The Avenues Designated a Cultural District

This sculpture, “Black Crown of Recurring Loss,” by Larassa Kabel on the front lawn of Plymouth Place at 42nd Street and Ingersoll Avenue, is one of the newest pieces of artwork in the Ingersoll and Grand district. Photo: Ben Easter Photography.

Writer: Allaire Nuss

After more than 20 years of strategic planning, the Avenues of Ingersoll and Grand has been designated as an official Cultural and Entertainment District by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

The 10-year designation “recognizes well-identified, walkable, mixed-use, compact areas of a city or county in which a high concentration of cultural facilities serves as the anchor,” according to the IDCA. The Avenues, which stretches between Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and 42nd Street in Des Moines, was the only area recognized in Greater Des Moines.

That’s no small feat, as Kris Maggard, executive director of the Avenues, can attest. The effort began about two decades ago with streetscaping for accessibility and later included creating an urban renewal district on the west side of Des Moines.

“Ingersoll and Grand are connectors in the city of Des Moines,” Maggard says. “We connect to downtown and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, connect to the [Des Moines Art Center], and connect people to venues like the Salisbury House and Terrace Hill. This [designation] will allow us to create programming and educational opportunities around all of the art and culture and history that already exist. It’s a feather in our cap.”

Maggard’s focus in the time of COVID-19 is holding cultural events that engage the community while keeping everyone safe. This past weekend, the Avenues restored live music to the district through a socially distanced pop-up event, headlined by NOLA Jazz Band and the Isiserettes Drill and Drum Corps.

“The idea for the recent pop-up events was simply to bring entertainment and joy into the neighborhood, and to the people on patios or sidewalks,” Maggard says. “It was fun to see the excitement, especially right now. Live music and art make everything better.”

There is more on the horizon as well, Maggard promises: “We have some huge things coming up, but those are stories in themselves.”

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