Dani is either being super social at the Des Moines Social Club or super anti-social at home.
Tell us about your childhood. I grew up on a mountain about 20 minutes east of Seattle in a town called Issaquah. My folks moved out there when I was three from Florida and it is all I could have asked for growing up. The house was on about an acre worth of land that was all just forest. I climbed trees, built forts, probably ingested multiple semi-poisonous plants, pretty much anything a kid could think of to do in the woods, that's what I did.
What was your first job? Technically, my first job was Bath and Body Works. However, the first job that actually formed the career path that I would later find myself following was an independently owned toy store in my hometown called White Horse Toys (which I actually started on the year anniversary of getting my first job!). It was by far one of the neatest jobs I've ever had and I would open up my own toy store in a heartbeat if Amazon were to ever shut down.
Why do you call Des Moines home? I moved out here with my husband (at the time, not sure how to bring that up in something like this) but I knew from the first time I came to visit that Des Moines was a city I'd like to be part of. While my husband and I unfortunately split, it did give me a chance to move downtown and truly experience everything this city has to offer.
"I absolutely love that it has a big city feel while keeping the small town charm."
If you could write the Des Moines area a mission statement what would it be? Alright, I'm not sure I'm really the right person to be writing a mission statement for anything, but I think Des Moines is a really neat city and I absolutely love that is has a big city feel while keeping the small town charm. I'm not really sure if that's a mission statement, but I think it's one of the aspects of the city that I love the most.
What’s currently keeping you busy? Work. Haha. I absolutely love working for a non-profit but it is drastically different from the daycare life that I lead before. I do break out and go to a show every once in awhile, and engorge myself with sushi at least once a month, but for the most part people will find me either being super social at work or super anti-social at home. If I'm at home I'm usually doing some sort of art and/or craft project while binge watching Netflix or listening to music. I am reteaching myself piano and a few other musical instruments. I have no intention of anyone hearing this music, I just like to see if I can do it without sounding awful.
"I would open up my own toy store in a heartbeat if Amazon were to ever shut down."
Walk us through your typical weekend? I usually find myself being anti-social as described above, however, on the rare occasion I leave my place and mingle with people I am typically eating dinner at one of my many favorite restaurants downtown. I mean, truly, the sheer amount of options within my walking distance bubble is astounding and they're all good! If I'm not out to dinner then I'll be a show, usually at my place of work, but that's just because we get some super awesome acts that I wouldn't be able to see in any other capacity. I love music and when my bank account allows I try to go to more shows outside of the Social Club.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure? Sushi. Hands down, I have been to almost every place in town and the surrounding area. While I absolutely love the Waterfront, I'd say my favorite downtown restaurant is Akebono 515 (could possibly have to do with proximity to work and how often I go there...) but they have these tofu fries that I could seriously eat a pound of. I realize that is not sushi, but that comes after the fries.
Walk us a through a day at the Des Moines Social Club. Since I work the education department at the club I typically do not go in to work until around 11 or noon. I schedule and maintain three different facets of the department: the after-school program DMSC Jr, the extended classes, and the culinary classes.
All three are entirely different in how they are handled so I typically try to get all my work emails done at home because when I get to the building I never quite know what to expect. I can say with complete confidence that no two days have ever been alike and I definitely appreciate that. The after-school program I am in charge of takes places from 3pm-5:30pm Mon-Tues-Thurs-Fri and 1:30-5:30 on Wednesday. It is open to all elementary schools, however, we do not have transportation, so we mainly have kids from Walnut Street. I walk over at 3 to pick up the kids (usually with another teacher or two) and we walk them back to the social club. The program originally centered around all different aspects of art: music, visual art, theater, dance, etc. This year we kept with all those same themes but added the elements of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) to the mix.
The Chief Operating Officer of the club, Cyndi Pederson, really wanted people to see that art is useful in all these areas so she develeoped the concept of STEAAM (the AA stands for Arts and Agriculture). With this new concept the after-school program has been able to collaborate with some awesome organizations around town including Sylvan Learning Center and Kemin. The other two facets of my job are the extended and culinary classes, which are basically the classes we offer to the general public to take. The extended classes include belly dancing, break dancing, fiction writing, fantasy drawing, ballet, and aerial in the restored handball court.
While I don't teach the classes myself, I do work with the instructors directly and book their classes. Culinary is very similar but has a different process. We offer cooking classes, as well as our sponsors in the east village, Kitchen Collage. We also offer private cooking events for corporations or parties, we've only done a handful but they seem to do well.
"[Cyndi] knows the importance of art in the world and wants to make it accessible to everyone and will do whatever it takes to make it happen."
Who is someone you admire that others may know in the Des Moines area and why do admire them? I would absolutely have to say my old boss, the Chief Operating Officer at the social club, Cyndi Pederson. She is won of the most wonderful women I have had a chance to meet and get to know. She is headstrong and passionate in everything she does and I admire the hell out of her for that. She always has ideas and they are always for the sake of bettering the lives of the people around her. She knows the importance of art in the world and wants to make it accessible to everyone and will do whatever it takes to make it happen. She is my mentor and I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to work under her lead for as long as I did.
Convince us to visit one of your favorite places in the Des Moines area. Oh man, no pressure. I suppose I've been trying to convince people to come to Des Moines since I moved out here haha since I'm a transplant (thank you Raygun for putting that in my head) I have a bit of a different perspective. It's not that I don't have a favorite place, but since people know I'm not from here, they convince me to go to their favorite place. It's how I've discovered some of mine.
I absolutely love the World Food Prize Organization, everything about it speaks to the humanity of people and that is something I hold near and dear to my heart, especially these days. I think the building is absolutely beautiful and when I first started volunteering at the social club back in 2015 I also trained to be a docent at the World Food Prize. I ended up volunteering at the social club more and more and never quite made it to docent, but I kept all the training information because I find it facisnating. I definitely think that is a place everyone to visit at least once.
"Get a chance to show the rest of the country just what kind of amazing things people do out here."
If you could grant the Des Moines area one wish what would it be? I suppose... more parking downtown? Haha. But seriously, it's hard to try and grant just one. But I suppose I grant the wish that the city of Des Moines will get a chance to show the rest of the country just what kind of amazing things people do out here.
I'm not sure if that's even a wish they have, but it's the best I could come up with right now. I'm a bit of an overthinker (could you tell?) and there is a 99% chance I'll rethink answers to all these questions as I try to sleep tonight.
Photo credit: Ryan of Mott Shots