Central Art Gallery

Current Exhibition - December 21, 2016 through February 10, 2017

Escaped from the Vault: Works from the Permanent Collection of the Des Moines Public Library

The Central Art Gallery is showing works owned by the Des Moines Public Library. These include drawings and paintings by such well-known artists as Frank Miller, Charles Cumming and Ding Darling. Lacking permanent space in which to display these items, they are rarely seen outside the back rooms of the library. Please stop in and take a look at our treasures!

Des Moines River Above 6th Street Bridge, 1903
Des Moines River Above 6th Street Bridge, 1903, Charles Atherton Cumming

Art Gallery History

In 1916, the Des Moines Public Library, working in partnership with the newly-formed Des Moines Association of Fine Arts, made a gallery space available in order to “purchase and hold title to paintings acquired for the benefit of the public, and to bring exhibitions to the city.” Several exhibitions were shown each year, and works of art were periodically purchased for the association’s permanent collection. After a period of inactivity in the 1930s due to the Depression, the DMAF in 1938 moved their collection to a building on Walnut Street, and, with funding from the Works Progress Administration in the 1940s, provided galleries and studio space. The Des Moines Association of Fine Arts voluntarily dissolved in 1945 and their assets were turned over to the [James] Edmundson Art Foundation. That entity funded construction of the new Des Moines Art Center, which opened at its present location on Grand Avenue in 1948.

old art gallery

The Art Gallery at the Central Library, which opened in May, 2016, is located on the second floor and offers an accessible and welcoming environment for encouraging and celebrating Iowa artists. Exhibitions of original art work will engage, enrich, and be enjoyed by our patrons and enhance our community as a whole. These exhibitions expand the library’s role and bolster creative and expressive energy in the Des Moines community.

We are excited to continue the rich tradition of art at the Des Moines Public Library into a second century. Thank you for your support, and we hope to see you at the gallery!