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Des Moines Arts Festival attendees rest on solid blocks of sycamore, listening to The 10,000 Maniacs.

Des Moines Arts Festival attendees rest on solid blocks of sycamore, listening to The 10,000 Maniacs.

From fine arts to building arts, an abundance of energy and excitement was felt this past weekend at the Des Moines Arts Festival, despite recurrent storms that taunted the metro. Creative exuberance could be found throughout the western gateway to Des Moines. Whether kids played in the muddy grass fields or friends huddled together in artists’ tents, learning more about the incredible array of talent on display,  nobody appeared deterred by  occasional rain showers. Everyone maintained a resilient, upbeat smile.

One of my favorite memories occurred Saturday night when singer songwriter Iris Dement took the stage just after a heavy deluge that sent attendees scrambling for shelter in local restaurants and parked cars. Because of a brief pause in the festival, she came on stage to a small audience and began performing an acoustic set. There was no amplification whatsoever, and from across the street I watched curiously as her connection to this group of attendees continued to build. By the end of her performance, the crowd had gently surrounded her baby grand on the main stage providing an intimacy commonly found in a much smaller venue. Absolutely incredible moment that captured the spirit of Des Moines arts!


Kay and Pat McNerney visit with friends during Nyemaster’s gathering in the Hospitality Suites. A perfect evening to host an event.

By the time Dement’s set concluded, people had returned to the downtown park and the festival was in full swing again. On the eastern edge of the site, across from the main stage, the Silent Rivers’ Hospitality Suites removed its vinyl sidewalls, temporary protection from the passing  storm, to reveal another company party hosted by Brown Winick. As the BoDeans came on stage, downtown Des Moines once again teemed with enthusiasm. Evening rhythms perfectly paired with the cool temperatures of dusk. As the sun settled in for the night, nature provided for a wonderful light show on the surrounding Nationwide and Wellmark buildings, a complement to the stage lighting in the park and under our tents.

This interplay between the man-made and natural environments underscores the important steps the Arts Festival has taken to reduce waste, limit consumption and truly step into the national stage as a leader in sustainable event planning and management. As an internationally recognized event, the Des Moines Arts Festival has the gumption to foster operational policies that can serve as a model for small and large festivals in our region.

Event Sustainability Guidelines, developed this year with the assistance of Drake University’s Capstone Program, outline a plan designed to support and encourage best practices that ensure the Des Moines Arts Festival minimizes any negative impact on the environment while still delivering a world-class event by upholding all of its core values:

Stephen King, Executive Director of the Des Moines Arts Festival stops by Neymaster Law Firm gathering and visits with Mary Cownie.

Stephen King, Executive Director of the Des Moines Arts Festival stops by Neymaster Law Firm gathering and visits with Mary Cownie.


Foster Appreciation of Arts


Celebrate Original Art


Value Community


Deliver the Highest Standards with Integrity and Accountability


Strategically Innovative


Advocates for ecological stewardship and upholding a long-term perspective on building design, Silent Rivers staff responded to this mission by incorporating salvaged, recycled and regenerative materials into their booth and furniture construction. We have integrated design solutions within the Hospitality Suites that reinforce that sustainable options can also be both beautiful and meaningful.  This year we featured a fence that was made from ash trees cut from the city of Des Moines, bringing attention to regional concerns about the Emerald Ash Borer and the large surplus of trees that will be removed from our urban home over the next few years in order to avoid their demise. Similar to the innovation promoted by the Arts Festival, we hope that by introducing options for ash and recycled materials like Richlite and Plyboo we will help stimulate market transformation and encourage consideration of alternative materials as well as aesthetics. Protecting natural resources with thoughtful and conscious purchases, we believe the suites can serve to both educate while providing a great experience for small business sponsorship of the festival.


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