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Central Iowa Community Celebrates the Dedication of Long-awaited World Class Public Art Project "A Monumental Journey"

July 13, 2018

Des Moines, IA (July 12, 2018) —Hundreds gathered today in downtown Des Moines to celebrate the dedication of a major public art project “A Monumental Journey” by internationally acclaimed artist, Kerry James Marshall. The work of art, conceived over a decade ago, was completed a few weeks ago and is ideally located at Hansen Triangle Park bordered by Grand and 2nd Avenues, in downtown Des Moines. Constructed of manganese black brick, “A Monumental Journey” is approximately 30 feet high.

In a day and age where civil war statues and monuments that symbolize slavery and white supremacy are being relocated and recontextualized, “A Monumental Journey,” was created to honor the legacy of 12 African-American lawyers who founded the National Bar Association (NBA) in Des Moines, Iowa in 1925. It was a time when the American Bar Association and other national legal associations denied membership to African-American lawyers because of their race.

“It was here in —Des Moines, Iowa, that these pioneering attorneys founded the NBA. This movement had a profound and permanent impact on a nation that excluded African American lawyers from mainstream society and the legal profession. Initiated by the INBA, the project has a broad social mission: to commemorate a piece of Iowa history unknown to most Iowans. It is a timely reminder that these courageous founders were committed to working vigorously for freedom and justice for African Americans and, by extension, all people,” said Henry Hamilton, III president Iowa Chapter of the National Bar Association.

“A Monumental Journey” is a powerful addition to our central Iowa community. This major public art project will sustain the legacy of 12 extraordinary individuals who were fully dedicated to fighting segregation and legal racism,” said Jessica Rowe, director Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation. This impressive addition to our community conveys a “sense of place” for activity and energy — and is a permanent testament to free speech, civil rights, justice, and equality.”

The artist, Kerry James Marshall, drew inspiration for “A Monumental Journey” from the talking drum of West Africa. African drummers communicated complex messages over vast distances by merely varying the pitch of the drum and using tone to mimic patterns of speech. With the concept of one drum-form precariously stacked upon the other, Marshall has created a powerful physical and poetic expression. The large-scale sculpture embodies the notion of communication among diverse peoples and a legal system that though not perfect strives to be balanced.

“A Monumental Journey” is made possible by the generosity of more than 200 individuals and organizations and has received gifts of more than $1.4 million. Major donors include the City of Des Moines, Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation, Polk County, Prairie Meadows, MidAmerican

Energy Company, Bravo of Greater Des Moines, William C. Knapp Charitable Foundation, Sharon and Kyle J. Krause, and Substance Architecture.


“A Monumental Journey” is a public art project developed to preserve the legacy of African American Lawyers who, in 1925, founded and incorporated the National Bar Association, entirely dedicated to civil rights, justice and equality in the legal system. The shape of African talking drums inspired the sculpture. The artist used this form to represent the notion of communication among diverse peoples and our legal system, while not perfect and striving to be balanced. Constructed of Manganese Black brick, the public art project is approximately 30 feet high. For more information, please visit https://dsmpublicartfoundation.org/public-artwork/a-monumental-journey/.


Kerry James Marshall is one of the most celebrated artists currently working in the United States. Marshall, who is a MacArthur Foundation “genius grantee,” has exhibited widely in both this country and around the world. Over the course of almost three decades, Kerry James Marshall has produced a complex body of work exploring the representation of African Americans in society, culture and art history. Marshall explores the experiences of African-Americans and the narratives of American history that have often excluded black people. His large-scale paintings, sculptures, and other objects often deal with the effects of the Civil Rights movement on domestic life, in addition to working with elements of popular culture.


The Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation, established in 2004, recognizes that art belongs not just in galleries and museums, but in streetscapes, parks, buildings, and infrastructures of a thriving community. Dedicated to envisioning, developing, advancing and promoting public art projects, the Public Art Foundation collaborates with local entities and artists to engage, inspire and enrich the lives of residents and visitors to the community. The goal is to increase awareness of our community as a world- class destination for public

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