Every year in June, the Des Moines Art Festival takes over the downtown area with hundreds of artists from all over America (the US and Canada).
Over a thousand artists apply every year, but only around 130 to 150 make it into the stalls that surround Sculpture Park in Downtown Des Moines. Because of the veracity and determination of the Des Moines Arts Festival Team, this has become one of the biggest and most prestigious in the nation. That’s no small feat, and it took years of hard work.
This year, I perused the hundreds of stalls, pausing to examine in detail the gorgeous displays of arts from a variety of genres. The diversity in art forms left me astounded, and I noticed this year there was a multitude of people who were used the mixed media form — seamlessly forging several different styles of art into one piece.
One artist, Martina Celerin, used yarn and string to craft intricate 3-D sculptures of nature — the trees popping right out of the wall, and the details were spectacular; the patterns on the bark of the tree, the shades of green in the grass, the mossy dirt. A few pieces had a bicycle or a person sitting in the grass.
Another artist, Audrey Heller, took tiny little figurines and placed them in all sorts of environments; a very unique perspective in photography, and again, I found myself conversing with the artist, eager to learn how they created such masterpieces.
In the center of the art fair, there was a long line of booths for emerging Iowan artists, and there I had a lovely chat with Judy Long, an illustrator who drew entrancing paintings of women, their hair flowing as if the wind itself moved them. It’s always a joy to see up and coming artists, still finishing up their degrees or just emerging in the art market. I’m told by the artists, that it is hard to make it into the festival, and they have to showcase their art before the committee, where a vast majority are not selected due to the limited space.
When I could, I stopped to chat a bit with the artist. To hear some of their tale, and to dig into the heart of their art, some were quite open and eager to discuss such intricacies, and others seemed tired, no doubt due to the long weekend, which was often studded with storms. Because of the storms, I was only able to attend the festival today, on Sunday, so I missed a lot of the musical performances, indie film showings, and artist demonstrations. Instead, I just perused the stalls, amazed at the paintings, drawings, etchings, fabric, and sculptures. Each booth held a different view of humanity and our universe – a snapshot into the minds of the artists who created the beautiful pieces.
I gathered quite a bit of business cards from the artists, and plan on placing them in a scrapbook. It was an idea I came up with while talking with a lovely lady, Katie Robleski, who manipulated light to bring a clarity to her photographs — a unique perspective done naturally with no photoshopping whatsoever. Her and her husband used flashlights and strobe lights of various colors to illuminate a section of the building or area they were photographing and then took the photo over a very long exposure. This eliminated anything that moved quickly, allowing only the light and static objects to appear in the final result. As we discussed her use of light in the photos, our conversation turned to apocalyptic tales we enjoyed due to how a lot of their photographs were taken in old, abandoned buildings. As I left her booth, it hit me that I could do this every year — take these business cards and put them in the scrapbook. Someday when I have more money, I can contact these artists and maybe ask for a commission, or simply buy one of their pieces. Until then, I’ll just have to admire from afar.