Things looking up at Bend's High Desert Museum

Turnaround tale: Two grants, record attendance and stable funding

Things looking up at Bend museum

BEND, Ore. - The High Desert Museum's fiscal year ended on June 30th on a good note.

Museum officials were able to dig themselves out of long-standing debt.

And it's not the only positive financial news for the museum.

Two recent grants to the museum are helping to improve programs and facilities, one from the Oregon Arts Commission and the other from the State Legislature.

Nearly 165,000 people came through the doors of the museum in the last fiscal year, and that number could grow, thanks in part to a grant from the Oregon Legislature.

The bill allocates $250,000 in lottery funds to the museum in 2015, but only if officials can match the money.

And they say they know they can.

The museum was $1.8 million in debt, but officials were able to get rid of it through fund-raising efforts.  

"So we know how to really set ourselves up for a challenge grant -- we are very good at that," Janeanne Upp, museum president, said Tuesday. "So we will inspire people to give. Matching money is a wonderful catalyst."

The money will be used to expand the Autzen otter exhibit, one of the museum's most popular attractions.

"We are just delighted to have two river otters here for everyone to enjoy," said Ray Taylor, "They are both males. They are fun to watch. They are part of the weasel family after all, but I'm not supposed to say this, but they are cute and they are fun to watch."

Upp says the museum has never been so financially stable, and hasn't seen this many visitors in more than a decade.

Sixty percent of visitors passing through the High Desert Museum come from outside Central Oregon, and nearly 50 percent of them come from out of state.

"When tourism goes up so does the museum, but we have also built our local attendance," Upp said. "And we are really drawing in locals into our programs."

The Oregon Arts Commission recently gave the museum a $10,000 grant to help fund its school programs.

The museum is set to open two new exhibits,: the "Art of the West Show" on August 3rd featuring western art and another one, "Making Impressions" on the four different processes of print-making, which opens August 24th.

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