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.



As in, you are all acting like a bunch of boobs.

Recently a woman from my hometown uploaded this photo on Facebook:


This is pretty amazing and got a lot of attention, and not just from the hundreds of people saying, “Wait, what is a crab rangoon pizza? Where can I get this amazing delicacy?”  A crab rangoon pizza has a crab rangoon base, surimi, green onion, asiago and mozzarella cheeses, and is topped with crispy egg roll strips and sweet chili sauce. You can purchase one in Des Moines, Iowa at Fong’s Pizza. Some day I’d like to write you a whole blog about how very cool Des Moines really is compared to what you have been told, but that will have to wait. If you look beyond the delicious purchases you will see that one was paid for by a staff member at Fong’s to thank the mother for breastfeeding. Neat, right? It was such a happy story that it made the news in other cities and right here in Des Moines.

Again, neat story. It should really end there. But no. People have to go and be grossed out and offended by it. I’m grossed out and offended by a lot of things but I keep most of it to myself because the world doesn’t revolve around me and my likes and dislikes. I want to go to every single news site about this wonderful story and just “educate” every single moron like this woman *Ellen that just compared her breast to her butthole. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to that.) But I don’t have the time or the patience so I’m just going to write my responses to the standard comments here and hope some of the boobs out there read them.

I don’t mind breastfeeding in public as long as they cover up.

1. Why? What about a woman’s breast is offensive? The size? Because some women have smaller breasts than some men, do these men also need to cover up? Please? I’ve heard some people say “hot” breasts are okay but not flabby, ugly ones. Fair enough. Put your flabby, ugly chins away and your flabby, ugly thighs and all the rest of you, too. It offends me. Actually, your face offends me, cover it up.

2. It’s hot, people. It’s 90 or more degrees in Iowa right now, more with humidity. The baby is already nestled up against Mom’s body heat and you want a blanket on his or head, too? That’s child abuse. If breasts offend you that much then you go in the bathroom and eat or you eat dinner with a blanket on your head.

I’m tired of people saying breastfeeding is natural, so is masturbation but I don’t do it at the table.

If you can’t tell the difference between masturbation and breastfeeding then you have some deep psychological issues to explore.

I’m tired of people saying breastfeeding is natural, so is taking a dump maybe I should show you my butthole.

That is paraphrasing *Ellen, I think she deleted her original comment before I could cut and paste. Ellen has some serious issues if she is truly comparing her breasts to her butthole. I don’t even know where to start.

A lot of people try to compare breastfeeding to using the restroom when the “natural” debate comes up. Let’s just end that now. Breastmilk is a source of nourishment and more. Anything you do in the restroom is not. I feel like I shouldn’t even need to explain this. The last time I had to say, “we don’t eat poop,” I was talking to a 6 month old.


Breasts are not offensive but they are a private part. Are you going to tell me that if you have a daughter you’ll be okay with her walking around topless?

Um, yeah. It’s her body. Once she is an adult I won’t “let” her do anything because her body does not belong to me.

But again, this comparison is dumb. Walking around topless and breastfeeding are not the same thing. There is less breast exposed during breastfeeding than there is in bra advertisements at the mall. I don’t see anyone draping blankets over those.

I don’t want my children exposed to that.

The little flash of sideboob they might glance during breastfeeding? Don’t let them near the internet! They might see Miley Cyrus on the Huffington Post. Don’t take them to the mall, they might have to walk past Victoria’s Secret. And definitely keep them home from the beach. Because I’d hate for them to be exposed to a human breast. <—That last link is all marvelous man boobs and I suggest you check it out for some comic relief.

Your kids will always be exposed to things you wish they didn’t have to see. Use ach experience as a learning opportunity. Tell them how you feel about it and educate them about the situation. Especially breastfeeding! This is the moment where you get to shape and change our future society, the society your children will be feeding their own children in. Tell them now, “breastfeeding is the healthiest, most natural way to feed your baby.” You can elaborate for more advanced learners but make sure you send that message. Then say, “but if it makes you uncomfortable, look away.” It’s important they learn now some things will make them uncomfortable, that doesn’t mean those things are wrong or that they can be rude about it.

 I hate the moms that feel like they have something to prove and make a big production of it. It’s natural and awesome for baby and mom so don’t ruin it by making a scene.

They don’t like you, either. You’re the one that made breastfeeding weird and obscene. You, and others like you, that bought into the notion that somehow a woman’s breast was more offensive than a man’s or that anyone ever had the right to judge whose breast was attractive enough to be seen, you are the ones who made it a big deal, not the mothers that are trying to take back the natural act of feeding their child when he is hungry.

*whew* I typed all this with Sharkboy and Little S fighting beside me, singing in my lap and threatening to pee on me, so I hope it makes sense. I swear they’re not neglected, it was less than 20 minutes of a day that was entirely devoted to their good times. They will survive.

I am not trying to shame anyone that is not comfortable whipping it out in public. Our society is obsessed with breasts in an unnatural way and it has caused people to be uncomfortable with their own bodies. Or maybe you’re just shy. That’s okay.

And ya know what, it’s okay to be uncomfortable with other people’s breasts, too, it’s just not okay to expect them to make themselves and their child uncomfortable for your sake.

I’m done with my soapbox, but I bet you’re not. Go ahead. That’s what the comments are for. 😉


*names changed to protect the  innocent

Macaroni For Dinner

I always say I don’t like to cook but that’s a lie. I enjoy cooking and I absoluely love it when I create something that my kids like eating. It’s cooking dinner on time either before or after a 45 minute commute with two young children hanging on the baby gate sobbing for food and attention and two teenagers needing papers signed and tape for a project and permission to log on to Facebook that makes me want to order Dominos every single day. And night. And do they have breakfast pizza?

Worse than cooking in a house full of kids, though, is cleaning up the mess made from cooking. So many dishes. Pots and pans and spatulas and serving spoons and plates and seriously, can’t you just eat with your fingers? We’re out of forks. At the end of the day you could eat off of my floor, not because it’s so clean but because there is enough food down there to create a meal. Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up… eventually.

So, it’s easier just to say I don’t like cooking. It’s even easier to heat up some chicken nuggets, steam a bag of broccoli and cut up a banana and call it done. It takes less than 10 minutes to make and less than 10 minutes to clean up if you don’t count banana goo removal from the baby’s hair.

I’m at peace with this. When The Barkeep is home he really does enjoy cooking and I’m here to entertain the kids and field any questions about where to find paper or watching Mighty Machines. They’re getting a variety of different foods and I always cover all the food groups. Sure, better meals are being served somewhere but next door to them a parent is serving McDonald’s. I don’t consider myself above the McDonald’s mom, though, she probably has immaculate floors.

Some time after dinner is served and the teenagers are forced to load the dishwasher and I find the broom, I like to get back online and search the internet for advice on potty training and smart mouth teenagers. The internet is full of amazing advice and information and useful tips. You could spend days reading about just one topic, like potty training or healthy meal ideas. I like to pin these things to Pinterest so the next time I come home tipsy and don’t feel like sleeping yet I have something to read. The internet is also full of other moms looking for information and tips. We sometimes like to gather in communities, like message boards or Facebook groups.

A weird thing happens when people gather online. If you put a mostly polite and sensible group of mothers together in a real life situation there will be mostly polite and sensible conversation. There may be some passive aggressive cattiness or raised eyebrows, but it generally stays civil. Put that same group of women on an internet message board and suddenly you have the world’s most renowned expert on potty training and breast feeding, her sister Dr. Google and their BFF Snarky McSnarkbritches. If you have kids over 6 months old and you’ve spent any time online you have met them, sometimes entire groups of them.

I’m sure by now they have told you you are poisoning your precious child with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. That’s why I’m here, to set the record straight. My parents occaisionally served me macaroni and cheese throughout my childhood and I am still here to tell you about it. It was delicious and I survived. I also drank kool-aid and ate potato chips and *gasp* hot dogs. There are worse things you can feed your kids. My baby eats carpet fuzz and he’s made it all the way to 10 months old.

I plan to blog about a lot of different stuff, not just parenting and kids, but I wanted to start with a theme that is on my mind a lot. Mom shaming? The Mommy Wars? Call it what you want, I call it a bunch of insecure women trying to make other women just as insecure in some pointless attempt to bolster their own self esteem. You know what actually bolsters your self esteem? Helping. Try it.

Nap is over. I’m going to give the kids a special treat. Cake! Not only cake, but yesterday it was a boob cake. Mmm boobies. And that is as close as I’m ever going to get to talking about the breastfeeding debate.