The Portland Winter Light Festival Is Back

For eight days—up from last year's two—a slew of installations are lighting up the Rose City.

By Karly Quadros With Monica Salazar and Rose Lee January 27, 2022

Following a soft, two-day relaunch in 2021, Portland’s Winter Light Festival is once again lighting up the city, this year for eight full nights, running from February 4 to 12. The Insta-worthy festival, a free display of pop-up art installations, music, and food carts, is bringing some much-needed shine to Portland’s gloomy midwinter months. 

“Now more than ever, it feels important to put your mask on and go out and safely rediscover our city,” says Portland Winter Light Festival executive director Alisha Sullivan. 

Once drawing large crowds to mosey along the Eastbank Esplanade, the festival (like last year's) will be decentralized, with art pieces and pop-ups strewn throughout the city, encouraging onlookers to spread far and wide in their pursuit of the luminescent installations.  

Some pieces to keep an eye out for: an interactive virtual mirror from Bryan Martin and local collective Lumina Lab, a glittering installation from Ayla Leisure called “Dualism,” exploring the interplay between body and mind, and dance performances from site-specific troupe Heidi Duckler Dance and Northwest Portland stalwarts BodyVox. 

In addition to the works dispersed throughout the city, more concentrated clusters of interactive art and performance will crop up on Friday and Saturday nights from 6 to 10 p.m. at three close-in locations. At Pioneer Courthouse Square, attendees can linger below glittering trees, watch glowing hula hoop performers, and admire Fez BeGaetz’s 25-foot LED sunflower. The World Trade Center will host a rainbow array of geodesic domes, psychedelic crystals and clouds, and a samba band. And on the east side, guests can find poetry, dance, and music amongst the lights at inner Southeast's Milagro Theater. 

Can’t-miss events include a motion-sensitive multimedia installation combining music and light from CymaSpace, a deaf-lead arts collective at the Oregon Center for Contemporary Art on N Interstate.