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Hillsdale Winter Light Festival a Success

[February 23, 2024]

Over four nights in February, the light and art installations “Pressure Buttons” and "Jellyfish Adrift" brought a festive atmosphere to Hillsdale.

"Pressure Buttons" turned the Hillsdale Food Park into a gathering spot for people of all ages to enjoy a winter night filled with lights, music, and community. The festival atmosphere was completed with a live DJ, laser lights projected onto the “dance floor” (a section of sidewalk in front of the DJ booth), fire dancers, and extended food cart hours.

The festivities at the Food Park included fire dancers as well as an opportunity to create art through the manipulation of light and images.

Richard Stein, Nick Le-Jurica, Skye Richter, Fred Cirillo, and Jesse Harwin, the creative team behind “Pressure Buttons,” drew on their varied interests and talents to create an interactive display combining video, dance, and technology.

Film of local dancers was projected onto a large white exterior wall of The Portland Ballet. The video footage was fed through a mixing board programmed to allow attendees to “remix” the images, applying color and filters to create constantly evolving and completely new images.


For two of the four nights, the images were manipulated through a set of “dance pads” on the ground that allowed participants to interact with the projected images with even more physicality. The pads were enjoyed to the point of exhaustion, and when they stopped functioning the team pivoted, moving the operations to a mixing board. 

A separate set of moving images, not part of the interactive portion, was displayed on an adjacent wall, adding another layer of interest.

The display was sponsored by the Hillsdale Business and Professional Association, with funding from Venture Portland.

"Jellyfish Adrift" on display in the foyer at Ida B. Wells.

"Jellyfish Adrift" was created by Ida B. Wells Makerspace Club members Eli Yoshimura, Declan Keenan, Lenna Kiser, Matthew Dinh, Fraser Zahniser, Ansel Stanik, Harper Wicker-Lenseigne, and Stuart Rawnsley.

Both displays were official entrants in the well established Portland Winter Light Festival. This is the first year to include displays outside Portland's central core. According to the Festival's 2023 impact report, last year’s event brought over 208,000 attendees.

“Pressure Buttons” team member and Food Park owner Richard Stein counted more than 500 visitors to the installation over the four nights. In conversation with many of the attendees, Stein learned that as many as one-third of them were first-time visitors to the Food Park.

The Food Park carts expanded their operating hours to stay open during each night of the Festival. Stein reports that the cart owners were “giddy with delight” with sales and estimated that those nights brought their best evening sales ever. The added income from the Festival will go a long way toward helping the five small businesses recover from the November teachers’ strike and the January ice storm. 

Wells College Coordinator Kelly Milford worked with the Makerspace student club as they designed and installed their display. She said, "Staff and students really enjoyed being a part of the light festival this year for the first time. We see it as a great way to bring our SW community together and look forward to doing it again next year!"

—Valeurie Friedman


Did you go? Let us know.


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