Des Moines Art Center – Real Reviews For Real Families

Des Moines Art Center

  • 4700 GRAND AVE
  • 515.277.4405
  • FREE

April 16, 2015

We are currently studying the arts in play school and I thought it would be fun beneficial for the kids to visit a real art center. I wanted them to see all the different types of art and the many mediums and styles used by accomplished artists. I was also a tiny bit terrified about taking four kids, 5 and younger, to an art gallery. I’d like to give a shout out to the awesome Facebook group Des Moines – Beyond 4 Walls for their help in making the decision. I decided to go and bring Goldy to assist.

Before we left I read the kids books about visiting an art museum and made sure to emphasize the parts about not touching the art and other rules. I also prepped them all the way there, “hands to yourself, walking feet, museum voices”, being careful not to use the words I didn’t want them to pick up. If you say, “don’t touch” kids are more likely to touch. Try it sometime.

We were greeted at the entrance by a woman behind the desk and a “guide”. I’m putting guide in quotes because they turned out to be more like guards. Both were very pleasant, though, and not at all put off by the kids. Off to a good start. We were offered a map and after a quick appraisal of the boys ages she also directed us to the restroom, where we went immediately. Smart thinking, lady. The bathroom has several stalls, 3 sinks, and a stool. Everything was easy to reach and use for older kids. (I’ll be highlighting words like bathroom in these reviews so if people want to skim for key points, they can.) Back upstairs, we started our self guided tour. The kids all touched the first sculpture we encountered, but quickly pulled back when reminded to keep their hands by their bodies. I was very impressed by how well they listened! We walked around, constantly herding the boys into one small group so they were easier to watch. They are not used to this method. On most trips I let them spread out and check things out at their pace, but I had warned them this was a different kind of trip. I asked them questions about what they liked about certain pieces, what they thought the people in pictures were feeling, and what they though the artist used to make it.

I’d like to say it was a fun learning experience, but it was also very tense. I realize the guides are there to protect the artwork and they probably see a lot of unruly kids and unconcerned parents, but it is very uncomfortable to have someone follow you like a shadow, especially when your kids are behaving so well. I know he was doing his job, so this is not a complaint, just something you should be prepared for if you take children. We were followed very closely and if the kids got close enough to actually see something the first guide barked, “don’t touch” and they all jumped out of their skin. And of course Sharkboy and Little S immediately felt a strong urge to touch something, luckily it was just the wall. The farther we went into the building the less concerned the guards seemed and the more we enjoyed ourselves. The kids did amazing. They did not run or yell or touch. This is a group of boys that normally wrestle, jump, shriek and climb. If they can do it, your kids can do it. I recommend a ratio of one adult for every two kids unless you have a naturally calm group.

We spent less than an hour inside but saw almost everything. I could see that the kids had reached the limit of their restraint. They were starting to move a little faster, talk a little louder and get a little closer to the art. Too often adults ignore these clues and the results are unpleasant. Leave while everyone is happy and can remember the trip fondly.

We went outside to the rose garden but it is mid-April so there wasn’t much to see yet. Instead I had the kids race from tree to tree using different movements, flapping their arms like birds, swimming, skipping, galloping. It was a relief to move and touch and explore after following such strict rules for so long.

Overall I would recommend the experience. I think it is important for kids to be exposed to art. Be prepared for a shadow guide and make sure your children know the rules in advance. If you are overly anxious you may want to wait until they are older or take them while they are still young enough to be work in a carrier or pushed in a stroller. We had a great day and I hope you do, too.

Thoughts form the kids:

Sharkboy: I liked the face pictures and going outside. I like to look at abstract art and make real art.

Little S: I liked all the pictures and the gold trophy statue. I didn’t like the persons there. I didn’t like the steps that didn’t have the stuff right here on them. (Indicating stairs that had open backs. I forgot about that, none of the kids like that. Glad I asked for their input!)

Friend 1: The guy just said, “stay on the carpet!” The statue was thinking about his Mommy.

Friend 2: (Not much of a talker, simply said yes when asked if he liked the trip.)

A few things people have asked about since this was posted, great questions!
There was ample free parking on a weekday at opening time. There is also overflow parking, I would assume used more for events. We were able to park in the center row, with a sidewalk down the middle. I wish every parking lot had spaces like this!

There was a changing table in the women’s room. I did not see a family restroom or check the men’s room for a changing table. Men, if you are not provided a changing table change your baby at the front desk. I think they will file your suggestion faster that way!

The gift shop is located off of the atrium and we did not even go near it. There were no other snacks or toys sold throughout the center. We dd not check out the cafe and I believe outside snacks are prohibited. We ate before entering and had lunch as soon as we left. I recommend keeping the visit short if you had a snacker. There were seats throughout the gallery but I did not see a specific place for breastfeeding. I will keep my eyes open on future visits, as I know that is important to many parents.

Thanks for the suggestions. I will try to add these elements to future reviews.


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