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What I Love About Working at Des Moines Civic Center + Living in Downtown DSM

Living and Working in Downtown DSM

October 19, 2023

I can admit this now: I ended up living Downtown Des Moines (DSM) because I put the cart before the horse. I moved to Court Avenue in the summer of 2013 because I was ready for something to change. At the time, my full-time job was paying the bills but not filling my cup. My part-time job with Des Moines Performing Arts (DMPA) though? That lit me up. Living closer to the Des Moines Civic Center meant my Superman phone booth transition from my full-time job to my part-time job could happen at home instead of in my car in a parking lot. I got in a groove, taking as many shifts as I could, while getting more comfortable living downtown. But I had no idea what Downtown DSM or DMPA had in store for me.

I loved walking to the Historic East Village, the Central Library and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. The view of downtown from the Capitol building was and remains a sight to see. Plus, there were fireworks out my window all summer long thanks to the Iowa Cubs Friday night home games, a world-class arts festival a few blocks away and a top-notch farmers’ market that was literally on my doorstep each Saturday morning. My smoothie consumption was high that first Market season I spent living downtown.

Changing for the Better Thanks to Living and Working in Downtown Des Moines

As downtown unfolded before me, my shyness began to melt away in the Civic Center ticket office. I went from someone who refused to call to order pizza to someone who made calls about Broadway season tickets all summer long and loved every minute of it. When I began a full-time position at Des Moines Performing Arts, I fell in love with walking to work every morning (setting the alarm later thanks to a three-minute commute probably helped), using the skywalk to find a quick lunch or going home for lunch! The latter is a luxury not afforded to those of us used to commuting out to West Des Moines. I also began to fall in love with the Civic Center all over again. I grew up in the area and was lucky enough to attend shows now and again, but learning more about what DMPA offers was eye-opening. From teacher professional development courses to summer camps to an entire series just for schoolkids, I was almost embarrassed that I did not know everything that DMPA offered. Who knew that every Family series show features a discovery party with arts and crafts before the show even gets underway? Or that before a Dance Series performance, you can talk with company members? And on select nights, Broadway cast members host a post-show Q&A? Just like downtown offered more than I could have imagined, so did DMPA.

Downtown DSM looks a lot different than it did when I moved here in 2013. We’ve lost and gained many different things, but without question, there is more to do, more to see and more to eat. The number of shops, restaurants and venues that were merely someone’s dream when I first moved here are too numerous to count. Des Moines Performing Arts continues to evolve, as well. The Stoner Theater is a home for Pyramid Theatre Company, Iowa Stage Theatre Company, Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre and Comedy Xperiment. The Civic Center's main stage continues to stay busy with everything from Broadway to comedy and popular concerts. The pre-Broadway tour of “The Wiz,” “Baby Shark’s Big Broadwave Tour” and comedian Jim Jefferies are all headed to the Civic Center in the coming months. The Temple Theater opens its’ doors to musicians at the top of their game. Cowles Commons is the home for community events like Hoops and Hops and serves, along with local parks, as a host location for DMPA’s seasonal free outdoor programming like SWAY’s Bloom this past July.

So here we are, 10 years later. It is often said that the only thing you can count on is change. I suspect we’ve only just begun.

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is a growing, vibrant community that offers the energy, sophistication, housing and attractions of a burgeoning city with a brilliant future. It’s also easy to visit with plentiful and affordable street and ramp parking options. Find event information and follow @downtownDSMUSA on Facebook and Instagram for other news, tips and events happening downtown.

Brooke Bridenstine

Brooke Bridenstine is the Programming Manager, Event Booking for Des Moines Performing Arts in Downtown Des Moines.