Welcome to the Willamette Light Brigade

Welcome to the Willamette Light Brigade website; let me introduce you to who we are and what we do.

The Willamette Light Brigade is a group of volunteers originally formed in 1986 to illuminate Portland’s river bridges.  When we began our work, the river and its bridges all but disappeared at nightfall into a gloomy divide between the east and west parts of the city.  Today, five of the twelve bridges are lit or partly lit.  The lighting scheme for each bridge is designed to emphasize its distinguishing features.  We have a world-class set of bridges that deserve to be noticed.  They are part of our heritage of which we are justifiably proud.

The Willamette Light Brigade has updated its mission to reflect the greater role that it now plays in the civic and community life of Portland.  We describe our commitment as having three pillars, each of which is supportive of the others:

  1. To illuminate Portland’s river bridges;
  2. To enrich the city after dark as a place of art and light;
  3. To mount the annual Portland Winter Light Festival as a free community event focused on commissioned works of light art, centered on the river Downtown.

We chose to mount the Portland Winter Light Festival at the gloomiest time of winter, when the sparkle of the holiday season is forgotten and spring still seems months away.  A time, in the first week of February, when nights are long and dark, and the weather foul.  In the first two years of the festival, the weather could hardly have been worse, yet 30,000 of you came out in the first year, and 45,000 in February 2017.  In our third year, we had beautiful weather and an expanded program which saw over 142,000 visitors!  Not only is the Festival fun, but it added an estimated $1.8 million to the local economy.  Portland has some astonishingly talented artists who work with light – also some with fire and others with shadows.  By enabling adults and children from every walk of life to experience these at first hand, we increase awareness of the value that art and light can bring to the nighttime city – including its river bridges.  Bundle up and join us next February!

The Willamette Light Brigade board is made up of creative and civic minded men and women who give their time to enrich our city after dark in ways that express both our love for Portland and the extraordinary artistic talents that this city fosters.  Let me know if you would like to help as a volunteer or by providing other resources.

Welcome on behalf of The Willamette Light Brigade –

Ed Slavin, Chair.