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Creating a Community Masterpiece at the Des Moines Arts Festival

Every summer, premier artists from around the world arrive in downtown Des Moines’ Western Gateway Park for the Des Moines Arts Festival. As a signature arts and culture event in Iowa, the festival gives people of all ages a chance to embrace the arts. Through the years, the community—including the Principal Financial Group®—has also embraced the festival.

Beginning in 1958 as an Art in the Park event with just a few hundred visitors, the Des Moines Arts Festival now sees its annual attendance exceed 200,000 people.

Volunteers at the Des Moines Arts Festival

Attendees at the Des Moines Arts Festival work on tiles for the 2014 mural.

The Principal® is a long-time patron of the Des Moines Arts Festival and a presenter of the Emerging Iowa Artists Program — helping young artists promote their talents and sell their work.

Georgia Van Gundy, director-government and community relations at The Principal says, “The Principal and our employees have supported the Arts Festival for many years, and one of the things we've really enjoyed being a part of is the emerging artists exhibit. We came up with the 'Interactive Art Experience' idea to bring together our sponsorship of the festival, our interest in community art and community participation.”

An Interactive Art Experience: A Community Effort

In 2014 we partnered with the Arts Festival to recreate the popular painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges-Pierre Seurat.

In years past the completed mural would be hung in the downtown skywalk, but this year everyone who contributed to the mural was able to pick up their tiles at the end of the festival. Through an interactive art experience we were able to bring, families, friends, young and old together all with different artistic skill sets to build a community masterpiece.

Nearly a thousand attendees visited our booth during the festival and used pastels to color individual tiles that would later be placed together to create the final piece of artwork. The final mural contained 864 tiles and measured nearly 30 feet x 20 feet.

"Having sponsors like The Principal means everything," says Stephen King, executive director of the Des Moines Arts Festival. "We can't produce a festival of this magnitude—and keep it free—without support from organizations like The Principal. They're the reason why it happens, because they appreciate the impact the arts have on quality of life."

To learn more about the Des Moines Arts Festival, visit

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