Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines

Whether you want to take in some incredible modern and contemporary public art or step up your selfie game, there’s one place you need to go: the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Located in downtown Des Moines, the 4.4 acre park and public green space is home to more than 30 sculptures from renowned local and international artists. Situated within a major crossroads of the urban grid, this accessible and pedestrian friendly landscape makes for a wholly unique and unforgettable experience. It’s a sublime spot for a leisurely stroll or picnic, and best of all, it’s free.

Established in 2009, Pappajohn Sculpture Park is one of Des Moines’ most beloved local parks. Named for local venture capitalist John Pappajohn and his wife Mary Louise Pappajohn, who gifted the park’s initial 24 sculptures. It features realistic works with human and animal forms along the eastern side of the park that progress into figurative abstract sculptures, forms, and minimalist conceptual sculptures in and around the park’s westward portions. 

Fantastic Forms

Some of Pappajohn Sculpture Park’s most notable works of art include:

  • Nomade 
    • A popular spot for selfies, this extraordinary piece from Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa is a 27-foot-tall human form composed of a latticework of six tons of steel letters from the Latin alphabet. 
  • air gets into everything even nothing 
    • One of several works by Swiss sculptor Ugo Rondinone in the park, this series of white enamel-coated aluminum pieces are cast from ancient Italian olive trees and weigh roughly one ton and stand 17-feet tall. 
  • Untitled (Three Dancing Figures, version C)
    • American artist Kieth Haring’s iconic dancing figures are painted in eye-catching primary colors that pop against the downtown Des Moines skyline. 
  • White Ghost 
    • A combination of a child and a dog, this sculpture from Japanese artist Yoshitomo is made from glossy white fiberglass atop a textured, stone-like base.
  • Even Stones Have Eyes
    • This bronze female figure from Pakistani-American artist Huma Bhabha is one of the park’s newest pieces and is riveting from all angles. 
  • Seating for Eight and Cafe Table 1
    • The only piece visitors are allowed to touch, climb, or sit on, American artist Scott Burton’s work is made of rough and smooth granite and functions as a central resting place in the park. 

One of the coolest things about the Papajohn sculpture park? You can visit anytime from sunrise to midnight and learn about the park’s sculptures via an illuminating audio tour from artists and museum staff. You can also take in music inspired by the sculptures from the Des Moines Symphony. And thanks to the ample on-street metered spots, parking is easy peasy. Oh, and should you visit on the weekend, parking is free on Sundays so you can have even more Sunday Funday.

While the benches located throughout the park offer spots for rest, there’s something to be said for the allure of a picnic. A blanket and nosh of your choice amongst the park’s magnificent sculptures not only offers a great opportunity to relax and take in incredible views and fresh air, but for recreation and people watching too. 

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