The Art of the Unexpected

—Olson-Larsen Galleries presents dsmArts—

Above: Parking for drop-ins—this troubling sight drew attention this week, which was the goal of a plan for unexpected encounters with art.

By Michael Morain


From the looks of it, a satellite fell from the sky the other day and crashed onto a black Volkswagen parked in front of Raygun. A woman passed by and reflexively looked up to see if another might be on the way.

The source was not the sky, in fact, but the imagination of a Toronto artist named Brandon Vickerd. It’s similar to a stunt he pulled in Denmark, called “Sputnik Returned,” and was commissioned here as part of Bravo Greater Des Moines’ new plan to promote pop-up art throughout the metro area. The nonprofit’s recent study concluded that Central Iowans want more “everyday, everywhere” art to make the city a better, cooler and all-around more creative place to live.

Bravo has also recruited a gang of “transit troubadours” to politely ambush passengers this week on various DART bus routes with music, spoken-word acts and quick-draw portraits. Over in West Des Moines, on the Jordan Creek Trail near 50th Street and E.P. True Parkway, the sound artist Alex Braidwood is installing a “water-quality xylophone” with audio recordings attuned to the changing quality of the trail’s namesake creek.

More projects may pop up later, depending on the response to these first few. (If you’d like to chime in on social media, use #bravodsm and #everywhereart.)

“I’d love it if people started to get excited about the idea that art or cultural experiences can happen anywhere,” says local artist Mat Greiner, a co-founder, with Teva Dawson, of Group Creative Services, which is coordinating Bravo’s initiative. “We’ll start to expect that our hometown will provide more vibrant culture and more exciting things to experience.”

So that’s how Greiner found himself with a sledgehammer earlier this month, wailing away on a donated Volkswagen. (The car came from Community Lawyers of Iowa, by way of Iowa Public Radio’s donation program.)

When he parked the car this weekend at Walker Johnston Park in Urbandale, “a lot of people were driving by and rubbernecking,” he said. “Two moms with their kids in the backseat pulled up and were kind of astonished. They were really scared at first but saw me working on it and realized it was OK.”

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