Contact Buzz: Who needs a gallery? Art Week Des Moines is back to bring art to the streets

Abby Niederhauser, known for her ’90s pop art, is also the creator/owner of a 200 lb. crocheted yarn ball. — video still, Art Week Des Moines

A cultural movement flourishes in Central Iowa. Its symbiotic nature unites creatives, communities and cultures, and it continues to grow. Art Week Des Moines (AWDM) invites the region to engage, interact and otherwise make their shared neighborhoods shimmer with the vibrant proof of the creativity that thrives and drives its residents. This may be a perfect stay-cation, transporting participants to a diverse range of cultures, aesthetics and appreciation, all awaiting exploration. AWDM will be featured in a different neighborhood each day from June 17-23. It’s a citywide pre-party of sorts for the award-winning Des Moines Arts Festival (June 24-26 in Des Moines’ Western Gateway Park). And you are invited.

As the renowned classical guitarist Robert Bluestone once said, when presenting in Iowa, “Creativity is the capital of the 21st century.” AWDM is paying dividends through its wealth of creativity.

From the beginning

In 2015, David Safris and Liz Adelman launched a new way to celebrate our local arts scene. Art Week Des Moines became a cultural magnet that quickly drew inspired participants. Safris and Adelman attracted the attention of professional artist Rachel Buse, who brought with her an extensive network of regional artists and a passion for connecting to the community.

Safris, an avid art collector and advocate, owns design and marketing company Visionary. He produced an art show in 2014, an energized precursor to AWDM that proved worth nurturing. His company provided a solid foundation for such a vision, and the 2015 AWDM sprouted. In addition to Visionary, AWDM is now presented by Invest DSM, Group Creative Services and Cityview Magazine. These provide a framework that attracts fresh ideas and program expansion.

Organic growth for AWDM creates strong roots

The 2022 AWDM saw a 25 percent increase in submissions. Venues and organizations get involved by creating a diverse array of experiences. Buse; Ryan Hanser, CEO of Hanser & Associates; and Teva Dawson of Group Creative Services are coordinating this year’s program.

“It’s a successful celebration of arts and people,” offered Hanser. “There’s momentum, creating a sense of discovery.”

“[Artists] wanted more focus, both temporal and geographic,” said Dawson. “Art Week was their way of … offering new ways for people who normally wouldn’t go into a gallery, offering fun spaces that are untraditional places for art to show up — that they could wander into and encounter art.”

Dawson shared that all involved were “creating places that people want to be.”

“Each day of Art Week will focus on one of those neighborhoods,” said Buse, adding that many artists are taking the lead for events at their locations. “Valerie Van Horne has organized artists who live at the Phenix School in Valley Junction, with an exhibit. There’s a Pride Show at the Slow Down Coffee Company at Oak Park/Highland Park, including Abby Niederhauser, a self-proclaimed ’90s enthusiast whose work is all about celebrating ’90s pop culture … [She has] a yarn ball she started then.” That 200-pound relic will be making the circuit during AWDM.

The strength of Art Week is “partnering with local businesses and neighborhood associations, trying to embed Art Week into communities in new ways,” said Dawson, such as Drake neighborhood’s 150th anniversary of Cottage Grove Avenue, with artists displaying artwork and musicians performing on porches along that street.

“We’re trying to find new ways of weaving artists into the community, new places for them to be,” explained Dawson. “Also, hoping to lift up some new artists. The Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa is teaming up with us to enhance outreach to artists in the refugee community, to really celebrate what they have to offer.”

“One of the things that sticks with me each year is the connections to artists I’m not already familiar with,” Buse said of the residual impact of Art Week. “I’m pretty active in the arts community. Art Week is an open door; it attracts both established artists and up-and-coming artists.”

“It’s all about new connections for everybody,” said Dawson.

2022 AWDM schedule

The Avenues, Friday, June 17
Oak Park/Highland Park, Saturday, June 18
Drake/Dogtown, Sunday, June 19
Franklin, Monday, June 20
Downtown, Tuesday, June 21
Columbus Park, Wednesday, June 22
Historic Valley Junction, Thursday, June 23

John Busbee works as an independent voice for Iowa’s cultural scene. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 003.