We are fortunate to have Jill Wells, Drake Alum ’05, living and working in Des Moines where she continues to paint and transform our community. Jill is widely known for her colorful narrative paintings and murals, especially those at the Des Moines YMCA and Blank Park Zoo. She is the recent recipient of the 2020 Iowa Creative Incubation Fellowship, and she is represented by the Great Frame Up Gallery. Throughout her career, Jill has worked to inspire at-risk youth and those in addiction recovery and has used her creative talents to advocate for disability rights. Join us Friday, December 11, 2020 at 7pm as we live stream Jill’s artist talk and painting demonstration. Click to tune in!


Iowa based artist Jill Wells is best known for her dynamic and colorful narrative paintings that investigate race, history, stereotypes, emotions, and the human condition. Born in 1980 in Des Moines, Iowa, Wells was raised in Indianola, Iowa. She studied at Drake University and earned her BFA 2005. An award-winning painter, Wells has been in practice for more than 18 years with public and private works in Iowa, Mississippi, Arizona and New Orleans. Her artwork is represented in the permanent collections of Iowa Lutheran Hospital, Blank Park Zoo, YMCA of Greater Des Moines, The Annette Nature Center, Polk County Jail (west wing) and Creative Visions Human Development Center. In 2017 and 2019, Wells was the recipient of the Polk County Heritage Gallery Merit Award. In 2020, Lavender and Lime profiled Wells in an online published portrait manifesto series, Black Lives Matter Portrait Manifesto. Most recently in 2020, Wells was selected as one of five artist fellows to participate in the Iowa Creative Incubator through Mainframe Studios. Additionally, Wells was selected as the mural artist for Disability Rights Iowa in October 2020.


My practice begins with a sound, a song, a sent, a texture, a look or glance, an emotion or injustice, a celebration, problem, or memory. Once inspiration strikes, I then move to creating: creating through materials, mediums, space, research, investigating, developing a narrative, creative-thinking and creative problem-solving. I am very mindful when creating and this involves thinking as well as “not thinking.” My practice is somewhat ritualistic when it comes to the actual production process. I work out of a home studio and most recently Mainframe fellowship studio. Art, for me, is about narration, connectivity and addressing needed areas. It is about having internal and/or external conversations with others, as well as myself, and making connections through one’s thoughts, emotions, space.

MOODS, MESSAGES, and PETTY REALNESS 2020 has been “a year” to say the absolute least. Moods, Messages and Petty Realness is an ongoing series that talks about all the many things Jill has and continues to experience and express in relation to 2020.


The mural was commissioned by Disability Rights Iowa in October 2020. The design captures the spirit of the fight for disability and human rights, equality and the love and care in the human experience. I said yes to working with DRI in creating this mural because I strongly believe in their mission and story. Being chosen to create this mural and to be a part of helping people with disabilities and mental illness deal with discrimination is an honor. Daily live streaming of this mural process provides viewers a behind the scenes look at creating artwork of this magnitude, quests and stories of individuals in the fight for disability rights. Location: Disability Rights Iowa 666 Walnut St., Suite 1440 Des Moines, IA 50309.



The Des Moines Symphony Academy commissioned a series of oil paintings celebrating their 15 years of history. Two large-scale paintings were part of this contracted commission in addition to one on-site, live-painting session of these paintings during the April 2018 for the 15th Anniversary celebration for the Academy. Material: Mixed Media | Oil + Piano sheet music + Epoxy on canvas. Size: 48” x 60” each = (96” x 60” total size). Location: Public Works – 5th Floor, Masonic Temple, 1011 Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309.


The Cotton Memoirs came from the need to address a multitude of issues and learn deeper historical truths and facts. Like life, creating work is a process that does not end; it only evolves and changes. The Cotton Memoirs offers countless memories and accounts, public and private, for reflection. Oil on canvas | Original + Limited Edition Prints Available


Instagram and Facebook = @JillWellsArt