Meet DSM: Max Mowitz
Meet: Max Mowitz
He, Him, His/They, Them, Theirs
Occupation: Program Director at One Iowa
City: Downtown DSM
Q: I understand you were born and raised in Iowa. What part of the state are you from?
A: I’m from Downtown Des Moines. I grew up in Sherman Hill and went to school at Edmunds back when it was a fine arts elementary school. I decided to go to college outside of the state. I went to school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Q: What did you enjoy about going to school in Downtown Des Moines (DSM)?
A: At the time that I went to Edmunds, they had harp, violin, piano and more. I got to learn all of these different instruments. That became very important to me. I was a part of the Des Moines Youth Symphony after that time. I really loved working with the Des Moines Symphony and the Symphony Academy and my love of music was well supported by our community at the Symphony and Academy.
Q: You went to college in Illinois. What led to you moving back to Iowa?
A: I went to school in Urbana-Champaign, which is in southern western Illinois. And then I went to live in the Chicago area with my partner, who I met as an undergrad. I spent some time there doing a couple of odd jobs here and there. But I felt so isolated. I realized around that time that I wanted to work in advocacy. I started doing LGBTQ advocacy work through an organization called Iowa Pride Network (now One Iowa) when I was in high school and I did that work throughout college. While I ended up completing a music degree, when I graduated, I realized that maybe social work or something like that would've been a better choice for me.
I made a lot of intentional efforts to try to get a job in Des Moines. I landed a job in Des Moines at the Young Women’s Resource Center doing volunteer and office administrative work. Because I didn't have a background in social work, I knew I needed to start at an entry level position. And that's what got me back here. I made my now husband come back here with me, though he grew up in the Chicago suburbs, so he's a transplant.
Q: What part of Des Moines did you move back to?
A: I actually moved back to the Drake neighborhood. But I think the most fascinating thing is that I actually live in the Sherman Hill house that great up in.
Q: What are some of your favorite parts of living in the Drake and Sherman Hill areas?
A: The folks in the Drake neighborhood are incredibly community minded and aware of the ways that gentrification can be harmful to the people living there. Their advocacy amidst all of the development is amazing. The Drake neighborhood is interesting to me because it's this amazing combination of worlds. It's interesting to have lived in the Drake neighborhood at the time that I did, because that was the beginning of when Drake was starting to do more development around University Ave. I’ve always been very interested in the neighborhood advocacy work in the River Bend area.
And now living back in my family home, it’s been fascinating to live in this vibrant, beautiful neighborhood that I grew up in. Seeing the growth in Sherman Hill and areas of Downtown, like the East Village, since I was a child is awesome to get to see. It's also interesting as an adult with an awareness of the processes of gentrification to understand the ways that the neighborhood that I grew up in was very heavily gentrified. The process has been wild but really cool. I feel like I'm the right place.
Q: What do you do at One Iowa?
A: I'm the program director at One Iowa which means I oversee our larger programming, I facilitate trainings and I provide direct support to LGBTQ+ Iowans. I started volunteering with One Iowa back when I was in high school, before I was even out, so working here is a full circle dream come true.
Q: Do you have any hangout spot recommendations for LGBTQ+ Iowans?
A: In terms of spaces in Des Moines, we have a wealth of coffee shops that are either run by LGBTQ+ people or are safe places for LGBTQ+ people. I think of Ritual Cafe, Horizon Line and The Slowdown Coffee Co. These coffee shops really do an intentional job of being affirming.
Q: Do you have a favorite local restaurant or store that you’ve spent time reconnecting with since moving back?
A: One of the restaurants that is a cornerstone of Des Moines in my mind is A Dong, which is down the street from me. It's a Vietnamese restaurant. It's just a pillar of the community, I feel. It's legendary for its enormous menu. My family went there once a week. The owners still remember me and asks how my parents are doing.
Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a vibrant, growing region in the heart of Iowa. DSM spans a vibrant city core, amenity-packed suburbs, comfy small towns and impressive rural expanses. It’s a place where you can do something greater and build the life you want and be who you were meant to be, all in a neighborly community and at an affordable cost. Learn more and find your something greater in DSM.