I’m often surprised by museums. Maybe I still somehow think the small ones won’t be as impressive as the famous places like the Louvre or Smithsonian.

You may be surprised by the Des Moines Art Center. Their collection is fabulous, the buildings are designed by renowned architects and most shocking of all… entry is FREE!

Exploring the Des Moines Art Center

Three very famous architects contributed their talents to the structure of the museum itself: Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei and Richard Meier. Saarinen designed the original Art Deco building which was completed in 1948. Twenty years later Pei designed the addition, a concrete design with a reflecting pool where the two buildings meet. Richard Meier added a third wing about 20 years later.

The museum collection contains pieces from many well-known artists including names like Calder, Cassatt, Warhol, Matisse, Rodin, Gauguin, Monet, Hopper, and O’Keeffe. They may not be their most famous works, but the collection is very impressive none the less. You’ll find paintings, sculptures, prints and photography throughout the museum. When I was there a wonderful Vivian Maier photo exhibit was on, but the special exhibitions change all the time. Check their website for information.

I loved wandering through the galleries on a weekday. The staff in each room was extremely friendly, approaching me to ask if I had any questions, and explaining their favorite works to me. There were several groups of school children there as well, and I stopped to listen to the docents present their thoughts on the artworks. It was fascinating and I learned a lot! The students seemed to enjoy it as well.

The museum has a lunch cafe near the reflecting pool that is said to be delicious. I was not able to try it but I heard from several locals that it is a great place to dine.

In addition to the galleries, the center also provides art classes for the community. They have classes for kids of all ages as well as adults and family classes. I want to take one with my nephews!

I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised that the Des Moines Art Center is so impressive. After all their tagline is: “entirely unexpected”.

Des Moines Art Center
4700 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50312

Be sure to check out our other articles about Iowa! Places to drink craft beer, explore Living History Farms, and take long bike ride!

And if you’re in Iowa be sure to also check out the famous Bridges of Madison County.


Are you a fan of living frugally so that you can retire early? Is Mr Money Mustache friend of yours? You might like this website that finds affordable places to live within your budget, around the globe!

The Earth Awaits gives Des Moines high scores when it comes to living good life on a budget. Something to think about if you are considering a move to Iowa! It may not be the most walkable city but it has miles and miles of cycling paths.

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