Robert D. Ray Asian Garden is a picturesque and tranquil retreat located on the banks of the Des Moines River in the heart of downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Designed to foster a deeper appreciation for Asian cultures and arts, the garden is a harmonious blend of architectural elements, sculptures, and horticultural displays.
The garden was named in honor of Robert D. Ray, Iowa’s 38th governor, who was a staunch advocate for the resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees in Iowa during the late 1970s and early 1980s. His dedication to international humanitarian causes, especially his assistance to the Tai Dam, a minority ethnic group from Laos, is encapsulated within this garden, symbolizing the city’s and the state’s commitment to cultural diversity and inclusivity.
Its prominent feature, the ‘Bill Riley Pedestrian Bridge,’ is a distinctively designed bridge that connects the garden to other parts of the Des Moines Waterfront. Resembling a dragon, the bridge is a testament to the East Asian influence and artistic intricacies that form the essence of the garden. The terraced landscapes, pagodas, and decorative stone paths make it an inviting location for leisure and reflection.
Interestingly, the garden is also home to the “Symbolic Memorial Sculpture,” a poignant tribute to the thousands of Tai Dam refugees. The sculpture features five pillars, representing the five major ethnic groups from Southeast Asia, standing in unity and harmony, much like the spirit of the garden.
Visiting the Robert D. Ray Asian Garden is more than a visual treat. It’s an experience that immerses one in a rich tapestry of cultural tales, artistic endeavors, and historical significance, all while celebrating the profound connections between Iowa and its Southeast Asian communities. It is a beacon of Des Moines’ commitment to embracing cultural diversity and cherishing the common threads that bind humanity together. Here’s an interesting article about Iowa State Capitol.