Oaks Park highlighted in pandemic-year 'Winter Lights Fest'
Undaunted by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of Portland's wintertime Festival of Lights were determined to find a way to host the sixth year of the now-annual tradition – but to do so, they decided on a new decentralized format.
It took place on the first two weekends of February. And, one of its large installations was at Oaks Amusement Park.
Originally, the free and fun "Portland Winter Light Festival" was centered around the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI); it then expanded to cover a good portion along the east bank of the Willamette River. In 2019, it was evident from the Morrison Bridge south to beyond the Tilikum Crossing transit bridge.
For the first time in the festival's history there were no art installations at OMSI, or along the Eastbank Esplanade – an effort to minimize opportunities for crowds to gather, in support of social distancing rules.
"This past year has demonstrated that we all need art, connection, and community more than ever," mused the festival's Executive Director, Alisha Sullivan. In that spirit, the result was a city-wide event they called the "Portland Winter Light (non)Festival".
Exhibit comes to Oaks Amusement ParkLocated next to the historic Oaks Amusement Park Dance Pavilion, long-time Portland Winter Light Festival sponsor Mayer/Reed Landscape Architects erected an installation they called "Kaleidoscopic Canopy".
"Why Oaks Amusement Park?" was the question we asked of the project's organizer Carol Mayer-Reed.
Mayer-Reed disclosed that she's a member of the Oaks Park Association's Board of Directors – that's the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Oaks Amusement Park. "I have been thinking of ways we can safely bring families back to the park during this challenging time of COVID," Mayer-Reed told THE BEE.
"I asked myself, who has more colorful lights than Oaks Park? Can we, as designers, add some artistic effects to what is already there?" explained Mayer-Reed.
"Some of the oldest 80-foot-tall trees on the Oaks Park property are situated in a tight grove next to the Dance Pavilion, near the waterfront. They gave us a 'statuesque scaffold' for our light installation!" continued Mayer-Reed. "As landscape architects, we think at a large scale, in our design projects."
Visitors who came by the carload looked excited as they walked through the park, illuminated by the glow of the amusement rides and historic buildings. As they entered the Midway, the installation of 30 and 40 foot Mylar curtains suspended from cables high in the trees came into view, reflecting a shimmering kaleidoscope of color from lights situated below the silvery sheets, and accented by Midway's lights.
"We hope that everyone looking at the installation will find a different conceptual reference: Perhaps a waterfall, or a drapery, or perhaps the aurora borealis," Mayer-Reed said.
After we toured other Southeast Portland attractions in the festival this year, none of them seemed to measure up to the beauty and joy of this installation at Oaks Amusement Park.
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