Iowa National Bar Association Public Art Project

A Monumental Journey

Monumental Journey


The Journey

The idea for the National Bar Association (NBA) Monument began from a dialogue between Iowa National Bar Association (INBA) past president Odell McGhee and NBA past president Evette Simmons.   The public art project has been named “A Monumental Journey” to commemorate the struggle, bravery and hope required to overcome racism and discrimination.

The Purpose

To preserve the legacy of African American lawyers who, in 1925, founded and incorporated the National Bar Association, fully dedicated to civil rights, and justice and equality in the legal system.

The Goal

To create a visually inspiring world class monument that memorializes the struggle of the National Bar Association founders and incorporators.

The Concept

To incorporate a Free Speech Platform where the voices of all citizens in the community may be heard.

The Site

The site location is on The Principal Riverwalk in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, west of the U.S. Federal Courthouse on East 1st Street between Court Avenue and Walnut Street.

The Budget

$1,800,000 including a $250,000 maintenance endowment.



The Art

Kerry James MarshallThe Steering Committee selected an inspiring African American artist, Kerry James Marshall, to design the monument. Marshall’s prototype for the monument is two African drums sitting slightly off center, atop each other. The sculpture will stand 37 feet by 20 feet on an 80 foot diameter plaza. The monument incorporates the language of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a speakers’ platform for the celebration of free speech, a cornerstone of American democracy.



Kerry James Marshall, the artist, with “A Monumental Journey” model.

Collaborative Partners

Iowa National Bar Association
Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation
National Bar Association
National Association of Bench and Bar Spouses
Des Moines City Council
Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, fiscal agent
Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Inc.
Des Moines Parks and Recreation
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Principal Financial Group
Riverfront Development Authority

To Read More About the Art, Click HERE
To Download the Booklet A Monumental Journey, Click HERE