Five Eye-Popping Des Moines Murals (and Food and Drink Nearby)

Everything Iowa

Five Eye-Popping Des Moines Murals (and Food and Drink Nearby)

Josh Hafner

Josh Hafner
Aug 13, 2020

Des Moines wall art of person holding cup

Let’s face it: This Socially Distanced Summer™ looks different from other summers. But just because you can’t enjoy music festivals and art museums doesn’t mean you can’t find culture on a quiet stroll downtown.

Des Moines is renowned for its sculpture park, just one sampling of this city’s great public art. But if you look past the Keith Haring and Claes Oldenburg sculptures, you’ll see walls coated in fine art on every corner.

Here’s a look at some of the best Des Moines murals, along with places to grab a refreshment nearby. Take ‘em in. Grab a treat. It’s still summer, after all.

Pearl Clutcher Snatcher Des Moines Mural

Pearl Clutcher/Snatcher

Artist: Jordan Weber | Location: 309 Locust Street

A blonde woman looks on in horror as the world around her evolves and changes. That’s the premise behind “Pearl Clutcher/Snatcher,” as artist Jordan Weber told The Des Moines Register. The 2015 mural was conceived as a commentary on downtown’s swift-evolution. It won’t make you as jumpy as the lady in the mural, but you can discuss local development over a Sputnik latte (honey, almond, and cinnamon) at Mars Sidebar the next block over.

Expansion and Dango Mural Des Moines

Expansion & Dango

Artist: Jun Kaneko | Location: Court Avenue & Water Street

Nearly 40,000 LED lights illuminate “Expansion,” a glass mural adorning the outer wall of a pump station on the Des Moines River downtown. Blown glass glows with bright blues, yellows, and reds on the 2013 work, which stretches 21 feet wide and 15 feet high. Located just across from a series of Kaneko’s iconic “dango” sculptures, the two works serve as an unofficial gateway to the Court Avenue District. Kaneko’s mural looks best after dark, so you might pick up some late night snacks at the throwback The High Life Lounge nearby, where the Bacon Tots (bacon-wrapped, fried with ranch) just might offer an expansion to your waistline. Well worth it.

No Action Too Small Des Moines Mural

No Action Too Small

Artist: Chris Vance | Location: 300 East Locust Street

A colorful cast of characters make up Chris Vance’s “No Action Too Small” — birds and monsters and bunnies, an office worker and an anthropomorphic Earth. But they’re all glowing about one thing: recycling. The mural, commissioned in 2013 on a Metro Waste Authority office, urges passersby in the East Village to consider their footprint. Ponder yours as you walk down the block to Scenic Route Bakery, which slings coffee-to-go at its full espresso bar.

Murals at 2nd and Court Des Moines

Murals at 2nd and Court

Artists: (Various) | Location: 208 Court Avenue

Eight murals tile the side of RoCA, a posh small plates spot in the Court Avenue District. Commissioned by the restaurant around 2015, they include “Untitled Wall #1” by Jennifer Leatherby (think geometric minimalism); “Cosmic Waltz” by Jack Heintz (two dancers, pulsing and alive); and “Ancient Minds of Modern Scribes” by Asphate and Leter91 (an almost cyberpunk depiction of Nefertiti). RoCA has fantastic cocktails indoors, but if you’re looking for a sure to-go bet, pick up a growler of beer from Court Avenue Brewing Company just down the street. Try the Judicial Wig White, a Belgian Wit with hints of Banana and Clove.

Sarah and Leeland with Bees Des Moines Mural

Sarah and Leeland With Bees

Artist: Frank Hansen | Location: 300 East Locust Street

Two giants tower over Pennsylvania Avenue in the East Village, reaching out across a blue canvas for a pair of top-hatted bees. Their names are Sarah and Leland, apparently, of the aptly titled “Sarah and Leland with Bees,” a 2011 mural adorning a residential building on the neighborhood’s north end. The Frank Hansen mural is just down the street from the, ahem, buzzing Railroad Bill’s Dining Car, a diner that offers classic fare including hot coffee, omelets, and a killer fried chicken and waffles — all for the road.

Want to know more about Des Moines?  Here’s an ode to 2RM’s neighborhood, our very own East Village.

Josh Hafner
Get to know Josh

As a content strategist, Josh delivers words in whatever ways necessary to move readers. When not developing newsletters, mobile-tailored articles or tweets, he's at home trying to play Bob Dylan records without waking his daughter. Reach out to Josh to let him know your favorite Dylan album.