This may have been the best Des Moines Art Festival and ARTFest Midwest that I have been to. I’ll post some links to some of the great artists that I found there in separate posts, but I am going to start with a review of the festivals themselves.
First, the Des Moines Art Festival, which is the larger and more prestigious of the two. The overall quality of the art was amazing. I am a big fan of paintings, sculpture, and mixed media. I usually am not a big fan of glass or ceramics, as usually they seem to have a certain sameness even among different artists. Another issue is that many artists seem to make the same thing over and over. In this festival, not only did I find a glass artist that I found amazing, but found multiple ceramic artists that were very good. Any show that has not one, but multiple artists that surprise you with their quality of work is a great show.
There were close to 200 different artists at this show. The award for best in show was a cool installation of a small shipping container with oil paintings of wilderness scenes inside. In lieu of normal pricing or a price list, there was a “packing list” with pricing. The concept was that the whole thing was a traveling art show that had survived wars and had been “stolen” from other people. Now the whole collection was slowly decreasing as people buy items and then take them out of their context until the context is ultimately lost. The concept was fantastic, and deserved the Best in Show Award.
I have to admit that I was not overly enthralled with most of the jury awards or merit awards. I could see why people would buy that art, but honestly I thought there were better overall artists and better displays.
I spent the vast majority of the day at the big show. I only got to spend about an hour at ARTFest Midwest, but I did get to reconnect with artists that I follow and find two artists that I would like to follow. Again, if you can find more than one artist that you can connect with in under an hour, this is a great show. There were demonstrations from several artists, which is always fun.
Overall, the shows were very well run. Most of the artists were very approachable. The art was beautiful and most of it was priced reasonably. I had a great time.