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Des Moines Art Center to Open New Sculpture Park in Heart of Downtown Des Moines
The sculpture park includes 24 works of art donated to the museum by John and Mary Pappajohn.

DES MOINES, IA.- On September 27, 2009, the Des Moines Art Center and the City of Des Moines will open a new 4.4-acre sculpture park in the heart of downtown Des Moines. The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, built directly within a major crossroads of the urban grid, is the largest such park in the United States. It features 24 works of art donated to the museum by John and Mary Pappajohn from their renowned collection of contemporary sculpture, including a new commission by artist Deborah Butterfield.

“The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park highlights the civic spirit of Des Moines, contributes to the dynamism of the city, and adds a new dimension to our visitors’ museum experience,” said Des Moines Art Center Director Jeff Fleming. “We could not have realized the completion of this park without the support of our community, so we are thrilled to now share these exceptional works of art with the people of Des Moines.”

On September 27, the Pappajohns, the Des Moines Art Center, and the City of Des Moines invite area residents to a Community Celebration from 1:00-3:00pm to mark the park’s grand opening. Participants will enjoy docent-led tours, live music, and complimentary refreshments. Admission is free.

The Pappajohns’ gift—the most significant donation of artwork ever made in a single gift to the Art Center—includes sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, Scott Burton, Deborah Butterfield, Anthony Caro, Tony Cragg, Willem de Kooning, Mark di Suvero, Barry Flanagan, Gary Hume, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol Lewitt, Jaume Plensa, Martin Puryear, Ugo Rondinone, Richard Serra, Joel Shapiro, Judith Shea, Tony Smith, and William Tucker. The works are valued at $40 million. The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a permanent installation within the city’s Western Gateway Park, which offers a pedestrian entranceway to downtown Des Moines.

New York-based project architects Diana Agrest and Mario Gandelsonas, who developed a master plan for the city of Des Moines in the early 1990’s, created the design for the new park, which features a rolling landscape and crescent-shaped open cutaways that frame the sculptures. Backdrop walls eight feet high were carved out of mounds running through the garden. The landscaping constructs a narrative of suspense, as all of the works are not visible at the same time. Two large-scale works, Mark di Suvero’s T8 and Jaume Plensa’s Nomade, anchor the southern side of the park, where they provide dramatic views for commuters driving east on Locust Street. Pedestrians moving more slowly through the park see the rest of the works emerge by themselves or in small groups.

The park is situated 32 blocks east of the museum’s original facility. It is a collaboration between the Des Moines Art Center and the City of Des Moines. The Art Center successfully completed a $6.1 million campaign to fund the park with the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The City of Des Moines will oversee the park’s maintenance and operations, and the museum will maintain the artworks.

John and Mary Pappajohn
John and Mary Pappajohn of Des Moines embody the American dream. Emigrating from Greece as a child, John worked his way through the University of Iowa. He has achieved extraordinary business successes—starting his own businesses and investing in others. Today, John is one of the state’s most successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. John’s civic endeavors are broad, including serving as a trustee at the Des Moines Art Center, as a member of the National Committee of the Performing Arts, as well as the Collectors Committee for the National Gallery of Art. His wife Mary has been his partner in philanthropic endeavors that have provided nearly $50 million for scholarships, educational initiatives, and community development. Mary Pappajohn earned her BS in Related Art from the University of Minnesota. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees at the Des Moines Art Center and the Walker Art Center. From 1997–2006, Mary and John were recognized as one of the top 200 art collectors in the world by ARTnews magazine.

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