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This is a true story


South Des Moines Sculpture Park Art Festival is Sept. 15

The South Des Moines Sculpture Park Art Festival will award a $1,000 Art Scholarship to a Lincoln High School art student. The sculpture park is the brainchild of Phil Barber (pictured). The festival is to be held on Saturday, Sept. 15. More than two dozen art vendors are scheduled to attend, and 800 to 1,000 people are expected to enjoy the free event.

The outhouse doesn’t work, at least not as originally designed. Instead, the worn and weathered wooden box hides the smoke machine. The smoke machine attaches to an underground piping system running to a 30-foot-tall unidentified flying object. The faux UFO is an egg-shaped spacecraft, and it seemingly landed in front of a giant steel pyramid. The pyramid is a metal monstrosity sitting near what might be the world’s largest functioning paper clip — it weighs 300 pounds.

This is a true story.

At the corner of Southwest Eighth and McKinley, across the street from the south Des Moines home of Phil Barber, is the South Des Moines Sculpture Park.

“It’s a poor man’s Pappajohn’s,” says Barber, referencing the more well known sculpture park in downtown Des Moines.

Prep Iowa

A decade ago, the narrow piece of ground was little more than swampland attracting south-side mischief and illegal dumping. Barber looked at the trash heap sinking into the wasteland and knew it could be something good. With the help of some friends, Barber bought the property and developed the old eyesore into a sight to behold.

“I just got the idea to put some sculptures over here,” he says. “Because there’s really not much art on the south side.”

The park now boasts more than a dozen sculptures. Barber says his next work will be amongst his finest.

“The next one is going to be spectacular,” he says.

A giant typewriter is to be installed into the side of the hill. Its keys will serve as benches, and its sheet of paper will be made of steel.

Where do Barber’s ideas originate?

“I don’t know,” he states candidly.

But Barber does know that on Sept. 15 his park will be full of kids and families enjoying free food, fun games and art. The park is celebrating its 10th consecutive Art Festival along with 25 local artists and participating organizations. As it has done in the past, the South Des Moines Sculpture Park Art Festival will award a $1,000 Art Scholarship to a Lincoln High School art student. More than 800 attendees are expected. That is a lot of free food, a lot of fun for a lot of kids, and a lot of art for eyes that might not otherwise get to enjoy the finer things, like a spaceship hooked to an outhouse and sitting next to a giant pyramid.

“Parents can come with their kids, have a good time, get something to eat, and if they don’t want to buy anything, they don’t have to spend any money,” Barber says. “Artists like it because they don’t have to pay anything. If they sell something, it goes right in their pocket.”

This is a true story. ♦

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