The origin of the Des Moines Art Center is traced to the Des Moines Association of Fine Arts in 1916. In 1933, James D. Edmundson left more than half a million dollars to build a museum. In 1943, plans were drawn for a modern museum of art. The Art Center was the first museum to open after World War II in 1948.
The Art Center is a museum with three connecting buildings. Each building is designed by a notable architect: Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and Richard Meier.