Artists Drawn by Festival

Above: From paintings to furnishings to whimsical creations like these tiny “Hot Houses,” production rolls from the studios of Hidden Springs Designs, an enterprise drawn to Iowa by the Des Moines Arts Festival.


Sure, almost everyone loves the Des Moines Arts Festival, which returns for its 20th year this weekend. But would you move your residence for it? That’s what husband-and-wife artists Rob Matthews and Leslie Guinan did — packing up from California and settling in Iowa. Now that’s a compelling festival.

“That is the core of why we’re here,” Matthews says from their home on the city’s south side. He is a longtime sculptor and stained-glass artist. Together, the couple creates furnishings and decorative pieces. Guinan, a former environmental lawyer, has become passionate about encaustic painting, a method that incorporates heated wax as well as pigments.

“We came to Des Moines initially seven years ago, and we were impressed by the sculpture garden right off the bat,” says Matthews, 66. “We’ve watched the Arts Festival grow every year, and moved here in April.”

The couple sells most of their work in similar festivals nationwide (and to clients who initially discover them there), so Des Moines’ central location appealed to them logistically, as they drive their artwork to various events. They moved here from Northern California and have been delighted by the change, Matthews says. His art has been featured in several years of the Des Moines Arts Festival; this year that honor fell to Guinan.

“We’re just happy to be here and to be a part of it,” Matthews says.

Once again, the Arts Festival opens Friday with a bang — the Interrobang Film Festival, which continues to grow. Dozens of short films, documentaries and features will be screened throughout the weekend, with details available here.

As always, artists and performers will fill downtown’s Western Gateway with beauty, music and throngs of fans and consumers. Musicians are scheduled throughout each afternoon and evening, with local favorites each day, including the Maytags at 3:15 p.m. Friday, Abbie and the Sawyers at 7 p.m. Saturday, and the NOLA Jazz Band at 12:15 p.m. Sunday. For a complete list of musicians and times, click here.

Get all the details on Festival activities with one click:

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