Five Untitled “Dangos”

Five Dangos

Larry Bradshaw


Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation

Educational and Family Resource

born Japan, 1942
Art Type
Year Completed
Installed 2012
Commissioned by the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation. Funds were provided by City of Des Moines, James W. Hubbell, Jr and Helen H. Hubbell Charitable Foundation, Trudy and G. David Hurd, Michele and Barry Griswell, Lynette and Kurt Rasmussen, Substance Architecture, and Bravo Greater Des Moines.
Latitude & Longitude
41.586199, -93.617865
Location Description
On the westside of the Des Moines River on the HubSpot Plaza on Water Street and Court Avenue
Lesson Plan
Interdisciplinary Connections
Dowloadable PDF

Five Dangos


The Dango series are oval sculptures that resemble vases without openings. “Dango”means “dumpling” or “closed form” in Japanese. These hand-built, ceramic works stand about 7 feet tall and are dressed in artist Jun Kaneko’s signature geometric patterns. Even though the Five Dangos were not created specifically for the Riverwalk, they were selected because of the  energy that they lend to the space. The five Dangos enliven the Hub Spot and, as Kaneko says, “shake the air” around them. They also dialogue with Expansion, a glass mural, also by Kaneko, located just across the street, on the facade of the pump station. The proximity of these two works serves to aesthetically unify the segment of the riverfront at the mouth of Des Moines’ Court Avenue entertainment district.

Discussion Questions

  • How would you describe this art work to someone who could not see it?
  • What do you wonder about this art piece?
  • The artist of the five Dangos has said they will, “shake the air” around them. What does this mean to you? Why?
  • The word Dango means ‘dumpling’ or ‘closed form’ in Japanese. How does this influence your thinking about this art work?
  • Jun Kaneko has stated it is important to “consider the space that is given” when creating public art. Think about the Principal Riverwalk. What considerations might an artist make when creating for this space? If you were the artist, what would influence your work?


Kaneko at Work: The Dango En Pein Air by Arthur Danto
A visual look at the work of Jun Kaneko for all ages

Shapes by Philip Yenawine
Connect the geometric shapes found on the Dangos to this book, perfect for young children. Follow along with the author as he poses questions about shapes for readers as they hunt through a visual feast of twentieth century art.

Clay Boy by Mirra Ginsburg
Jun Kaneko is recognized as one of the foremost ceramic sculptors in the world and through this story early childhood and elementary audiences can connect the use of clay to this Russian folktale about a boy of clay who devours all in sight until a goat ruins his appetite. Illustrations include vibrant paintings

When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor
Elementary through high school audiences can take a historical look at the influences of clay through this investigation of how the lives of an ancient people are influenced by pottery

Internet Resources

Kaneko-A Nebraska Story
A video overview of Jun Kaneko’s adventures and views while creating the “open space for the mind” building in Nebraska elementary-high school

Jun Kaneko: Special Project, 2004-2008
Jun Kaneko discusses the topic of “ma”, scale and use of open space in this video elementary-high school

Art 21: Ecology
Artists explore how our understanding of the natural world becomes deeply cultural in this video that can be connected to the decision making process in the production of public art preschool-high school

The Magic Flute San Francisco Opera
Preview a video of the production of The Magic Flute Opera with costumes and sets designed by artist Jun Kaneko preschool-high school

Jun Kaneko Studio Visit
Visit Jun Kaneko’s studio viewing his tools and art in progress while hearing reasoning and thinking from the artist himself preschool-high school

Sioux City Art Center Studio
The Sioux City Art Center provides a written overview of Kaneko’s Dangos describing both the process and historical context middle school-high school

Art Activities

Dango Lesson Plans
Preschool-elementary Interdisciplinary lesson plan discussing lines, shapes, patterns and colors used in Kaneko’s Dangos

Community Explorations
Elementary interdisciplinary lesson plans focused on community planning for green spaces

Design as a Tool for Community Action Lesson Plans
Middle school and high school interdisciplinary unit asking student to employ the five stages of design as they work to identify and solve issues within their community

The J. Paul Getty Museum Sculptural Space Lesson Plans
Sculptural Spaces lesson plan for middle and high school students addressing the planning and problem solving artists use as they create site specific outdoor sculpture

Art Inspired Lessons Plans
Ideas Art inspired environmental lesson plans focused on illustrating how to use design and art to promote a healthy environment and a peaceful, sustainable world

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