I have a slight fascination with sculpture parks. Throughout the United States (and I’m sure thew world), they bridge the gap between nature, community and art in a way that can give one an inside view into the minds of the neighborhood. Another thing I love about these parks, is that I never know what to expect. Some are vast and expensive, some are dull and drab. It all depends on the combined factors of how much freedom the town gives the artist, what the budget is, and what is going on inside the mind of the sculptor. Going to one of these parks is almost like a game of Russian Roulette, where one doesn’t know if they will hit a jackpot, or if the park will be a disappointing waste of time. Pappajohns Sculpture park was one of those jackpots, providing a morning of basking in wonder.
Pappajohn’s is like the Getty of sculpture parks. Funded by John Pappajohn and his wife Mary, a venture capitalist couple who also happen to be in the top 200 of the United States art collectors, the initial park had an estimated value of over $40m. It’s hard to imagine, but these sculptures were originally located in their yard. Can you imagine having that much valuation in your yard alone? I sure can’t. Needing a place to move the art to, they donated the sculptures to the city in 2009 in an attempt to help revitalize the west end of Des Moines which had become dilapidated over the years.
Walking around the park, I immediately felt invigorated through osmosis of the energy that the park expelled. A bustling vibe bursts forth from the entire block and everywhere you look, another smiling face greets you. Laughter fills the air as the public fills the space between the sculptures, some relaxing, some working out, some simply enjoying the climate that the art lends to the park. It’s hard to imagine that a little over a decade ago, this area was filled with boarded up buildings and failing businesses. It’s as if an entire new world was created by the dedication of the community.
Taking a moment to sit down and let the entire ambience take over my mind, a grin overtook my face spreading from ear to ear. The skyscrapers of the downtown towered overhead, completing the urban atmosphere that small cities exude. In moments like these, I truly appreciate the different energy that these cities create. It’s so different than the metropolitan areas that I am used to. So much more calm and tranquil. I could sit for hours at peace, reading a book or simply people watching. It looks like a city, but feels like a suburb. Thinking about it now, I wonder how much of this feeling was created by the park itself. I can’t imagine the area would be the same if this art wasn’t here to help anyone interested, escape for moment.
Closest Supercharger West Des Moines IA 10 mi
1725 Jordan Creek Pkwy, West Des Moines, IA 50266
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PappaJohn Sculpture Park
1330 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309
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