The Des Moines Arts Festival - The Official Start to Summer
The Des Moines Arts Festival® presented by Nationwide is a summer highlight for many in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Over the past 24 years the free, three-day festival has grown to be Iowa’s largest and most prestigious arts and culture event. It draws thousands of guests to Downtown DSM during the last weekend in June and has been crowned by its peers as one of the best festival’s in the world!
This year’s Festival will live up to the hype and set a new bar for community festivals across the state. In honor of its 25th anniversary, the Festival has grown in every way with more artists, more entertainment and more interactive art activities than ever before. Here’s a peak at what you can’t miss June 24 – 26 in Western Gateway Park.
The Festival will welcome 195 professional and emerging artists in its Juried Art Fair presented by Nationwide. This is an increase of 45 artists over last year and their work is outstanding. They’ve earned their spot after having been selected from a pool of more than 800 applicants in a blind jury process. Artists offer their original work in a variety of sizes, mediums and price points.
Many art lovers flock to the Emerging Iowa Artist tent to catch a glimpse of these rising stars. The Emerging Iowa Artist program welcomes Iowa residents currently enrolled in or recently graduated from a university, college or art school anywhere in the country. Thanks to Principal, these artists participate in the Festival for free to gain priceless experience as a Festival artist.
Student artists, grades Kindergarten through 12th grade, will be featured in the Student Art Exhibition presented by GreenState Credit Union. The program spotlights 348 students who attend 104 DSM schools. The students will be recognized at a Visionary Artist Ceremony on Saturday, June 25.
Love film? We’ve got you covered. The Interrobang Film Festival celebrates the art of film inside the air-conditioned Central Library all weekend long. This year’s Festival features 40 films from seven countries. The styles include shorts, student films, music videos, features and more.
The Des Moines Arts Festival features two live music stages brimming with a variety of live music — all for free! Check out the Hy-Vee Main Stage for performances by G. Love & Special Sauce, Moon Taxi, Cedric Burnside and, for the first time ever, a family-friendly drag show.
The Roots Stage offers a laid-back vibe and an amazing lineup for Americana music. This year the Festival is opening this stage a night early, Thursday, June 23, for a kick-off concert featuring Iowa native William Elliott Whitmore.
For both stages, seating is casual and available on a first-come, first-served basis; blankets and lawn chairs are welcome.
Image at right taken by Joe Countryman.
Hands-on and stop-and-watch activities abound at the Des Moines Arts Festival. Here are a few of my favorites — all free!
BOOM Art with MidAmerican Energy Company is an interactive mural where guests contribute to a giant coloring-book styled mural that slowly becomes hoisted 30 feet in the air. Markers are provided and no skills are required.
- Prairie Meadows Spin Art is a Festival tradition in our house. Guests create a colorful masterpiece using paint and a rotating canvas.
- Both professional and emerging artists offer demonstrations throughout the weekend in a range of mediums including ceramics, painting, drawing and mixed media.
- The Community Outreach Program presented by MidAmerican Energy Company features 20 local nonprofit organizations a forum to share their mission with Festival guests through free family friendly interactive activities like painting kindness rocks, creating comic strips and contributing to a giant community heart.
When all the activities make you hungry, stop by one of the Festival food vendors. Guests will enjoy the variety at two food courts or can grab a delicious bite from a mix of vendors across the site. Thirsty? The Festival beverages stations offer a variety of beverages from soft drinks to Iowa craft beer or ice cold margaritas. Proceeds from beverage sales keep the Festival a free admission event and a portion of the dollars are re-invested into the local arts and culture community. We also recommend trying out one of Western Gateway Park’s restaurants. Great food and drinks paired with air-conditioning is the perfect way to recharge.
As a Festival aficionado, here’s my advice to maximize your experience.
First, take care of yourself. Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and stay hydrated. It’s summer in Iowa and it’s a big event. Nothing kills the fun more then being uncomfortable.
Second, the Festival is cashless. The Festival Beverage Stations and Art Festival Shops only accept credit, debit or touchless pay. Food vendors and artists also accept cards and may accept cash as well. Be prepared.
Finally, buy art. The Festival is an amazing three-day experience, but bringing home the art you love will stay with you all year.
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.
More Downtown Des Moines (DSM) restaurants are opening all the time. Don’t miss out on bakeries, brunch, breakfast, lunch, dinner, pizza, seafood, bars and breweries in downtown. Here’s the in on where to eat locally in Downtown DSM.
Colleen Murphy is the Director of Community Relations for the Des Moines Arts Festival® and assisted with sponsorship for the Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market.