Light the Night

Art Week Des Moines

Puppeteer Brant Bollman plans to take a few friends to the Drake neighborhood for Art Week Des Moines. Photo: Jen Stillions Photography

Editor’s note: Our print publication incorrectly credited this article to a different writer. We regret the error and are proud to feature the work of Dan Ray.

Writer: Dan Ray

In June a new resident is moving into the Drake neighborhood: a 14-foot tall glowing blue lady.

She’s part of the 10th annual Art Week Des Moines, June 9-15. Her creator, Brant Bollman, drew inspiration from the mysticism of the moon to design her giant face out of clay and thermoplastic, which will glow like stained glass. She’ll require five puppeteers to move.

Bollman leads the theater department at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and owns the Uplifting Puppet Co. He grew up on public television puppetry like “Sesame Street” and “Fraggle Rock,” but his passion really took off the summer after fourth grade when he saw “Return of the Jedi” at the movie theater.

“When I saw Jabba the Hutt on screen, it was right in my wheelhouse,” he said. “I knew that was a puppet and there were people manipulating it, but he’s so different and amazing. That really was the catalyst of wanting to be in creature design and puppetry.”

Bollman is one of three Iowa artists who’ve been chosen to lead neighborhood projects during Art Week, which is billed as a “genre-blending celebration of local art and artists in the Des Moines metro.” Bollman and the two other Art Week fellows, Jo Allen and Brittany Brooke Crow, have each designed projects that encourage participation and build a sense of community.

On Friday, June 14, Bollman and other Drake neighborhood creatives will host a night market featuring local art and cuisine. Around 9 p.m., Bollman plans to lead his blue moon lady in a parade of lanterns and drums from Drake Park to the night market, outside King Au’s studio at 28th Street and Kingman Boulevard. During the week leading up to the big night, locals will have a chance to decorate their own paper lanterns to show off in the parade. (Everyone is welcome to walk in the parade, even if they don’t decorate a lantern.)

“I want people to experience joy and awe,” Bollman said. “Little kids do this. It’s natural to them. They can draw something on a piece of paper and imagine it coming to life. I want to offer big people a chance to use their imagination and to be transported into that kind of dream space.”

An Art Week parade will feature one of Brant Bollman’s jumbo puppets, similar to the one pictured here, which he made for an event in Oskaloosa. Photo: Jen Stillions Photography

Meet the Other Art Week Fellows

Jo Allen
Highland/Oak Park

Allen plans to lead a few workshops to help folks make mosaics, which the artist will install on a few buildings around the intersection of Sixth and Euclid avenues. They’ll be part of a scavenger hunt, with prizes for those who find each one.

Brittany Brooke Crow
Columbus Park

Crow plans to create photographic collages on community-approved walls. Community members are invited to attend workshops to learn how to install the collages with wheatpaste, a temporary adhesive, and submit their own photos for the final work. Visit the Art Week website for instructions to submit digital or printed photos.

Jacob Kuperman, Tone the Movemaker and Heather Whittlesey

Join neighbors in an artist-led Franklin Blockade Party, a street party 4-8 p.m. June 11 with co-created blockades designed to expand and insulate the Beaverdale Farmers Market. The one-time-only experience, 4-8 p.m. June 11, invites exploration of the Beaverdale Farmers Market and beyond.

Art Week Des Moines
June 9-15

For a full schedule of events, visit

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