: Mark Sheldon / PDX Jazz Festival

Portland Celebrates the Arts

Jazz music, winter lights, Chinese dragons and more take the stage.
December 29, 2015 (Updated January 31, 2022)

If there’s one truth about winter, it’s that it’s often a time of reflection and creativity — a chance to sit back, relax and feed your soul with some live jazz, a cultural performance, a film screening or a dazzling light show. Portland’s got all of that happening this season. Beloved traditions are returning, and some are starting anew.

In fact, 2022 marks the grand opening of the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, The Reser, a long-awaited arts space in Beaverton that features a 550-seat theater, art gallery, rehearsal, workshop and meeting space, lobby, outdoor plaza and adjacent parking structure. Whether it’s a show at The Reser or another event, here’s how to spend some time in the Portland Region this season soaking up the brilliant local art and culture scene.

Man plays trumpet
PDX Jazz Festival
Man plays saxophone
Courtesy of Mark Sheldon/PDX Jazz Festival

Jazz It Up

The world-famous Biamp PDX Jazz Festival (Feb. 17-26, 2022) takes center stage in Portland during Black History Month. The festival marks its 19th consecutive year of celebrating jazz music and culture in 2022. Highlights of the 2022 lineup include performances from luminaries like NEA Jazz Masters Ron Carter, Billy Hart and Donald Harrison, Jr.; and Grammy Award winners Robert Glasper, Gary Bartz, Diane Schuur, Brad Mehldau, Flor de Toloache and Chuck Israels. Festival events take place at more than a dozen venues around town and feature the talent of many Portland-based artists. Purchase tickets to a festival event or enjoy a free public performance — watch for locations to be announced. 

See an African Film

The 32nd annual Cascade Festival of African Films (Feb. 4-March 5, 2022) shows us Africa through the eyes of Africans, rather than a vision of Africa packaged for Western viewers. The films celebrate Africa’s achievements, expose its failures, and reveal possibilities for a hopeful future. Festival host Portland Community College hopes to encourage American viewers to become interested in and study African cultures. Catch four of the shows in person or stream them online. All are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

In-person screenings include:

Also catch the festival’s virtual marketplace featuring African and Black-owned restaurants and businesses in Portland. In this marketplace, you can order dinner in time for your film, or order a unique gift directly from the vendor.

Two Chinese dragons
Lunar New Year celebration
Colorful car with disco lights
Portland Winter Lights Festival

All Folks Invited

The Portland Folk Festival (postponed in 2022) typically unfolds downtown at the McMenamins Crystal Ballroom in January. Past lineups have included folk favorites like Anna Tivel, Jeffery Martin, Cedar Teeth and Glitterfox. The historic ballroom with its spring-loaded dance floor has drawn friendly crowds of music lovers for more than 100 years.

Celebrate Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year (Feb. 1-15, 2022) is the focus at Lan Su Chinese Garden for Lunar New Year. Perfect for families, this festival highlights Chinese culture in a celebration of lion dances, music, martial arts performances and Chinese folk art. Don’t miss the Lantern Viewing Evenings, which end with dramatic and memorable dragon processions.

Find Fertile Ground

The Fertile Ground Festival (Jan. 27-Feb. 6, 2022) spotlights new work in the arts at venues around the city from Jan. 30 through Feb. 9, 2020. This fringe festival highlights the city’s finest local artists and performers in live theater, dance, comedy, visual art and film. The festival includes workshops, dance performances, readings and multiple world premieres, all produced by Portland-based artists.

Light It Up

Portland Winter Light Festival (Feb. 7-9, 2022) illuminates the darkness of the winter season with a host of unique and interactive live performances staged around town. Attendees can participate in a range of festive events from fire dancing and lantern parades to pop-up art and fireside storytelling.

Courtesy of Jeremy Jeziorski / The Reser
Courtesy of Jeremy Jeziorski / The Reser

West Side Shines Bright

In Beaverton, opening season (March through June 2022) at The Reser includes a lineup not to miss. There’s a five-part a cappella vocal ensemble composed of young women from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe called Nobuntu (March 8, 2022) in commemoration of International Women’s Day.

That will be followed by The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra (March 12), and Shine the Light: A Community Celebration (March 13). Directed by Scotty Barnhart, the orchestra has won every respected jazz poll in the world at least once, won 18 Grammy Awards, performed for royalty, appeared in several movies, television shows, at every major jazz festival and major concert hall in the world.

Shows will continue through June, with a mission “to bring the very best of the world to our stage, and to foster joy, connection, and understanding in our community,” says Chris Ayzoukian, executive director for The Reser. “After many years in development, the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts is now complete, and it’s stunning. We are incredibly excited to welcome everyone from the region into this beautiful facility safely and with open arms. Performances like Nobuntu, NASSIM, Lea Salonga and DakhaBrakha will showcase the breadth of talent, artistry, and diversity  patrons will come to expect from The Reser.”

On Sunday, March 13, The Reser welcomes friends and neighbors to experience the new center for a day full of free performances and fun engaging activities for the family. Check the website for full schedule and ticket information.

About The

Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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