Yet Central Oregon also lays claim to a thriving cultural scene, typified by the fascinating museums and thoughtful art galleries found in communities large and small around the region. So while you’ll find popular attractions like the High Desert Museum, you can also get a different perspective on regional history at The Museum at Warm Springs. And if you’re as in love with the natural world as we are, you’ll find plenty to love at the Lava Lands Visitor Center and the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory.
Of course, our scenic vistas, sprawling landscapes, and epic views have inspired countless numbers of artists over the years—many of whom display their paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other works in a number of regional art galleries.
So if you’re looking to add a dose of culture to your next visit, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite museums and galleries in Central Oregon.
Museums & Galleries in Bend
The most well-known of all Bend’s museums is the award-winning High Desert Museum, an indoor-outdoor experience housed in a ponderosa pine forest just south of the city. The museum uses interactive exhibits, dioramas, and other educational opportunities to share the natural and cultural history of Central Oregon with visitors of all ages. A wide range of wildlife is also housed at the museum home—from rattlesnakes and lizards to owls and river otters; you’ll even see a Sierra Nevada red fox and a pair of porcupines lounging about.
Another popular stop is the Deschutes Historical Museum, which sits in a historic schoolhouse at the southern edge of downtown Bend; the museum uses historic artifacts, interpretive exhibits, and more to showcase a wide range of local history—from Bend’s earliest days to our heyday as a logging hub.
Of course, art is also a big part of Bend’s creative culture; for proof, look no further than the city’s roundabouts—each of which are centered around a piece of colorful public art. If you’d like a closer look at the city’s art scene, consider a stop at The Stacks Art Studios & Gallery, a newly opened art space that features work from five regional artists in the heart of the Old Mill District; the popular shopping and dining area hosts First Friday events each month, giving visitors the chance to connect with artists and learn more about their work.
Museums & Galleries in Sunriver
And since 2014, Artists’ Gallery Sunriver Village has showcased work by 30 artists from throughout Central Oregon. The gallery prides itself on displaying works that span a variety of media—and that are available at price points accessible to all visitors. As such, works range from abstract pieces and ceramics to greeting cards and pet portraits.
Museums & Galleries in Sisters
While the downtown core of Sisters looks as if it’s remained unchanged since the days of Jesse James and Buffalo Bill, it’s undergone a lot of change over the years—welcoming Black Butte Ranch to the area, forging a pass through the Cascade Range with the McKenzie Highway, and opening a slew of excellent breweries and cideries in Sisters.
That eclectic past and evolving present are on display in the community’s cozy Three Sisters Historical Society and Museum, just off Highway 20 in downtown. The museum uses artifacts and old photographs to help visitors understand (and learn from) the region’s wide-ranging history.
In addition, the creative culture of Sisters is on display at numerous art galleries around town. One of the best known is Ken Scott’s Imagination Gallery, which showcases eccentric bronze works, garden art, and more from its namesake artist. Learn more about the community’s lineup of nearly a dozen art galleries from the Sisters Arts Association.
Museums & Galleries in Madras
And if you’re looking to experience Madras’ growing art scene, consider a stop at Art Adventure Gallery, which showcases a variety of works—paintings, mixed media, photography, and more—from roughly 40 regional artists. The pieces, available at a variety of price points, occasionally draw inspiration from Central Oregon and reflect the surrounding landscapes.
Museums & Galleries in Warm Springs
The most popular of these museums is The Museum at Warm Springs, which traces thousands of years of history through fascinating artifacts, colorful artwork, intricate crafts, educational exhibits, historic photography, and more. In fact, the museum’s curatorial department boasts one of the largest and most complete artifact collections of any Native American museum.
If you’re interested in learning more, watch this behind-the-scenes video with basket weaver Kelli Palmer, a member of the Confederated Tribe of The Warm Springs Nation who works hard to carry on important traditions:
Museums & Galleries in Prineville
Since 1971, the A.R. Bowman Memorial Museum & Crook County Historical Society has showcased the history of Crook County in the heart of downtown Prineville. The museum’s creative mix of rotating and permanent exhibits touch on a variety of topics—including local Native American tribes, the region’s first European-American homesteaders, farming and ranching history, and even Les Schwab (who launched his namesake tire retail chain in 1952 in Prineville). Keep an eye out for lectures, historic reenactments, and other fun events all year long.
And if you’re looking to enjoy Prineville’s burgeoning arts and culture scene, stop by Rimrock Gallery—which hosts paintings, bronze sculptures and other works from roughly two-dozen artists from around the world. So while you’ll see plenty of pieces by established artists from Central Oregon, you may also view works by artists from Alaska, Canada, and even New Zealand.
Explore Nature’s Beauty
From the sagebrush-covered plains of the high desert to the towering pines and majestic mountain peaks, discover the diverse landscape Central Oregon has to offer.