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25 years old: Des Moines Arts Festival celebrating a major milestone in 2022

See how the festival is commemorating this major milestone.

DES MOINES, Iowa — For 25 years, the Des Moines Arts Festival has brought music, art and family fun to downtown Des Moines. On June 24-26, the festivities will commence once again at Western Gateway Park. 

The Des Moines Arts Festival as we know it today began in 1998. Since then, the festival has occurred annually, with the exception of 2020 when it was canceled due to the pandemic. Over time, the event has welcomed more than 2.5 million visitors, according to its website. 

In 2006, the festival found its home in Western Gateway. Three years later, the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park was built, providing the perfect backdrop for the event.  

“We're really excited that we're in a great place that's really developed over time, among amazing world-class art with the Sculpture Park right there,” said Colleen Murphy, a spokesperson for the festival.

As Des Moines has developed, the festival has done the same, adding in different community partnerships and programs. 

One example is the Emerging Iowa Artists Program, which allows college students with a passion for art the opportunity to have a booth at the festival. 

Becca Hickok, a recent Drake University graduate, was encouraged to apply for the program by her academic advisor.  

“She said, ‘You know, there's a Des Moines Arts Festival program that you could apply for,'" Hickok said. "'It might be a long shot, but it'd be good to apply for it just for the experience.'"

To her surprise, Hickok was one of seven Iowa artists accepted into the program.

“I’m hoping to expand my community, like who I know as artists, especially in Des Moines. Really just get connections with artists who are established in Des Moines and becoming more comfortable talking about my art."

In addition to connecting with local artists, the festival also collaborates with several nonprofits to manage the festival beverage station. Participating nonprofits then earn a percentage of sales back, which they can direct toward art and culture programs within their organization.  

“Whatever it is that you buy at that beverage station, that money is helping keep the festival free and keeping our admission free. And then it's also generating dollars for another nonprofit. It's just a really great win-win partnership," Murphy said.

This year's 25th anniversary event will kick off a day early on Thursday, June 23 with a performance by Iowa artist William Elliot Whitmore. When the full festival begins on June 24, festival-goers can expect to see more artists than ever before — 195, to be exact.  

Exile Brewing Company is also participating in the celebration. The brewery launched a commemorative can of Citra Sky, a hazy IPA, for the festival’s 25th anniversary. These beverages can be purchased at retailers across the metro, or at the festival itself.  

For the full festival experience, however, you’ll have to come see it for yourself. 

“We just squeezed in more things in every little nook, so there's going to be some surprises when you're at the festival that are going to be warm and wonderful,” Murphy said.  

Admission to the festival is free. Proceeds from festival merchandise help keep the event running.  

See below for more tips from Murphy on making the most of your festival experience:  

  • Free parking can be found at the parking garage on 12th and Walnut St
  • Don’t get lost: Festival attendees can easily enter the festival on foot via 12th St
  • Planning on staying a while? Wear comfortable shoes to explore the entirety of the event 
  • Practice sun safety by wearing sunscreen and staying hydrated 
  • Don’t forget your debit or credit card — Beverage stations and merchandise stations are all cashless 

For more information, visit desmoinesartsfestival.org

Credit: Des Moines Art Festival / Joe Countryman


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