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Space to grow: Meet Art Terrarium’s Andrea Metzler

When she moved back to Des Moines three years ago Andrea Metzler wanted to find people to ride bikes with her. So she started the Ride On Bike Club. With the support of Des Moines Bicycle Collective Chair Scott Bents the small gathering of friends has grown into the Des Moines City Ride, which welcomed more than 60 riders to its 2017 kick-off event earlier this year.

Even if you’ve only spoken with Andrea for a short amount of time, it’s clear that the things she is passionate about often blossom in this form. An idea turns into a passion project which grows into a movement. The same can certainly be said for the newly opened Art Terrarium, a combination art gallery and plant shop she opened this month with Shylah Statler and Levi Biel.

Clay & Milk caught up with Andrea to discuss her latest project, where she finds inspiration, and where she finds enjoyment outside of work.

This interview has been edited for conciseness.

Clay & Milk: You’ve got a ton of different things going on. What does your day-to-day schedule typically look like?

Andrea Metzler: I’ve been working at Gravitate full-time for the last several months and then just in the last several weeks I’ve been working part-time there and then part-time coming over to the [Art Terrarium] shop and trying to clean things, sand walls, unpack plants and inventory, and get all that stuff done. I’ve also been doing the Dream Builder class at the Iowa Center [for Economic Success] with Shylah so we’ve been working through their online course.

C&M: Your new project Art Terrarium opened last week. How did that come about?

AM: Last year I was living in the Des Moines building, which is connected to the skywalk. I was always walking through the skywalks and it just feels kind of drab in there sometimes. I always thought it would be so cool to have murals or some kind of art festival in the space. So I just started reaching out to various people at the [Greater Des Moines] Partnership to see who owned these spaces. I can’t remember who it was but she told me that the Kaleidoscope Mall is owned by EMC and gave me the name of the lady who manages some of their property. I emailed her and was just like, “I have this idea. You have all this empty space in the Kaleidoscope Mall, and it would be really cool to do an art show.” She responded and was like “Yeah, actually I think we could get on board with that,” which is amazing. It was amazing of EMC to support that and be willing to give us that space for free.

I started talking to my friend Levi about it and he knew Shylah really well, and let me know she would love to help you out with it. It was amazing because she definitely is really good at getting stuff done, especially when it comes to working with artists. We knew we wanted to do the pop-up as part of Art Week since there was so much stuff going on already. By the time we got final approval from EMC it was about six weeks out so didn’t have a lot of time to get people on board, but they were really excited about it and really responsive to it and brought us all their art.

Art Week was an awesome way to do that and I love that they organize Art Week every year and give us an awesome excuse to do something really cool. Art Terrarium was kind of birthed out of Art Week and then we were looking for other spaces to do pop-ups, especially around the holidays. Nothing really worked out and then this space opened up and we decided to try to make it work as a permanent pop-up. 

Photo: Alyssa Leicht

C&M: You were also one of the Des Moines Girl Gang’s core members for a while. How did you get involved with the Girl Gang? What’s been your favorite part?

AM: After we did Art Terrarium in the skywalk [Des Moines Girl Gang core members] Meanz [Chan], Tia [Rodemeyer], and Janelle [Ketcher] reached out to me and asked if I’d like to be part of the core team. I’d reached out to them previously and I really like events so if they ever needed anything that I’d love to help out. We’ve spent a lot of time with the six of us meeting to talk about what is the Girl Gang and what do we want it to be in the future. I actually recently stepped down from the core group so I could focus more on Art Terrarium and City Ride. I just didn’t want to spread myself too thin. There are so many passionate women in Des Moines who I think can really fill in that role and be awesome at it.

My favorite part of the Girl Gang is the art shows. Those tend to be our most attended events and Janelle does a great job of curating those. Being able to see women who haven’t ever shown before, and being a part of the group giving them that opportunity has been really cool.

C&M: What do you do when you’re not building businesses and organizing events?

AM: I like doing bike rides, just for fun, that aren’t City Ride. My boyfriend, Kent, and I will have done some rides out to Bondurant to Reclaimed Rails a few times already this year. I got a nicer bike finally, too. I had an older bike that I got at the Des Moines Bicycle Collective, which has been awesome for commuting around town, but I finally got one for longer rides that won’t kill me. So I’m excited to get that out this summer.

I also really like just going to see shows and enjoy music. I love a lot of the local bands so anytime something good comes in I make sure to go. I also like checking out all of the new bars. It’s awesome that Des Moines is getting so many new bars and restaurants lately.

C&M: How do you decide which new projects to get involved in?

AM: I think having the support of other people is huge. I’ve found that sometimes I’m embarrassed to talk about what I’m doing, but when I do talk about it, like with Shylah coming on board with Art Terrarium, that’s what really made it move forward because I had that other person motivating me. Then with CityRide it was Scott that came on and supported the idea and thought it was something we could keep doing. Having that other person to validate your idea and also push you to make it a reality and want to help you make it a reality is huge.

C&M: What did you want to be when you grew up?

AM: I remember when I was real little I wanted to be an actress, which I now think is kind of strange but typical I guess. I was only in drama for a semester in high school, but I was still into films a lot so I wanted to do the editing and be behind the camera.

C&M: What’s the one thing you could use some help with right now?

AM: Finding people who want to hang art and make terrariums and hang out in a beautiful space!

About Andrea Metzler

Age: 32

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Instagram: @art_terrarium

Space to grow: Meet Art Terrarium’s Andrea Metzler | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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