Imagine a World, High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon

If you could create your own world, what would it look like? Would you build an artistic commune, ecological experiment or spiritual society?  

For generations, people have journeyed to the West with their own visions of an idyllic society, ranging from the artistic communes of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Drop City, Colorado, to current architectural experiments like Arcosanti in central Arizona.  

The Road Hog
The community of Hog Farm began in 1966 in Southern California. In exchange for rent, community members fed and cared for pigs, which led to their name. The Hog Farmers rejected the “American dream” and could be found at Woodstock and other music festivals of the late ‘60s. Hog Farm exists to this day. (Photo by Lisa Law)

Imagine a World, a new, original exhibit now open at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, explores different takes on community attempted over the last half century in the West—and how some of these ideas have become part of society at large today.  

First, explore the psychedelic communities of the late 1960s and early 1970s that sought to offer an alternative to capitalism, individualism and societal expectations. Delve into Biosphere 2, where in 1991 eight people sealed themselves into domes of glass for more than two years to create their own atmosphere, grow their own food and sustain life. While their experiment failed, Biosphere 2 remains a site of scientific inquiry and learning.  

Rajneesh Courtesy Deschutes County Historical Society Bulletin Collection
Ma Anand Sheela, one of the leaders in Rajneeshpuram—which thrived in the early 1980s in Antelope, Oregon, speaks to followers of Bagwan Shree Rajneesh. (Photo courtesy of Deschutes County Historical Society Bulletin Collection)

Oregon’s most famous, or infamous, intentional community–Rajneeshpuram, the subject of the Netflix series “Wild, Wild Country”—is also featured. In 1981, spiritual teacher Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his lieutenant, Ma Anand Sheela, selected a site in Wasco County, Oregon, for a planned community, embracing well-trodden narratives about an “empty” American West. Five years later, the community collapsed. Through objects and imagery, visitors will get a closer look at the Rajneeshees and the community they sought to create. 

Frank Buffalo Hyde in studio
Frank Buffalo Hyde, a New Mexico painter of Nez Perce and Onondaga heritage, is one of the Indigenous artists whose work will appear in the High Desert Museum’s new exhibition. (Photo courtesy of Frank Buffalo Hyde)


Imagine a World also shares the work of Native artists who envision alternative worlds and highlight Indigenous cultures thriving throughout space and time, known as Indigenous futurisms.  

As the culmination of the exhibit, visitors may contribute what they believe should be included in an ideal society through an interactive, immersive experience.  

Imagine a World will be open through September 25, 2022. 


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