Be a Part of Art at Pappajohn Sculpture Park

There’s a wonderful four-and-a-half acre park right in the middle of downtown Des Moines, Iowa.


It’s filled with more than two dozen larger-than-life sculptures, created by some of the biggest names in art from around the globe.

Photo of large white sculpture of letters that looks like a sitting person.
Nomade by Jaume Plensa is probably the piece most associated with the park. If you look closely you'll see it's a sitting person, with their knees pulled up and hands around ankles. ** https://dsmpublicartfoundation.org/public-artwork/nomade/

Walking through the park you feel less like you’re looking at art and more like you are a part of it.


It is the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park.


The park open from sunrise to midnight, 365 days a year, and it’s all free.


Under the purview of the Des Moines Art Center, it opened in 2009 and is a collaborative effort of the Art Center, the park’s namesakes, John and Mary Pappajohn, along with the city of Des Moines and Des Moines Parks and Recreation.


Every time I’ve been there it seems something new has been added. I don’t know if that’s because they really are adding new things or there’s so much that I just notice something different on each visit.


The roster represented in the park is a Who’s Who of major names: Williem De Kooning, Keith Haring, Robert Indiana, a personal favorite – Ai Weiwei, and many more.

Photo of Miffy Fountain that looks like a white rabbit. Water flows from its eyes into the pond below.
My favorite piece, Miffy Fountain, is technically not a part of the sculpture park. It's just a block over, at the Des Moines Central Library. ** https://dsmpublicartfoundation.org/public-artwork/miffy-fountain/

The Art Center even provides tours from April through October. You’re asked to give them at least three weeks notice and can contact them at tours@desmoinesartcenter.org


If you’re more of a do-it-yourself person, the Art Center has a fun Exploration Guide online as well as an Audio Tour.


Related-but-not-related, there are a wide variety of restaurants, three breweries and one of my favorite Des Moines bars, The Gas Lamp, all within two or three blocks. There’s plenty of street parking around the park and nearby ramps.


The park is also a popular place for city events and festivals. I can personally recommend the Des Moines Art Festival held the last weekend in July and the World Food and Music Festival in mid-September.


Photos of just a few of the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park art below. P.S. The modern-style building in the background of a couple of the photos is the Krause Gateway Center.


Links with information on each piece are further below.



Thinker on a Rock, Barry Flanagan

Love, Robert Indiana

Untitled (Three Dancing Figures, version C), Keith Haring

White Ghost, Yoshitomo Nara

Back of a Snowman (Black), Gary Hume

Back of a Snowman (White), Gary Hume

Post Balzac, Judith Shea

Moonrise, east. january, Ugo Rondinone

Moonrise, east. august, Ugo Rondinone


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**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.

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