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23rd annual show displays a variety of art forms

Though Des Moines has many insurance companies and corporations, it also has a wide range of art that was shown in last weekend’s Metro Arts Alliance Expo. This was the 23rd expo for the Metro Arts Alliance, and events coordinator Reilly Branderhorst estimated that between 5,000 – 6,000 people attended.

The event started in 1975 by the Arts and Recreation Council of Greater Des Moines and has grown to include 73 artists from 13 different categories. Some categories are two- and three-dimensional media, ceramics, fiber, metal, paintings and drawings.

“There’s a lot of different work,” Branderhorst said.

Each artist applied in March with five photos of their works and an image of what their booth would look like.

“It’s amazing what people can do with a 10-foot booth,” Branderhorst said.

A panel of judges chose from 150 applicants and selected participants and merit awards for special artists such as Benjamin Schuh.

A veteran of the expo, Schuh explained that his inspirations come from everyday life.

“I don’t limit what I paint,” Schuh said.

Some pieces were acrylic paintings, and others were done with ink. From a panel of orchids to a flipped image of “American Gothic,” Schuh had pictures of events that many people could relate to.

All of these pieces were also available for sale. Most works at the expo were originals, such as the work by Lord’s Diversified Inc.

Bob and Peggy Aebi use ink with an alcohol base on an art board that’s on top of wood. From colorful lines to interlaced circles to varied splatters, each piece done by the Lathrop, Mo., couple is original, one-of-a-kind and signed.

Bob Aebi mentioned that his wife does most of the art-board pieces.

“She took to it like a duck to water,” he said.

However, Bob Aebi made several pieces that feature underwater scenes made from real seaweed, shark jawbones and pearls.

These three-dimensional pieces were not alone at the expo. Multiple booths held massive metal sculptures, while Steve Uren held his own display of woodwork. Inspired by nature, landscapes, water and music, Uren creates dramatic yet useful pieces such as mirrors, cutting boards, desks and tables.

Groups such as the Drake Women’s Chorale, the Heartland Youth Choir and Striving for Eternal Life Choir performed at the center of the expo.

There were also children’s activities where kids made greeting cards, decorated recycled bags, made waxed yarn sculptures and partook in a digital photo booth. Over 117 children came last Friday alone.

Nearby restaurant Big City extended its hours and served meals near the singers’ pavilion, where the art was still visible.

The annual free event is now complete. In previous years, the expo had been in Hy-Vee Hall, but it was in Capitol Square this year.

Branderhorst admitted that it was “nice to be in the heart of downtown,”  and expressed her interest to return to Hy-Vee Hall next year.


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