Where to Find Free Public Art in Downtown DSM: Sculpture Edition
Free public art is abundant and accessible to all in Downtown Des Moines (DSM), making it a key artful destination to explore within the Greater Des Moines region. Discover public art on nearly every block Downtown DSM, including sculptures celebrating history, culture, heritage and much more. Looking for things to do? You won’t regret dedicating an afternoon to enjoying these free artistic sculptures in Downtown DSM, each making for an ideal photo op for your Downtown visit!
Artist: Juanjo Novella
Location: Des Moines Botanical Garden
Stretching 16 feet tall, this lacy leaf steel sculpture honors former Des Moines Mayor Tom Urban and can be viewed in the newly opened outdoor Founders Garden at the Des Moines Botanical Garden.
Artist: Jaume Plensa
Location: John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Completed in 2007, this large white, human-like sculpture is iconic to Des Moines and is central to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in the heart of the city.
Artist: James Ellwanger
Location: Iowa State Capitol Grounds
According to the Des Moines Public Art Foundation’s website, the Iowa Art Council describes this piece as commemorative of, “those moments when Iowa has been at the forefront of breaking the silence of inequality.”
Artist: Ivan Chermayeff
Location: American Enterprise Art Park
Commissioned in 1971, this highly visible outdoor art sculpture commands attention, drawing the eye to its brightly colored components from the sidewalk or street — located along 5th Avenue just off Park Street in Downtown DSM.
Artist: Christiane T. Martens
Location: Principal Riverwalk
Prominently located outside the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, this colorful art sculpture provides a lovely view looking southwest towards the skyline along the riverfront.
“Man with the Moon”
Artists: Jay Vigon and James Beardon
Location: Mainframe Studios
Added for display in 2022, this sculpture serves as the first edition of a rotating public art sculpture program providing an avenue for local artists to create and exhibit outdoor art available for purchase; the colorful, mural-clad Mainframe Studios building serves as a vibrant backdrop in Downtown DSM.
The "Rack-N-Roll" Project
Location: Historic East Village
Wander the Historic East Village in Downtown DSM and you’ll find several sculptures acting as functional bike racks for the ample visiting bicyclists — a hub of the 800+ miles of connected trails located within the Greater Des Moines region.
Artist: Jim Campbell
Location: Cowles Commons
This piece is beautiful in the daylight but truly shines after sunset when 8,000 LED lights create a moving light show on the sculpture. Also visible nearby is “Crusoe Umbrella,” a 1979 staple Des Moines sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.
To find a comprehensive list of Downtown Des Moines art including murals, sculpture, light installations, monuments and more, visit the Des Moines Public Art Foundation’s website.