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Featured Artist

Ella Richards

A working artist from Greenwich Village, NYC, Ella Richards was trained as a watercolor artist, but her interest in minimalism and simplicity led her to create her art form, which she calls Scissor Drawings. Richards draws on black paper so that it can be continuously cut with scissors. Then the black paper is glued to watercolor paper using a fine-tipped glue pen.

Richards and her mother escaped the Soviet Union in 1988 as political refugees. She learned to speak English from a kind stranger she met in New York's Washington Square Park, who she discovered was a Holocaust survivor. The two would meet at a park bench for weeks and weeks, learning new words and forming them into sentences.

Richards has an artistic mission to inspire children to be both artists and to have an appreciation of art. While traveling the country, she brings along art books for children to pick up and browse, engaging children in conversation about art. She encourages children to create their drawings which she displays next to her artwork.

Richards has toured the United States from coast to coast with her art. She has won numerous awards and commissions, including a mural at Facebook in Silicon Valley - a 16-foot hand cut of a poem she wrote. Richards won the Best of Show honor at the Des Moines Arts Festival in 2016.

Richards attended Columbia University in NYC. She is currently on the faculty at NYU. Recently Richards has been taking her design experiences to a new medium, embarking on an adventure in iPhone street photography. In this project, she shares her daily walks around the Greenwich Village and recording what she sees.

About Commemorative Poster Art

2022 Commemorative Poster

Ella Richards has a special connection to Des Moines and the Des Moines Arts Festival. While creating this artwork, Ella relived many of the emotions she experienced early in her life as an immigrant from Estonia. Humanitarian organizations brought her and her mother to the United States and helped them get settled. They landed at JFK airport before she could speak English. Before she had a place to call home, she dreamt of her new life.

Her dreams were simple - to have a home, learn the language, meet some nice people, and hopefully make friends. When she started working on this piece, Ella wrote on a piece of paper "JFK" in giant letters and taped it to her wall so she could see it often. Working on this artwork for the festival connected many of the fragments of Ella’s life. For Ella, this piece represents her experience at the Des Moines Arts Festival. A place where many different people, people of all backgrounds, likes, dislikes, cultures, and languages, can gather. A place where each person who passed by or entered her space welcomed her. Each engaged Ella and befriended her. Ella says, "I put my life in this piece, put my feelings, my emotions, my hopes, my dreams, for a better future and better humanity. Some people I know, respect, admire, and love are there… some friends, lots of people I do not know."

There are 339 people of Des Moines (each intricately cut from a piece of black watercolor paper) gracing this beautiful representation of our Festival. Des Moines, IA. A meeting place. Gathering Place. Welcoming. One and All.

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