: Mark Sheldon / PDX Jazz Festival

Portland Celebrates the Arts

Jazz music, winter lights, Chinese dragons and more take the stage.
December 29, 2015 (Updated February 2, 2023)

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 takes center stage in Portland during Black History Month. The festival marks its 20th consecutive year of celebrating jazz music and culture. 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 33rd annual Cascade Festival of African Films 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. Check their online calendar for in-person venues and streaming details. In-person screenings are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

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

Light It Up

Portland Winter Light Festival 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.

Celebrate Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year 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 spotlights new work in the arts at venues around the city. 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.


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

West Side Shines Bright

In Beaverton, opening season at The Reser includes a lineup not to miss. In February, spend Valentine’s day learning about “The Neuroscience of Pleasure.” Join OHSU neuroscientist Larry Sherman, Ph.D. and the Portland Chamber Orchestra and singer Naomi LaViolette to learn how the brain responds to music, love and chocolate.

On the first Friday in March, The Reser provides opportunities for local artists to sell small works and wares. Come celebrate these creative talents and find the perfect work of art for your home or office. Browse the exhibition before it closes and chat with the participating artists. Later in March, musical artists, including Latin Grammy nominee Gina Chavez and Nordic folk band Dreamers’ Circus will bring their musical talents to audiences seeking cultural music.

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.”


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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