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Start Your Next Iowa Adventure at the State's Largest Fine Arts Show

When looking for unique Midwest destinations for your next summer getaway, Des Moines is an excellent option with its booming art scene, a variety of restaurants, and attractions for all ages. From world-class art galleries and museums to performances by the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra, the arts are alive and thriving in Iowa’s Capital. Those looking to dive into the scene should visit the Olson Larsen Gallery, Des Moines Art Center, and the Temple for Performing Arts. The city is also a haven for foodies with hundreds of restaurants featuring regional and international cuisines. Fit time into your itinerary for popular establishments like Centro, 801 Chophouse, and Simon’s.


ArtFest Midwest has established itself as a can’t miss experience for art lovers over the past 16 years, and it will take place June 23-24 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. This free to attend event is Iowa’s largest fine arts show, and it will include more than 250 Iowa, regional, and national artists. Participating artists will showcase and sell art representing a spectrum of mediums and styles. From unique photographs to one-of-a-kind handmade furniture, the event will have something for every art lover. Those attending with the entire family will be enamored with the Kids Art Corner, which will feature an assortment of hands-on art activities. Attendees curious about specific mediums, artists, and styles can attend artist demonstrations held by ArtFest Midwest artists. Since the event takes place at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, patrons can purchase a variety of tasty fair foods and refreshments. interviewed Program Manager for Artfest Midwest, Robyn Mills, to learn more about this unique experience.


RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.

RM: ArtFest Midwest 2018, Iowa’s largest fine art show, is an indoor event (with a few outdoor spaces) held in the rain-free, air-conditioned Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Approximately 250 artists will be participating, and it’s held on the same weekend as the downtown arts event. ArtFest Midwest, an affordable alternative to the downtown show, will again offer free shuttle bus service to downtown. Parking and admission to the show are free.


RAL: How long has the event been running?

RM: This is the 16th year of the event.


RAL: How many annual attendees do you draw?

RM: We estimate that there are roughly 30,000 attendees each year.


RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?

RM: The event appeals to all demographics. From the Kids Art Corner to wide selection of beautiful art displays, we have something for every taste and pocketbook.


RAL: What makes this event unique?

RM: It's the largest fine arts show in Iowa with over 250 artists. Plus, it’s held indoors and free to the public.


RAL: Take me through a day at the event. What can I expect as an attendee?

RM: Doors open at 10:00 am and people can explore the vast open space filled with 250+ artists and their art. Mediums include clay, sculpture, painting, glass, photography, printmaking, wood, fiber, mixed media, metal and jewelry. All items are handmade by the artist, and most of the artists have a following in Des Moines. Patrons will love strolling through the aisles and finding one-of-a-kind pieces to take home.


There is also a Kids Art Corner with hands-on activities for all ages, and there is an OpenBook area, sponsored by CultureAll, where customers can “read” people from different cultural experiences.


RAL: What dining options will attendees encounter?

RM: Since ArtFest Midwest is located at the Iowa State Fair, the concessions are similar to state fair food, but all homemade, including ¼ lb hamburgers, tenderloins, ¼ lb beef franks, and homemade chocolate chips cookies.


RAL: Tell us about the overall atmosphere?

RM: The event is fun and vibrant. Attendees are here to see unique art and have fun while doing it.


RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?

RM: Go to Catch DSM for lodging suggestions and other activities to round out the weekend, including the Downtown Arts Festival happening the same weekend and Des Moines's famous Farmer’s Market each Saturday morning in the summer.


RAL: What does this event mean to the community?

RM: Combined with the Downtown Arts Festival, ArtFest Midwest celebrates art in Iowa for the entire weekend.


RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?

RM: Our event not only brings in 250+ artists but customers from all over the Midwest flock to this event each year.


For more information about ArtFest Midwest, please visit the event website.