: BearFest

Immerse Yourself in Arts and Culture in Grants Pass

Sculptures, murals, live music and theater abound in this cultural hub of Southern Oregon.
April 1, 2024

Craving culture? Head to Grants Pass just over two hours south of Eugene along the banks of the Rogue River, where galleries and museums spotlight local artists and the calendar’s packed with live music, theater and outdoor festivals. Here’s how to tap into the creative spirit of Grants Pass, whether you want to experience art or make it yourself after a fishing, hiking or wine-tasting getaway.

Osprey Lot sculpture

Experience Galleries, Museums and Artful Walks

A good place to start is with a ramble around downtown Grants Pass, where a self-guided public art walking tour connects murals (including two WPA-era murals inside the historic post office), art-wrapped utility boxes and larger-than-life sculptures.

Start or end the walk at the Grants Pass Museum of Art, which is home to rotating visual-art exhibitions and events like Music at the Museum, an intimate concert series featuring singer-songwriters. Don’t miss Gallery One, the museum shop and a showcase for Rogue Valley artists and artisans who offer ceramics, fiber art, jewelry, woodworking, paintings and prints for sale. During First Friday Alive at Five, many artists are on-site to talk about their work.  

It’s a Burl in the little town of Kerby, about 30 minutes southwest, is a one-of-a-kind gallery and outdoor experience dedicated to the humble wood burl, a convoluted tree growth that’s perfect for carving. Every nook and cranny is filled with wall hangings, freestanding sculptures and furniture. Choose something to take home or simply admire the creativity on display. Even a hike takes an artistic turn at the Rough & Ready Botanical Wayside, a top spot to see wildflowers in spring just south of Cave Junction. A flat and recently widened interpretive trail is dotted with benches made by a local chain-saw artist. 

Even your lodging can be artful in Grants Pass. Bear Mountain Inn is a new, 10-suite boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Grants Pass created by the Rogue Roasters team, which features sculptures displayed throughout the property.

Barnstormers Theatre

Southern Oregon on Stage

The performing arts are alive and well in Grants Pass, which has several theater and live-music venues to choose from. Visit Grants Pass posts live events for the next week every Thursday on its socials.

When the Rogue Theatre opened in 1938, audiences flocked to see stars like Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Marlene Dietrich on the silver screen. Today the historic venue offers a full calendar of live music and events, from rock and blues to comedy and author talks.

Experience the Rogue Valley Symphony in concert at the 750-seat Performing Arts Center at Grants Pass High School, one of the best concert venues in Southern Oregon. On Tuesday evenings from mid-June to mid-July, head to the Josephine County Fairgrounds for free Concerts in the Park at Midway Park.

Barnstormers Theatre is the oldest community theater company in Oregon, producing an eclectic mix of plays including comedy and drama, contemporary edgy works and family-friendly classics. Performances take place in a converted historic church in the heart of downtown Grants Pass. Or, for dinner and a whodunit, check out Dinner to Die For, an interactive murder-mystery dinner with a hefty side helping of laughs.

Art Along the Rogue

Take a Workshop or Attend a Festival

If all this art leaves you itching to make something yourself, there are a number of ways to give it a go. At The Glass Forge, tour the studio and watch glassmakers at work, then blow a glass piece to take home. In Cave Junction, visit Southern Oregon Guild of Artists & Artisans Art Center for hands-on, artist-led workshops. The adjoining Guild Gallery sells art and fine crafts by local artists. 

Or pack a sketch pad and explore Pacifica, a 420-acre nature reserve and botanic garden in the heart of the Applegate Valley. Its artsy pedigree dates to when musician Steve Miller had his recording studio there in the 1970s. While the studio was repurposed into an event space, that creative energy endures via hands-on workshops and an accessible Art & Nature Trail with sculptures and installations by valley artists.

You can also plan your visit to coincide with one of Grants Pass’ many annual festivals. Evergreen’s BearFest is a whimsical public-art project with life-size fiberglass bear sculptures decorated by local artists and displayed around downtown Grants Pass from late May to early September. (Visiting outside the summer months? Schedule a tour of the Bear Hotel and see the bears in hibernation.)

Porchfest is a historic neighborhood music festival taking place on — you guessed it — front porches. Grants Pass has enthusiastically embraced this national event, with dozens of musicians performing along a main thoroughfare in early summer. Pull up a blanket or chair, relax and enjoy the fun. 

Another laid-back affair is the Siskyou Folk & Bluegrass Festival at nearby Lake Selmac, with musicians jamming in a beautiful setting. In October Art Along the Rogue features live music and chalk artists who literally paint Grants Pass streets with masterpieces. 

About The

Rachel Bucci
Rachel Bucci is a writer based in Oregon's Willamette Valley. She enjoys exploring all four corners of the state with her husband and son, who are always game for adventure whether it’s hiking in the Cascades or crabbing along Siletz Bay. She has a soft spot for museums and roadside attractions, as well as the scent of juniper in Oregon’s High Desert.

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