Mar 23, 2023 - News

Des Moines Art Center director Jeff Fleming prepares for retirement

Jeff Fleming with Joyce J. Scott. Photo courtesy of Des Moines Art Center

For the last 25 years, Des Moines Art Center director Jeff Fleming has worked at the metro's fine art institution.

  • Next month, after helming it for the last 17 years, Fleming is retiring to focus on his own personal art projects.

State of play: We chatted with Fleming to reflect on his career and the local art community.

💼 His retirement decision: "Twenty-five years is a third of the art center's history. So I think for the next 75 years, they should have a new voice."

🤝 Being inclusive: "Most importantly, people need to feel welcome and feel comfortable and feel like they belong somewhere."

  • One of the main ways Fleming has worked on that goal is by providing free admission to the art center.
  • In recent years, Fleming says the art center has increased its inclusivity focus and purchased more pieces from artists of color, LGBTQ+ or women.

🎨 Favorite exhibits: Sterling Ruby (2018) and Black Stories (2020).

  • "It's really very difficult because they're all unique and interesting and hopefully, wonderful in their own way."

🖌 Growing art: The growth of new art-focused groups and facilities is one of the most exciting things he's seen over the years, including Mainframe Studios and the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation.

  • Prior to the John Pappajohn Sculpture Park in 2009, the tax assessment for the area around it was up to $45 million. Since the sculptures were installed, it's grown to over $400 million.
  • "There's wonderful growth" Fleming says.

What's next: Curator Kelly Baum, formerly of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is the new director of the art center.


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