By Christine Riccelli
Anyone who’s been around Des Moines for a while knows how dramatically the arts and cultural scene has changed over the past few decades. Heck, when I was growing up, there was no Civic Center, no Botanical Center, no opera, no major art or music festivals, and little local theater and public art. And “art,” no matter what the form, also was viewed (at least in my neighborhood) as somewhat of a lofty concept geared toward the elite.
That’s not even remotely the case today. The arts not only are thriving but also consist of an enterprising and lively mix of organizations, projects and people that reaches a remarkably broad segment of our community. For this issue’s special arts section (page 101), we tried to capture some of that variety, from the anniversary celebration of one of our most established institutions—Des Moines Metro Opera (DMMO)—to several of the energetic young people who make 80/35 happen to a new iPhone app that shows how technology and art are intersecting in exciting new ways.
Want even more proof of our cultural community’s vitality? Consider this: The effort to transform the Des Moines Botanical & Environmental Center into the new Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden has been so successful, in such a short time, that in mid-March, the capital campaign goal for that effort was upped from $10 million to $11.6 million. Read about how the project’s leaders—Buz Brenton, Tom Urban, Janis Ruan and Fred Weitz—are making it all happen (page 120).
There’s so much happening on the local arts and cultural scene, in fact, that we simply can’t cover it all in a five-times-a-year publication. So we’ve started dsmArts, an arts and cultural e-newsletter that will publish monthly, thanks to a grant our sponsor, Bravo Greater Des Moines, received from Wells Fargo & Co. The first issue is scheduled for publication about the same time as this issue. If you have any ideas you’d like to share, send them my way at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’d like to subscribe to the free newsletter, you can drop an email to Laura Stegemann, our customer service director, at email@example.com, or sign up through our website, dsmMagazine.com. (When you get to our website, you’ll see that it looks a lot different than before. We’ve been busy revamping the site over the past few months, and we believe the result is more attractive and much easier to use, from finding stories to submitting photos for our rsvp section.)
The arts aren’t just something we cover; through both our design and photography, we continually strive to make our own magazine a work of art. To note just a few examples I can’t resist boasting about: Ben Easter’s poignant and powerful photos of local children whose parents are in prison (page 82); Kari Shannon’s highly stylized photos of local model Selma Aljic (page 56); and Dan McClanahan’s whimsical photos of the folks involved with 80/35 (page 103).
Beautiful art bookends this issue as well. The cover is a painting by the late Cornelius Ruhtenberg, a renowned Des Moines artist who continues to have significant influence on local as well as national artists. We thought this particular work was especially inviting for our spring and summer issue; it made us want to jump in the boat and spend a lazy day on an Iowa lake. The issue ends with “Showcase” (page 194), a work by respected local artist Scott Charles Ross. In between the cover and Showcase, I have no doubt you’ll find plenty of art—and stories—to keep you engaged and entertained throughout the summer days ahead.