Friday, December 1, 2023

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I noticed the glass mural that used to be displayed downtown along the Des Moines River is still gone. Will it be back?

Titled “Expansion” and designed by Japanese-American artist Jun Kaneko, the iconic mural was removed last December and sent to Germany for repairs. Parts of the mural were smashed with rocks during the city’s period of civil unrest in 2020.

“Expansion” was installed in October 2013 on the north exterior wall of the Court Avenue Pump Station. The artwork displays 45 different colors of hand-blown glass bands illuminated with 39,060 LED lights.

The initial damage to the glass cost more than $90,000. After the panels were removed for repair, it was discovered that the lighting also needed to be replaced. According to a spokesperson from the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation, “Expansion” is expected to be reinstalled this October. 

From where does the Des Moines Art Foundation receive its funds?

Formerly a commission of the City of Des Moines, the Greater Des Moines Arts Foundation (GDMAF) is now a separate nonprofit organization. The Foundation is allocated funding through the City’s budget in order to employ an executive director, cover administrative costs and present some programming. The Foundation was allocated $200,000 this year from the City of Des Moines, according to Board President Susan Fitzsimmons, who further explained that 60% of that sum is designated for administrative purposes and 40% used for programming. Any other funds needed are privately raised, including through individuals, philanthropic organizations, corporations and grants.

Fitzsimmons has been board president since January, the same month Executive Director Jessica Rowe resigned. An ongoing search for a new executive director is expected to conclude this month.

What is the difference between the terms “public art” and “art in public places”?

The terms are often used interchangeably. Both refer to art pieces that are both visually and physically accessible to the public — generally, but not always, installed outdoors. According to GDMAF’s website, “art in public places” is a more general term (for example, an existing sculpture being placed on a street corner). On the other hand, “public art” is more in tune with its community. Often, public art is specifically designed for its installation site, reflecting its environment, history and potential audience. Regardless of its category, art that reaches beyond the boundaries of traditional galleries and museums has been shown to enrich communities and encourage neighborhood pride. ♦

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