We write today with an update on the Art Center’s plans to remove Greenwood Pond: Double Site, an artwork by esteemed artist Mary Miss, from Greenwood Park. The Art Center launched its collaboration with Miss in 1989, forging partnerships with the City of Des Moines, the Science Center of Iowa, and the Des Moines Founders Garden Club, among others, to bring Miss’s groundbreaking outdoor environment to fruition. Now 28-years old, and despite almost $1,000,000 in repairs over the last many years, Greenwood Pond: Double Site has, regrettably, come to the end of its serviceable life. 

As you’ll remember from previous communications, one on October 24, 2023, another on January 17, 2024, and a third on February 3, 2024, key sections of Greenwood Pond: Double Site were declared dangerous and unsalvageable by a structural engineering firm in mid-October 2023. Upon receipt of the firm’s findings, the Art Center restricted access to those areas while we conducted a thorough structural review. In the process, we noted a recurring pattern of structural, operational, and material problems dating back to 1996 that made the artwork vulnerable to decay, erosion, regular seasonal fluctuations, and extreme weather-related events, such as floods. This information was sobering, and it prompted a serious moment of reckoning. 

After considerable research, communication with the artist, and extensive consultation with City officials over the last six months, the Art Center determined that the only feasible and responsible course of action would be to deaccession Greenwood Pond: Double Site from its collections, which it did by unanimous board approval and in accordance with national guidelines and its own collections management policy in late March, and to remove it from Greenwood Park. In choosing this course of action, the Art Center embraces the letter and spirit of its 1990 agreement with the City, which obliges us to act proactively to protect the public from any harm that might be caused by a work of art on City property. 

After receiving input from the public, the City, and an experienced local contractor, the Art Center is now securing a permit and is ready to share more detailed plans for dismantling Greenwood Pond: Double Site, a project whose expense will be born solely by the Art Center. The Art Center’s goals are two-fold: to ensure public safety and to restore the impacted area around Greenwood Pond. On or around April 8, we will begin enclosing both the pond and a section of the paved trail leading from the southwest side of the Art Center towards the pond with 6-foot-high fencing. Access to surrounding bike trails will be minimally impacted. Around the same time, the City will drain Greenwood Pond, redirecting the water into the Racoon River and, along with it, much of the aquatic life. The Art Center’s contractor will disassemble and remove all of the stone, concrete, wooden, and metal elements that comprise Greenwood Pond: Double Site, including the boulders, bridges, walkways, and huts that either ring Greenwood Pond or sit in it. Depending on weather and unforeseen variables, we and our partners estimate this work will take 12 to 15 weeks. 

During the deinstallation process, the Art Center and its contractor will exercise the utmost care to protect those elements that form part of the existing environment. The memorial benches installed by Des Moines Parks and Recreation will be removed for protection and then returned to their current locations. The trees, grasses, and native plantings will be preserved with as much care as possible. Additionally, the stone placard that marks Greenwood Pond: Double Site will be retained. 

Upon the removal of Greenwood Pond: Double Site, the Art Center will restore the impacted areas around Greenwood Pond at its sole expense, returning them to public use and permitting safe recreation once again, a process that will take 1 to 2 weeks. These plans, which have been developed in close coordination with the City and our contractor, include re-seeding the grass; rebuilding the existing gravel pathways and creating new ones; reinforcing the shoreline on the northwest side of the pond; and installing limestone benches and stone parking bollards. The pond, which is fed by rainfall and a creek, will refill naturally, and the aerating fountain will eventually be turned back on. The pace of refilling depends on local rainfall and is expected to revert to former levels in a matter of months. The fish will be restocked by wildlife authorities. 

The Art Center recognizes the impact this project will have on Greenwood Park’s many visitors. That said, the safety of our neighbors—your safety—is our top priority. In the interests of being a good citizen and a responsible City partner, the Art Center commits to working as quickly and carefully as possible to restore Greenwood Park and return it to the people of Des Moines. 

Press Release with statement from Mayor Connie Boesen