12 Opportunities for Artsy Summer Fun in Portland

summer festival

Portlanders know that summer is short and precious. We wait all year, then suddenly the sun peeks out and we must seize the opportunity to spend dry time outside. And what goes better with sun than art? Here are a dozen annual summer events where you can see, hear and otherwise experience the work of various types of artists.

1 Street Fairs!

Most neighborhoods have one. And while each will claim some area of uniqueness, they tend to run together. But you should visit at least one each summer, and preferably more. You will probably see some UAN artists selling their creations. The Mississippi Avenue Street Fair falls on Saturday, July 13 this year, and the Alberta Street Fair happens on Saturday, August 10. Expect music, food and art.

2 Cathedral Park Jazz Festival – July 18-21

Ever since 1981, the third weekend in July means loads of free blues and jazz. Come support artists of sax and guitar underneath the iconic green Saint John’s Bridge.

3 PDX Pop Now! – July 19-21

If your tastes run toward indie rock and hip young people, the PDX Pop Now! Festival offers a fabulous opportunity to experience both. For free! Volunteer-run, nonprofit, and fiercely dedicated to supporting local talent—hey, this organization sounds like UAN. Attend with open ears. Maybe you’ll hear your new favorite band.

4 Portland Highland Games – Saturday, July 20

If you’re someone who appreciates the artistry of throwing a 96-pound rock, venture out to Gresham for the Portland Highland Games. Bagpipe aficionados, haggis eaters and kilt wearers will also find this event deeply satisfying.

5 Oregon Brewers Festival – July 24-28

Hops artists abound at the annual Oregon Brewers Festival. You’ll have four days to try more than 70 of the nation’s finest craft beers at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. UAN recommends you take public transportation.


6 Sunday Parkways July 28, North Portland; August 25, Southeast Portland

Practice the art of weaving through other bicyclists of all ages and experience levels at Sunday Parkways. Every summer month, a different neighborhood cordons off nine or so miles of streets so that bikers, walkers and skaters may enjoy car-free relaxation. Stop off at parks for snacks, music, dance demos and informational booths.

7 PDX Bridge Festival – July-August

Some say you’re not a true Portland artist until you’ve painted, sculpted or drawn at least a couple of Portland’s bridges. This festival started just a few years ago, to celebrate the Hawthorne bridge’s 100th birthday in 2010. But the other bridges felt a tad left out, so the Bridge Fest salutes them all. Look for bridge-themed multimedia art installations and events.

Summer festival Bite

8 The Bite of Oregon – August 9, 10, 11

Culinary artists show off their best creations at The Bite. If you like gorging on local food and washing it down with regional wines while listening to local and national bands, don’t miss The Bite. And don’t feel guilty. Your gluttony at the Bite benefits Special Olympics Oregon.


summer festival The-Bite



9 Portland Zine Symposium – August 10-11

Do you love the printed word? Or need to spend two summer days inside due to sunburn or vampirism? Attend the Portland Zine Symposium’s panel discussions and workshops, meet zine creators and buy, sell or trade your zines. Plus, it’s free.


10 PDX Adult Soap Box Derby – Saturday, August 17

If you really want to test your art, try rolling it down a hill. Better yet, while you’re sitting inside it. Every August, crazy adults hurtle down Mount Tabor in soap box derby cars. Some are built for speed, some are built for art, some for the hell of it.

Soapbox Derby
Soapbox Derby

11 Concerts in the Park  July and August

In July and August, you can see some of Portland’s best musicians for free every night of the week. Coming to a neighborhood park near you, check out the Concerts in the Park series. Why not explore a new-to-you type of music? On July 31 you can catch The Strange Tones playing their self-described “volcanic, psychobilly blues” in Willamette Park. Or experience Jujuba’s danceable Nigerian beats at Ventura Park on August 7. A lot of possibilities for expanding your musical horizons await you.

12 Art in the Pearl – August 31-September 2

Sadly, summer always comes to an end. Spend your last big summer weekend at Art in the Pearl, a Labor Day tradition bringing more than 100 artists to the North Park Blocks. It’s a little like the UAN First Thursday Street Gallery, but with food vendors and musicians.

—by Teresa Bergen, www.teresabergen.com