DES MOINES REGISTER / With $1 million Lauridsen donation, Des Moines Mainframe Studios prepares to launch final phase of renovations

DES MOINES REGISTER / With $1 million Lauridsen donation, Des Moines Mainframe Studios prepares to launch final phase of renovations Kim Norvell Des Moines Register | 06/08/2021

Local philanthropists Nix and Virginia Lauridsen have pledged $1 million toward the final phase of renovations at downtown Des Moines' Mainframe Studios, billed as the largest nonprofit arts space in the country.

The pledge is a dollar-for-dollar match of other donations raised by Mainframe Studios, 900 Keosauqua Way, before construction begins, likely in the fall. 

Once the renovation is complete, Mainframe Studios will have 180 artist studios, up from the current 131, said executive director Siobhan Spain.

 All of the existing studios are rented, and there is a waiting list for the new ones, Spain said.

"As soon as something comes open we have people waiting to get in," she said. 

Opened in 2017, Mainframe Studios occupies what was the vacant Qwest Communications building in downtown Des Moines. Owner Justin Mandelbaum has said he created the space to provide artists with permanent, affordable studios.

Mandelbaum, speaking to the Des Moines Register in a previous interview, said artists continue to get priced out of other suitable space as development booms in and around downtown Des Moines.

At Mainframe, monthly rent is $1 per square foot, with studios of varying sizes, depending on the artists' needs. Rent includes round-the-clock access, utilities, wireless internet and general liability insurance. 

Mainframe Studios currently hosts artists across 35 disciplines, including glass blowing, weaving, painting and photography, Spain said. 

More: Tour Mainframe Studios, downtown Des Moines' newest artist space

The $2 million renovation is the final stage of the project. Once complete, Mainframe Studios will focus its attention on creating a $100,000 annual endowment for upkeep and other needs. 

"The whole idea is that this gift helps us complete the project, which means we are able to fulfill our original business plan — being financially self-sustaining," Spain said. 

Meanwhile, work has begun on a mural, "Critical Mass" by artist Molly Spain, that covers the studio's five-story façade. It's expected to be done in August.

Mainframe Studios usually hosts a celebration the first Friday of each month to showcase its artists' work. The next scheduled open house, from 2-8 p.m. June 18, will help launch Des Moines' Art Week, leading up to the return of the Des Moines Art Festival June 25-27. The annual event at Western Gateway Park was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, visit Mainframe's website,, or Facebook page,