Festival attendees explore Lumascope by 2.ink Studio at PDXWLF 2017. 

Festival attendees explore Lumascope by 2.ink Studio at PDXWLF 2017. 

Photo by Amy Sakurai

The 2020 Portland Winter Light Festival started on Thursday and runs through Saturday. A 12-foot fire kaleidoscope and a suspended Technicolor Dreamboat are features of the annual light-based art event running along both sides of the Willamette River.

The Willamette Light Brigade (WLB) presents the festival each year. Festival organizers say WLB has provided lighting fixtures on Portland’s Morrison and Hawthorne bridges since the 1980s.

Alisha Sullivan is the executive director of the festival. She said it’s held in the winter at “a time of year when we all need a little bit of community and light and something to do.”

The Cosmic Messenger by Miki Masuhara-Page on Eastbank Esplanade in 2017.

The Cosmic Messenger by Miki Masuhara-Page on Eastbank Esplanade in 2017.

Photo by Sean Gentry

Sullivan said the goal is to get people interacting with art, the city, and each other. The festival does that through public art installations created by both local artists and large creative firms. The free, outdoor festival’s theme this year is “Into the Dreamscape.”

Pathlighters participate in the 2018 Lantern Parade. The 2020 parade takes place on Saturday, February 8. 

Pathlighters participate in the 2018 Lantern Parade. The 2020 parade takes place on Saturday, February 8. 

Photo by MGV Photography

Sullivan says other winter light festivals, like Montréal en Lumière‎ and Vivid Sydney, inspired the Portland festival.

While other festivals mostly focus on light projections by international artists, Portland’s uses primarily local artists and also tries to teach people about the technology powering the installations.

The 2020 installations include:

  • James Stugart is an Alaskan-born artist who is now a Portland-based ice entrepreneur. This year he will be live ice sculpting at the festival while surrounded by fire art.
  • The Illuminated Bike Ride takes cyclists through the many sculptures and live performances.
  • The annual Lantern Parade proceeds along the Eastbank Esplanade with pedestrians in light-up costumes and glow puppets crossing the Hawthorne Bridge.
  • Hosford Middle School Science Club students have created a project that aims to help teach younger kids about electrical circuitry through lights and switches.

From middle school students to leading architects, Sullivan said, the festival “is about getting out there and putting our energy to good use during the dark of winter.”

To hear the full “Think Out Loud” interview with festival director Alisha Sullivan and artist/architect Sarah Vaz, hit play on the media player at the top of the page.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated which school’s science club was involved in the festival. OPB regrets the mistake.