthony Caro. A life-sized cast bronze female figure is seen stepping into a bathtub. Reminiscent of what actually does happen in the mornings.

All of that walking around trying to figure out what the meaning of each sculpture is might leave your mouth dry. We found a fun little ice cream joint right around the corner from the park called Black Cat Ice Cream. The ice cream here is made using local organic produce and dairy. Flavors are ever-changing, so be sure to check their facebook page to see what you’re getting yourself into. We noticed they listed flavors such as blueberry pancake, root beer float, peanut butter puppy chow and red velvet oreo. Yum! Sometimes they sell out fast, so stay connected or call them at (515) 720-2672.

If all of those steps and a belly full of ice cream has got you not wanting to get out of the car again, swing by the Huston Cemetery in West Des Moines for a quick peek at a tiny cemetery that is literally right in the middle of a roundabout. We suppose you could circle around it multiple times and get a feel for how unique it is. The historical cemetery located at the intersection of 88th street and Mills Civic Parkway is named after James B. Huston, who arrived in Iowa around 1847. The first two people buried at the cemetery were former slaves who died on their way to freedom. James, who died in 1889, is believed to be the last person buried in Huston Cemetery, next to his wife, Nancy, and their six children. 11 total graves have been recorded. With the growing development in busy West Des Moines, roads will be re-routed and the tiny graveyard will no longer be stranded. The city plans to reconstruct a metal fence that will once again isolate the area as it once was.

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