Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby was joined by tribal and local officials, and a host of community members, to officially open a trio of new attractions in Chickasaw Country: the Chickasaw Visitor Center, ARTesian Gallery and Studios and Bedre Café in a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 14th.
Gov. Anoatubby said the Visitor Center, art gallery and café, located adjacent to the Artesian Hotel, continue the Chickasaw Nation’s strategic tourism efforts in Chickasaw Country.
“Opening these new facilities is an exciting step into a new era of tourism in southern Oklahoma,” Anoatubby said, “From gourmet chocolate to gorgeous artwork and natural beauty, these new facilities offer something for almost everyone in an area that already provides travel experiences that entertain, inform and enlighten.”
Chickasaw Visitor Center-Sharing the Story
Designed to provide information and tell the story of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, the Chickasaw Visitor Center will serve a wide range of tourists, highlight local attractions and communicate the Chickasaw Nation’s connection to the area.
The Visitor Center is intended to be an information hub and gateway to Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Founded in 1906, Chickasaw National Recreation Area is the only national park established at the request of a Native American tribe, the Chickasaw’s.
“This Visitor Center is part of our long-range plan to help promote tourism in this area,” Anoatubby said. “We believe this will be an excellent venue to welcome guests to the area, and encourage them to discover the natural beauty, history and hospitality of Chickasaw Country.”
Constructed of native stone, glass and copper, the Visitor Center is located at the intersection of S.H. 7 and U.S. 177, adjacent to the Artesian Hotel and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. The split-level visitor center includes an information desk, a multi-purpose gallery, media room, public restrooms and a gift shop on the street level. Office space is located on the lower level.
The interior of the building features natural slate flooring, elevated wood ceilings and a prominent wall sculpture by Chickasaw artist Paul Moore.
The 8,500-square-foot Visitor Center features information about Chickasaw Country destinations and lodging options as well as two interactive kiosks. The kiosks enable visitors to customize a travel route from hotel to attraction to restaurant and everything in between.
Works of art and photography by Native artists are also featured. Currently, exhibits featuring Chickasaw artists Tracie Tuck Davis and Brent Greenwood are on display.
The eco-friendly building is designed by Oklahoma architectural firm Frankfurt-Short-Bruza Associates. It was awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The certification is based on energy usage, sustainable features, innovative design and other green criteria.
The Chickasaw Visitor Center is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day in the winter months; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day. It is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Bedre Café – A Chocolate Lover's Paradise!
Situated alongside retailers at the Artesian Hotel, the Bedre Café is a one-of-a kind coffee bar, candy store, sandwich shop and confectionary.
Many menu items feature Bedre Fine Chocolate, a Chickasaw Nation business. The café offers gourmet coffees, fresh fruit smoothies, made-to-order deli sandwiches and freshly baked goods like cookies, muffins, and layered cakes. The menu also features hand-dipped ice cream cones, ice cream sundaes and signature shakes.
The fifties-era inspired eatery also includes a retail area.
ARTesian Gallery and Studio Offers a Place to Create
A space for creating, appreciating and sharing fine art, the ARTesian Gallery and Studio, located at 101 West Muskogee in Oklahoma, offers almost 7,400 square-feet of space to celebrate and share a variety of art.
Renovated to complement the grand Artesian Hotel, which is located across the street, the ARTesian Gallery and Studio features an art gallery, classroom space, reception and retail space.
Designed to assist and promote Chickasaw and other artists, the facility houses a pottery studio and up to five separate studio spaces, which will be available for artists to rent.
Art classes for all levels,-from beginning artists to professional artists, will be offered. The ARTesian will also offer “make and take” classes and classes specifically designed for visitors and tourists to the area.
Chickasaw textile artist Margaret Roach Wheeler’s studio space includes a variety of looms for weaving workshops and classes.
The gallery area provides an excellent venue for artists to display and market their work as well as a reception area for “meet the artists” events and gallery art shows.
Supplies for creating all types of art, from high-quality paint brushes and watercolors to crayons and coloring books, is available in the retail shop. Traditional and contemporary jewelry, books, music and more, created by Chickasaw and Native artists, are also available in the retail shop.
The ARTesian Gallery and Studio is a restoration of a long-standing Sulphur structure, which once housed a department store.
Investing in Chickasaw Country
The new facilities are part of an overall Chickasaw Nation initiative to promote tourism and economic development in Chickasaw Country, Anoatubby said.
“Visitors to the area bring more jobs and enhance local, tribal and state economies," Anoatubby said. We believe our continuing investment in this area will help sustain our longstanding partnerships in this area and benefit the state and local economy far into the future."
More than 205,000 people have visited the Chickasaw Cultural Center since it opened in July 2010.
More than 3 million people visit Murray County, Oklahoma, each year. Other attractions in the area include, Turner Falls, Lake of the Arbuckles, and Cross Bar Ranch, all-terrain vehicle trails.