During the darkest time of year, one Portland event brings the city together to celebrate creativity, culture, and community through light.
The 5th annual Portland Winter Light Festival is a three-day citywide outdoor arts festival featuring interactive light-based art installations, vibrant performances, and kinetic fire sculptures. The festival presents nearly 200 public art installations, performances, and workshops for the community to enjoy.
Most of the displays are placed throughout the westside and eastside waterfront in downtown Portland. Displays are set up in groups, or “experiences,” near some of the city’s most prominent public spaces, such as OMSI, Eastbank Esplanade, World Trade Center and Tom McCall Park. Other single displays are scattered throughout the downtown area. The 2020 festival map shows you where all the displays will be set up.
The best way to see this displays is by foot. You can wander the westside and then trek across the Hawthorne Bridge and loop through the Eastbank, making your way to OMSI.
The water shuttle will start at 110 Caruthers Street at 6 p.m. every night. There is no parking available at the Caruthers Landing, but plenty of pay to park and street parking options near the Salmon Springs Dock. The water shuttle is first come, first served.
There are even more fun activities throughout the three-day festival. Here’s a full rundown:
Celebrate opening night of the festival at Glow Jam on February 6 from 7 to 10 p.m. Bring your glow-in-the-dark toys, hoops, staff, poi, and LED props to the World Trade Center Plaza at 121 SW Salmon St.
Illuminated Bike Ride
The ride is free, open to everyone, and happens rain or shine on February 7 from 7-9 p.m. Bring your bicycle, head lights, tail lights, and your illuminated imagination. Deck your bike out in lights during the dark throes of winter, and dress appropriately for the weather. The detailed bike route to be released closer to the event.
Gather at 7 p.m. in front of OMSI, 1945 SE Water Ave. The bike ride will start at 7:30 p.m. This is an all-ages event.
Join performers and festival goers on February 8 from 6-7:30 p.m. for a 1-mile parade along the East Waterfront and across the Hawthorne Bridge. This event will happen rain, snow, sleet, or shine. Bring your weatherproof lanterns, illuminated umbrellas, glow puppets, and lit-up costumes.
A detailed map and route to be released closer to the event.
From 6-11 p.m. all weekend, Glow Bar will serve as the pop up art bar for the festival. It will feature dynamic lighting installations, projection art, nightly music and dancing, and a bar and lounge where festival goers can have a drink before heading to the next festival site. All proceeds from bar sales directly support the festival.
Glow Bar will be stationed at 1216 SE Water Ave. This is a 21+ activity.
Fun Luv’n Silent Disco
Bring your friends and family (and your headphones!) down for the FUN LUV’N Silent Disco party! Headphone rentals are available for $5. The silent disco will be operating from 6-11 p.m. every night of the festival.
The silent disco will be at the World Trade Center Plaza at 121 SW Salmon St. This is an all-ages event.
Stories Around the “Fire”
Stories Around the Fire evokes the human tradition of gathering around fire to share warmth and wisdom through story. The storytelling will take place from 6-11 p.m. every night.
The storytelling event will be held on the second story of the World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon St. This is an all-ages event.
Light Science Talks
Go inside for an exciting, engaging lecture series touching imaginative topics on all things light from 6-10 p.m. Seating is limited and first come, first serve. Here’s a full schedule of speakers and topics:
Thursday, February 6
- 7 p.m.: Mark LaPierre – A Moving Target: Lighting Things You Know Will Change
- 8 p.m.: Nandini Ranganathan – The Light Fantastic: When Art, Science, and Technology Collide
- 9 p.m.: Rich Burton – Hearing HAL Through the Looking Glass
- 7 p.m.: Steve Schieberl – Where’s My Flying Car?
- 8 p.m.: Sam Smith – Break It Down: Trash Eating Robots and the End of the Anthropocene
- 9 p.m.: Sam Smith – Film: “Overview”
- 7 p.m.: Jeff Schnabel – The Sordid History of Streetlights and Delightful Alternatives
- 8 p.m.: Dr. Brandon Lujan – Peering Through the Windows to the Soul
- 9 p.m.: Matt Eggert – The Role of Light in Forensics: Rendering the Invisible Visible
The Portland Winter Light Festival is taking place February 6-8, 2020 from 6-11 p.m. The event is open to all ages and free to attend.
For more information, visit the Portland Winter Light Festival website.
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