Nancy Clare Caponi, Art Scholar, Writes in Support of "Greenwood Pond: Double Site"


On April 18, 2024, Nancy Clare Caponi wrote the following letter to the Des Moines Art Center (DMAC) Director Kelly Baum concerning plans to demolish Greenwood Pond: Double Site, a site-specific installation by the internationally acclaimed leader of the land art movement, Mary Miss, commissioned for the Art Center’s permanent collection. The work, which opened in 1996, is in a diminished condition with some sections fenced off, suggesting the DMAC has not fulfilled its contractual obligation to “reasonably protect and maintain” the work. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) is calling for the DMAC to reverse it demolition decision and, instead, to engage in meaningful consultations with the artist and others to find a solution that restores the artwork and develops a long-term, ongoing maintenance plan.




Dear Dr. Baum and Board of Trustees;  

I’m writing to you from California because Greenwood Pond: Double Site is a critically important place to me and many others. The decision by the U.S. District Court to temporarily halt demolition was correct. I respectfully ask that everyone involved in decision-making re-evaluate this situation with a fresh perspective, and consider all possible alternatives to demolition.  

An excellent webinar, Mary Miss and Women of Land Art, was organized by the Cultural Landscape Foundation on March 13th.  Presenters included Leigh Arnold of Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX, who recently curated the Groundswell: Women of Land Art exhibition. Nancy Princenthal was moderator, and artist Alice Aycock and Dr. Susanneh Bieber of Texas A&M University also presented. I understand that 617 people, including myself, participated.  

I wrote my Master’s thesis in 2002 for the University of California-Santa Barbara about this important public art project. Growing up in Des Moines, I observed the transformation of Greenwood Park over many decades.  After graduating from Drake University, I worked and taught classes in the Art Center education department, beginning under Director James Demetrion in the 1980s. The beautiful Richard Meier wing opened while I was on staff.  My husband and I visit Double Site every year, and we enjoy seeing the beauty of the changing seasons, highlighted by the sculptural elements.  

Greenwood Pond was a polluted, neglected urban brownfield site for decades. Mary Miss skillfully collaborated with the museum, Science Center, community garden groups and city of Des Moines to remove toxic debris from the lagoon and begin the slow process of reclaiming this precious urban wetland site.  In consultation with the community, Miss designed beautiful sculptural elements to encircle the pond, with pathways, benches, a shelter and a lookout tower for visitors to experience nature from various vantage points, for the benefit of all.  

I respectfully ask that the Des Moines Art Center reconsider the ill-advised demolition plans, and instead seek grant funding and/or a different non-profit organization to take responsibility and begin fundraising to restore Double Site to its intended state of beauty and functionality. Thank you for your consideration.  


Nancy Clare Caponi  

Art Historian 

Santa Barbara, CA


< Back to the Greenwood Pond: Double Site Support Letters Page |