The Arts in Des Moines: Traveling Beyond the Familiar, Returning Home

The mixology of cultural integration requires a dose of hometown, a splash of travel, openness for the unexpected, plenty of curiosity, and a willingness to listen, even to dissent. Living in Des Moines provides the familiar roots of a Midwestern town where the soil is amended with traditional values as well as international sophistication typically reserved only for metropolitan cities. But being savvy is not exclusive to residents of large and congested communities.

Silent Rivers Des Moines Arts Festival VIP Club and VIP Hospitality Suites 2014

Silent Rivers is an official sponsor of the Des Moines Arts Festival, and has built the VIP Club and VIP Hospitality Suites each year since 2013.

Reinterpreting Our Cultural Norms

I am periodically reminded that Central Iowans’ understanding of the broader world, and the international issues that tie us to this world, are as prevalent and commonplace as our often-cited strong work ethic. Truth is, we are always in pursuit, on a journey that is beyond our cultural norms – to better and more fully understand society at large and the complex variations within humanity.

Thinking about art at the Des Moines Arts Festival

Thinking about art at the Des Moines Arts Festival

Central Iowa’s embrace of the arts is evidence of this pursuit, as is our willingness to dissect and compare layers of meaning revealed by divergent opinions.


Iowa Mixology: A Perfect Blend of Art and Common Sense

I was in the District of Columbia recently attending a national meeting of marketing professionals for residential design-build remodeling companies. We talked at length about the importance of building community and cultural resiliency within our individual organizations, as well as within the larger society in which our businesses exist. We agreed that sometimes the best way to establish individual pride for an organization and its staff is to participate in community events, fostering a sense of civic engagement.

Because creativity is a core tenet of our constitution at Silent Rivers, we are committed to helping ensure the Des Moines Arts Festival’s continued success. The Festival is a vibrant and stimulating catalyst for our metro that showcases so much of what makes Des Moines a great place. A free event, so everyone can attend, the Arts Festival represents and hosts artistic talent from across the country. It continues to be a testament to our ingenuity, our connectivity and even our worldliness.

Koko Taylor singing at Des Moines Arts Festival

Koko Taylor singing at the 2012 Des Moines Arts Festival

The diversity of artistic talent represented at the Festival extends across all the arts, including the art of music and food and people! It’s a perfect blend of science and art: the refined cocktail of cultural sophistication that is both robust and grounded. The mixology of the Des Moines Arts Festival is tasty and true! And that’s what makes it work so well.

So, back to the savvy of Central Iowans; we have an innate ability to blend downhome values with an enduring pursuit of cultural understanding and a quiet aptitude for tolerance, even experimentation. The Des Moines Arts Festival mirrors this mixture of good-natured exploration, and provides inherent learning for the young to the mature. Curiosity is a community ideal, and one worth promoting.


A Familiar Voice and a Comparative Lesson About Art

Trudy Holman Hurd and granddaughter Zoey on plane heading home to Des Moines

Look who was sitting across from me on the plane back to Des Moines!

Seated mid-plane I hear a familiar voice. Trudy Holman Hurd’s welcoming smile greets me from across the aisle as she asks me about my travels, and the momentum of residential remodeling. We had not crossed paths in awhile, so the conversation is both welcome and reflective.

Traveling with her 11 year-old granddaughter Zoey, they are returning from a journey through the monuments and museums of our country’s capital. A budding artist herself, Zoey shares that her favorite places to visit include the Newseum, a museum about key global and national events as portrayed by the media, and the new headquarters of National Public Radio. Comparatively, both venues provide an interesting, if not interpretive, glance at the ever-expanding narrative of our society. What impresses me most is how this young person favors the opportunity to understand the impact of media on reporting, subsequently beginning a lifetime of learning with her grandmother. While not uniquely Iowan, I can’t help reflect on her appreciation of how media shapes our histories and understanding of humanity. Not much different than art.


You Can Always Come Back Home to Art

As I settle into my journey home, back to Middle America, I consider how to connect all these serendipitous considerations together. The Des Moines Arts Festival is a signature Iowan experience that not only has international acclaim; it truly provides a broad context for cultural engagement and connections on a myriad of levels, allowing people of all ages to celebrate the complex beauty of human expression. Each year, I will run into Trudy and her husband David, somewhere downtown during the Arts Festival. Sometimes we are listening to music, sometimes looking at sculpture, and last year we met in the shade of the Hospitality Suites. The likelihood of meeting them again this year is certain, much like the continuity of Central Iowa and this premier event.

As we descend into Des Moines, Trudy leans across the aisle to share, “I am addicted to the Des Moines Arts Festival.”

I’ll see you there, Trudy!


Tip: You can help us ensure that this event remains free by becoming a Patron of the Des Moines Arts Festival. They offer several “Patron” levels and benefits; and all levels include a pass to the Silent Rivers VIP Club. We hope to see you there!



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