PUBLIC ART: Making Art Accessible

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Public art has always been a part of the community, but new initiatives are making it even more accessible for people across the metro.

A central Iowa artist unveils “The Bike Club” at the Polk County Health Department on Carpenter Avenue Friday. Festivities go until 8 p.m. It's the first in a series of paintings created to encourage people to get moving. The artist, Dick Shock, is raising $70,000 for the project through donations.

Sculptor Jun Kaneko unveiled five untitled “Dangos” this fall along the Principal Riverwalk. Visitor Jody Pertzborn says, "I think it brings vitalization downtown and brings people downtown where they need to be."

Artist Chris Vance recently finished a mural in the East Village. It’s called “No Action Too Small.” He says, "To brighten up East Village, but also get their message out about recycling items, so that's why you have the refrigerator man with trees growing out of its head with earth and the window."

Vance spent two weeks painting the piece on Metro Waste Authority's building on East Locust. The organization commissioned the project for $20,000. Tom Hadden says, "We have money in for education every year because we constantly have to educate people about environmental issues and recycling and those things."

Metro Arts Alliance Executive Director Kim Poam Logan says there are many projects going on throughout the surrounding communities too. She says, "There's a lot more going on. We see it all across the metro with all of our suburbs we work with."

Examples include the Freddy Frog sculpture by John Brommel in front of the Altoona Pulbic Library, the second annual Art Along the Trail program in Clive and a call for public art submissions in West Des Moines.

Poam Logan says projects are paid for by cities, corporations and private individuals. She says, "It makes us a competitive community and attractive community and gives us an edge and it helps us define and shape who we are as a community."

Des Moines Art Center Director Jeff Fleming says art also provides an economic impact. Look at the Western Gateway Park Neighborhood since the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park opened in 2009. Fleming says, "Creating a place where companies want to have their businesses, where employees want to work, where employees want to come and find a home."

Fleming points to Microsoft's new office in Western Gateway Park, along with new restaurants and other businesses. He says art is a good investment. "Art can change the world, and has changed the world. It's changing this community, so it is changing this world."

Artist Chris Vance says, "Hopefully, yeah, it gets people thinking outside the box, we should do something like this. It can brighten up a neighborhood."

Fleming says there will be a big announcement this fall regarding the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. And, this summer the Metro Arts Alliance holds its Jazz in July series. On July 6th, it will be held in Evelyn K. Davis Park to bring a neighborhood that's often the subject of crime, together through music.