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NOTEBOOK: From the archives: The sculpture park at 10


The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park turns 10 this September. Ten years ago a certain brand-new Business Record reporter (cough, cough) filed what I must say is quite a fine piece of reporting about what the park could mean for the area ? maybe it wasn’t Pulitzer level, but it was certainly close. 

The lede of my story pointed to the art icons in other cities, such as Chicago’s “Cloud Gate” (also known as the “Bean”), “Chicago Picasso,” and “Crown Fountain,” and Minneapolis’ “Spoonbridge and Cherry.” In many cities the imagery from their icons was infused into other elements of the city ? on the sides of garbage trucks and buses, for example. 

From my 2009 story: “Don’t expect to see a likeness of the 26-foot-tall “Nomade” on the sides of Des Moines garbage trucks anytime soon, but hopes are high that it and the sculpture park it will be a part of will develop into a similar icon for the city of Des Moines.” While “Nomade” might not be to “Bean” level, it certainly has been fun to see the way it has slowly been woven into the fabric of the community. 

Alas, it was fun to go back and read Des Moines Art Center Director Jeff Fleming’s comments on his hopes and dreams for the area. Fleming said in 2009: “I think there is potential for [this park] and the potential for art to literally transform the community. This will be the heartbeat of the city.” It was just dirt he pointed to while telling me that, but the evidence that development would sprout around the area was well underway, and it appears his and other community leaders’ belief was spot-on that the park would lead to development and investment in the area. 

Kathy Bolten’s cover story this week shows how property values have increased dramatically in the area, at least in part thanks to the change in perception of the area. And while development around the park is the end result, Fleming felt that ultimately the cultural impact would be the biggest gift of the sculpture garden. 

Again, Fleming from 2009: “It is the intangibles such as changing the aura of a community, changing the atmosphere of the community, that is so significant. I think the possibilities are endless for what this can do for the city.” 

Ten years in, development is still sprouting, spreading north of Kum & Go’s new headquarters, and south to Walnut Street, which planners originally thought would see revitalization begin farther east toward Capital Square. And new potential icons ? the “LOVE” sculpture, for example, which graced dsm Magazine’s cover this week ? continue to be added to keep the park fresh. The next 10 years will be fun to watch. Read the full story here: https://bit.ly/2zw54Es 

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