Looking back over the past five years, I'd like to know what emotions are conjured up. Pride? Confidence? Joy? Gratitude? From my point of view, you've encountered quite a bit of success and I'd like to know how it feels to you personally.
I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Moving back to Des Moines from Los Angeles was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have said it many times but in LA, you had to be a millionaire to make a difference, in Des Moines you have to have a good idea and be kind to people and you will go far.
I think there is a mixture of being in the right place at the right time for some of the success my business has seen, but I was also willing to work very, very hard because this was an idea and cause I truly believe in. I know that art changes live and enriches communities so I wake up every day excited to do this work.
Adore Your Walls seems like the ideal job for Liz Lidgett. Tell me how it all started.
It truly is! I moved back from LA in 2010 after receiving my masters in public art at the University of Southern California. I did a year of service with AmeriCorps with the Department of Cultural Affairs and then took my first and only corporate job as an in-house curator. It was an incredibly educational experience and I quickly saw that there was a niche opportunity as an art advisor here in Central Iowa. I put together a business plan and within two months of having the idea, I quit my full-time job and started working with my first client. I was twenty-seven then and I haven’t looked back.
Over the last few years. I have been able to add on services, such as a mural consulting, which helps me to diversify the company and continue to grow as an art advisor. There’s no secret sauce to what I have done. I saw an opportunity and a market that was being under-served, made a goal, and continue to work around the clock to make it happen. I’m also willing to start before I’m ready, I jump in feet first and figure it out on the way. I have always loved the quote, “Start before you’re ready and start before you’re good, because that’s how you’ll get ready and that’s how you’ll be good."
Tell me your thoughts on Des Moines. Are you a proud resident or itching to move elsewhere?
100% proud resident. I love this city. Full stop. But I also love to travel for both work and pleasure, because that’s how I stay creative. I went to places like Nashville and Austin and saw their incredible murals and decided to cover Des Moines in murals, too. I went to the Carousel Bar in New Orleans and decided to create embellished photographs for Malo. I go to these really amazing places but think, “Des Moines is every bit as cool as Nashville, why couldn’t we do something like this there?”
One of the things I love most about Des Moines is there is this sense that we’re great but we could always be better. There’s a whole lot of people working daily to create a world class community with world class amenities for its residents.
You don't shy away from the nitty gritty that comes with being an entrepreneur. What are some of the biggest surprises you've encountered on your journey?
I have a friend who is an event planner and she once said to me, “You know, your job is a lot like mine because people think it’s glamorous but really we’re just sweating in nice clothes.” I’ve never forgotten her saying this because it’s so true. I get to do a lot of fun things and have amazing experiences but I also schlep and sweat and work 60+ hours a week. Those cool, glamorous moments only happen because I worked my ass to get to that point.
You were recently featured on Reese Witherspoon's web-series. I'd love to hear a little bit about that experience and what it was like for you.
That was such a cool experience! I got a fairly cryptic email from a producer asking to do a video chat. We spoke about what it was like to be a creative woman in the Midwest, and some of the projects I work on. Then a week or two later, I got a call asking me to film the episode. I had no idea what it was for or what would happen, but it was a great experience. Their crew came into town a couple of times and got to track the progress of a mural project with Kelsey Lampe. I was proud to talk about what we do but also really proud to show off Des Moines to a wide audience.
Des Moines wasn't always full of art, but now it is and I think most people forget the days when it wasn't so common. What do you believe public arts does for a city?
I truly believe in art as place-making. Of course, the Papajohn Sculpture Park is the best example. Years ago that was an area no one wanted to hang out in and was covered by car lots and vacant buildings. Art changed that area completely.
For a career, I never gravitated towards working in a museum or gallery. Don’t get me wrong, I love museums but I have always been interested in bringing art to people where they live their lives. It gets me really excited to bring art to a person in their corporate office, their home, a restaurant they’re eating at, or while they are walking down the street because that’s where people live their lives.
There’s been a lot of incredible work done for the art scene in Des Moines by a whole lot of people. We’ve come really far but we’re nowhere near done yet.