A walk around Grays lake especially at night is a relaxing activity. The lake is a former quarry that has been turned into a hub for bicyclists and walkers. It also has a wonderful bridge that is lit up at night. The path is about 1.2 miles mostly flat, and provides a nice view of downtown. The lake is located southwest of downtown just off of Fluer Drive.
The Science Center in downtown Des Moines was kind of neat. My favorite parts were the dinosaur model on display (although I hear it's a traveling exhibit), the weather room, and the planetarium room. This place was a lot more centered for kids than we had expected, and seeing as we don't have kids, it wasn't as great of an experience for us as a family may have.
Here is a nice little outing for anyone who has some time to spend in Des Moines. This place has an interesting collection of plants from around the world. Most are enclosed in a huge glass dome, due to the harsh Iowa winters.
Nothing to do in Des Moines? Well, that's not quite accurate. This museum has a good set of collections for a city this size. If you're passing through this way, and have a little extra time, check it out.
Iowa is one of the largest producers of pork and shares an Expo alternating years with Illinois. If you like pork take a trip to the State Fair grounds (on the east side of the city) and pay about $8 for all you can eat pork ALL DAY LONG. Normally for me its a definite once a year trip where I gorge myself on the fatted hog. If you happen to be interested in agriculture there are a large number of exhibits for pork producers.
When we drove to Pella we noticed this building on our way back to our hotel returning from Pella we decided to stop by.
The golden dome really attracts the attention, for us it was the reason to take a closer look.
This state capitol was build between 1871 and 1886. It is an good example of 19th century architecture. The interior of the building has many different types and colors of marble. But also fixtures and carvings in both wood and stone. The dome is covered with a 23-karat gold leaf.
Since the building is on a hill you can have a great view of the surrounding area.
Picture taken june 10, 2004
These allegorical figures are from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Capitol Hill, and they are the most "controversial" part of the entire "piece." The original designer Harriet Ketcham wanted to have a grouping of the goddess of History giving instruction to the hopeful youth meant to represent the state of Iowa. But as executed by Carl Rohl Smith, History is a sour looking bald androgynous figure who does not deign to notice the kid at "its" side. Many Iowans present and past have not been pleased with this representation. They want History to be more hopeful, and certainly more attractive.
Well. . . I'm a professional historian and I think I can understanding what the artist was trying to convey here. History is NOT a beautiful thing, and History does not necessarily pay heed to the young. it might be easier to accept this piece of sculpture in 2004 than it was in 1896, when it was first unveiled.
Like other states - Massachusetts, for example - Iowa has a 19th century Soldiers and Sailors Memorial honoring its Civil War Veterans. And as is the case in Boston, the S & S Monument is in sight of the Capitol Dome.
The design for the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was chosen in a public competition. The winner was an Iowa woman named Harriet Ketcham. Mrs. Ketcham died before the monument could be completed, and the figures decorating the base of the monument were actually executed (to Ketcham's designs) by Carl Rohl-Smith.
This figure depicts Lt. James Horton, a Iowa soldier killed in a saber charge early in the war.
Harriet Ketcham was the grandmother of Hank Ketcham, the American cartoonist who created Dennis the Menace. Hank K. contributed to the restoration of his grandmother's monument in the 1990s. (I swear I'm not making this up. It's amazing what you can find out on the internet.)
William Allison (1828-1908) served Iowa in the US House of Representitives for 43 years. After his death, his fellow Hawkeyes erected this monument in honor of his public service. The monument was designed - and the sculptures executed - by Evelyn B. Longman - in the nineteen teens. This Evelyn was a woman - which I think is worth mentioning, because the only other female sculptor of her time that I can think of is Camille Claudel.
Longman studied with Lorado Taft and Daniel Chester French, but still would have faced a great deal of prejudice because of her gender. I'd like to know more about her and her work. I think these figures are quite fine - they represent "Peace, Humanity, and Prosperity."
This was a surprisingly interesting place that I hadn't expected.
This is a new addition to Des Moines' "Capitol Hill" district. Just finished this year, the Judicial Branch Building is home to some of Iowa's most important courts,including its Supreme Court. It was designed by a local architectural firm, the DLR Group, and shows an impressive ability to "re-interpret" the classical style in an agreeably modern idiom.
Inside there is a group of beautiful historic murals, salvaged from a 19th century State Supreme Court building that caught fire and was destroyed. These murals were originally created in the 1880s by a firm in Germany; they have now been skillfully restored and placed on public display for the first time in a century.
Iowa's State Capital is quite interesting - not only does it have a central gilded dome, it also has four smaller "dome-lets" that surround it, almost like minarets.
This is one of those domes that uses gold leaf to dazzle the observer. That must be a very interesting job: "gold-leaf applier." Is there a college somewhat with a major in that? Is there a long apprentice process? I was reading that the leaf on the Iowa State Capital is 23-carat gold, and that it is 1/250,000th of an inch thick. That's pretty thin! I also read that when the leaf was most recently re-applied, in the 1990s, it cost the good people of Iowa $400,000. Thank you, Iowans!
Richard Meier's is the most recently built section of the Art Center. It's also the most thoroughly successful in my view. The design echoes that found in Meier's High Museum of Art in Atlanta. It also suggests some of the building forms that Meier would employ in his grandest museum commission, that for the Getty in Lost Angeles (see my Los Angeles page).
In front of the Meier building is a Henry Moore bronze, "Three Way Piece No. 1".
The Courtyard of the Museum is where the three buildings "come together" - so to speak. It's as if it is a collaborative work between Saarinen, Pei, and Meier.
There is a reflecting pool, in the middle of which stands a Carl Milles' piece, "Man and Pegasus." The Swedish artist Milles, born in 1875, was a colleague of Eliel Saarinen on the faculty at the Cranbrook Academy.
The I.M. Pei structure was designed in the 1960s - before he discovered the wonders of glass. The use of concrete is somewhat ungainly from this viewpoint, but his section of the museum is well-proportioned, and the light in the galleries is very good. This part of the museum houses many "installations" from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s: pieces by Andy Warhol, Deborah Butterfield, Donald Judd, and Claus Oldenburg among them.
Ironically, the two pieces in the Art Center's collection that I _most_ wanted to see were not on display on the day of my visit. They both had been used in major international retrospectives: a great Edward Hopper canvas, "Automat," and one of Francis Bacon's screaming Popes - "Study After Velasquez' Pope Innocent X." I'll have to come back here next time I'm passing through Des Moines.
The Des Moines Arts Center is highly unusual in that it consists of three separate buildings that nonetheless relate closely to each other, even those they were designed and constructed over a period of 40 years.
The three architects are Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and Richard Meier.
The Saarinen structure is the oldest of the three, dating from the mid 1940s. Saarinen was Finnish, but lived in the United State from the 1920s onward, teaching at the Cranbrook Academy outside Detroit. His design is the most "traditional" of the three - good functional spaces inside, but to me his building looks a lot like an elementary school.
The Des Moines Art Center also is quite well known for the strength of its collection of modern and contemporary art. There are a few pre-20th century pieces - a lovely Mary Cassatt, for example. But it was decided in the 1940s to concentrate almost exclusively upon collecting and displaying "recent" art - and they have some very fine 20th century things here as a result. (Sorry, Stachachach - they don't have any Picasso's here!)
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