Destination Inspiration - Talking with Christine Doolittle of the Des Moines Art Center
Where do you go to get inspired? Do you take long walks in the countryside, read Shakespeare, or turn on a record? In your daily life of sleep, eat, and work, sometimes you need to take a breather and go someplace where you allow yourself to be overcome by inspiration. It’s makes you think, react, and do things that inspire others to make the world a better place.
When I need a jolt of inspiration I like to spend an afternoon in the Des Moines Art Center or take a run through the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Today we go behind the scenes and talk to the Des Moines Art Center’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Christine Doolittle.
Patrick Tape Fleming: Whenever I need a quick blast of inspiration, I head to the Des Moines Art Center. Can you describe how working in such a creative environment affects your work day?
Christine Doolittle: Every day at the Art Center is different, from preparing for exhibitions, to working on the website, to the most exciting part of our jobs: meeting the artists. Also, it’s inspiring to walk through the galleries and see new work installed every day. Many people think the permanent galleries remain constant, but much to the contrary, our installations team rotates out works of art on a regular basis. I was just in the lower section of the Richard Meier building the other day and saw one of our newest acquisitions hanging, the Mark Grotjahn drawing, which up until that point, I had only seen in pictures. It’s stunning. (It’s also on the cover of our latest newsletter.)
PTF: The Des Moines Art Center is free for everyone, which is incredible. Can you explain why that is, and do patrons need to do anything to keep it that way?
CD: The Art Center is extremely proud to offer free admission, thanks to our donors, both corporate and individual, and to the foundations that help support this mission. Not only is admission always free (with the exception of a few special events), we have free lectures, gallery talks, films, and community days. In many cities, museums only offer free admission to members, which is the main incentive to become a member in those cases, but for the Art Center, our members ensure free admission for all. Admission is free at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park as well.
PTF: Education is a huge part of the Des Moines Art Center. Can you tell us about some of the extra activities that the Des Moines Art Center offers up?
CD: Not only do we offer classes and scholarships to all ages and all skill levels in many media (including drawing, painting, printmaking, cartooning, jewelry-making, ceramics, etc.), we also strive to make the artwork we present more meaningful by providing multi-faceted programming including films (artists’ choice or chosen by the Education department), artist lectures, scholar lectures, gallery talks with curators, audio and cell phone tours, docent-led tours, and gallery guides. We also offer free guided tours to every fourth-grade student in the local five-district area (we cover transportation for them as well).
PTF: I have always wondered how often the Des Moines Art Center seeks out new pieces for the permanent collection?
CD: We have an acquisition team that is made up of Art Center supporters, board members, and staff that work with curators and the director to decide what is needed for the collection and what will enhance the collection.
PTF: Who is the most inspiring artist to you, ever? And why?
CD: Not that I am able to choose just one, but we had a one-person exhibition here last fall with San Antonio artist Dario Robleto, titled Survival Does Not Lie In The Heavens. Dario’s work focuses on extinction, longevity, and memories, and is made up of materials such as love letters, human tears, fossils, audio tape, and amber. The work is truly poetic and inspired me to reflect on mortality, responsibility, and relationships.
PTF Note: Dario Robleto did the artwork to one of my favorite bands most recent albums.. I had no idea who he was. Thanks Christine.
A huge thanks to Christine Doolittle and everyone from the Des Moines Art Center for providing a place of pure inspiration for anyone to discover!
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