High Desert Museum Invites Community Members to 40th Anniversary Celebration

The High Desert Museum will host the community on the evening of Friday, May 27 to celebrate four decades of service to the region.

The 40and Community anniversary celebration kicks off at 6:30 p.m., offering the first glimpse of a new exhibit and featuring drinks from Central Oregon’s favorite brewers, food and more.

This year, the Museum celebrates 40 years since it opened as a small natural history museum in a city of about 17,000 people.

Evolving through four decades, it is now a nationally recognized interdisciplinary institution offering original exhibitions and educational programs.

“We are thrilled to look back on 40 years of curiosity, inspiration, wonder and connection,” said Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw.

“Our staff, volunteers, curators and partners have nurtured this unique place and the exhibits and programs we share, and we are grateful to our dedicated and generous community.

Visitors will have the opportunity from the event on May 27 to share their favorite moments from the Museum at the 40and Anniversary think tank.

Participants will be able to write about a special moment that sparked curiosity, opened up a new world, or connected them to something new.

The writing station will be in the Schnitzer lobby and the stories will be preserved in perpetuity to be shared with future generations.

The community celebration will also include the opening of a new exhibit, Lair: Light and the Art of Stephen Hendee.

Upon entering the enclosed gallery, visitors will be immersed in a futuristic world of light and sound with elements alluding to current environmental issues.

The bright, high-tech world of the Maryland-based artist explores the spaces we live in, both physically and virtually.

lair is inspired by the landscape of the high desert and uses lights, color and space.

Hendee is a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and his art has been exhibited everywhere from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to Meow Wolf Las Vegas.

Hendee’s recent awards include a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts ArtWorks Fellowship.

Tickets for the community celebration are free and can be reserved online on the museum’s website.

Attending vendors will include Acme Hot Dogs, IndoDaddy and Kona Shaved Ice and Bend Cider Company, Boneyard Beer, Caboost Kombucha, Cascade Lakes Brewing Co., Funky Fauna Artisan Ales, Lava Terrace Cellars, Legend Cider Company, Silver Moon Brewing, Sunriver Brewing, Cidrerie des Deux Villes and Brasserie Digne.

The museum was the vision of a young Portland naturalist named Donald Kerr, who in the 1970s began hiking the Cascades at every opportunity to enjoy the vast vistas, rich cultural heritage, and dynamic ecosystems of the high desert.

A teacher at heart, he envisioned a place to, as he put it, “savagely excite and responsibly teach” visitors about the High Desert.

Kerr shared his idea for a museum that would explore the natural history and culture of the high desert with anyone who would listen.

Due to the funding, he was repeatedly told that his dream would not come true.

Still, Kerr remained determined and passionate, and the fans were won over.

Brooks Resources donated 135 acres of ponderosa pine forest on which to build Kerr’s vision.

The institution opened its doors to the public on May 29, 1982.

“Anniversaries provide an opportunity to look back on all that has been accomplished and to celebrate together,” says Nelson Mathews, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees.

“And there is so much to celebrate! The High Desert Museum has become an artistic and cultural anchor, as well as an educational resource for the entire region. I’m excited to think about what the next 40 years will bring.

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