Apr 4, 2024 - News

Greenwood Pond artist challenges demolition

A photo of Greenwood Park in Des Moines.

A ramp that's part of "Greenwood Pond: Double Site" purposely disappears into the water after getting visitors to the pond's surface level, as seen in 2014. Photo: Judith Eastburn, courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation

The artist behind Greenwood Pond's boardwalk alleges the Des Moines Art Center distorted her words from more than a decade ago "in the unseemly effort to destroy" her work.

Why it matters: Demolition is slated to begin next week for "Greenwood Pond: Double Site."

  • Artist Mary Miss contends a 1994 contract prohibiting changes to the work without her written approval is still enforceable.

Catch up fast: The wooden pavilion opened in 1996 as part of a beautification project and a way to "move art outside the walls" of the adjacent museum.

State of play: DSM Art Center director Kelly Baum published an open letter in February outlining current hazards associated with the pavilion.

  • In 2012, Miss recommended deinstalling her work if repairs weren't feasible, Baum wrote in the letter.

The other side: Miss contends the 2012 letter she wrote to former art center director Jeff Fleming did not give consent to the current proposed demolition.

  • Her one conditional remark about removal was made in the context of a possible partial disassembly, she wrote in a recent letter.

State of play: Multiple residents urged the DSM City Council to save the pavilion during a meeting Monday, the DSM Register reports.

Yes, but: On Wednesday the art center issued a press release announcing demolition.

  • The city will collaborate with the art center to"reimagine" the park, Mayor Connie Boesen said in yesterday's announcement.

What they're saying: An art center agreement with the city covers public safety matters, which predates and supersedes the one with Miss, Amy Day, a spokesperson for the art center, tells Axios.

What's next: The Cultural Landscape Foundation, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., contends the demolition raises legal and ethical issues.

  • The group will make a statement about possible next steps to save the work in the coming days, spokesperson Nord Wennerstrom tells Axios.
A photo of Greenwood Park in Des Moines.
The ramp at Greenwood Pond in December. Photo: Courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more