Tucker Teutsch 3.0 is here to create a spectacle. For the past 18 months, the 34-year-old local artist has served full-time as the creative director behind the PDX Bridge Festival, a new 16-day celebration of our city's bridges, with more than 60 events designed to bring artists and Portlanders together from both sides of the river. The approximately $250,000 festival, funded through educational nonprofit grants and sponsors, will feature everything from circuses and marching bands to historical walking tours and art shows. Hundreds of local bands and performance artists have signed on. The Hawthorne Bridge will transform into a massive fabric-and-light installation that interacts differently with pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic.
If it sounds ambitious, make note: Teutsch 3.0 (yes, he insists you use the 3.0) only dreams big. Best known for his work building the 2008 temple at Burning Man, he has a "go big or go home" attitude that's sized in proportion to the bridges themselves.
"I think of them as armatures for kinetic sculpture—they move, they swivel, they twist, they go up and down," Teutsch 3.0 says. "That's mechanics on a really big scale, and if we can enhance that with art, we have the potential to really underline that thing of being Bridge City."
Although the PDX Bridge Festival is largely decentralized at more than 27 venues, the Hawthorne Bridge—celebrating its 100th birthday this year—remains a focus. One of the fest events generating the most buzz is the grand finale, in which a 25,000-square-foot swath of lawn transforms the Hawthorne into a temporary park for Brunch on the Bridge for 2,000 Portlanders chosen by lottery.
Teutsch 3.0 says pitching the idea of Brunch on the Bridge was easy. Just as the bridges themselves tie Portlanders together geographically and culturally, so too does he expect the PDX Bridge Festival to fill the demographic hole in Portland's busy festival roster while still bringing in family-friendly summer crowds. Call it "the one festival to rule them all."
"You know you've got the Rose Festival, you've got the Blues Festival, you've got the river festival, and that's great," Teutsch 3.0 explains. "But where does the 18-to-35 demographic go in the summer? Do they go to these things? Some of them do, but I think we're creating something that engages them on their own cultural terms."
Teutsch 3.0 and his core team of 20 local creatives know they have a lot to prove. They'd like to make PDX Bridge Festival an annual event, and if Teutsch 3.0 can pull it off, it'll be the biggest thing he's ever done. Although he's served as project director for big art installations all over the U.S. and in Ireland, he sometimes gets the sense that "back-room festival organizers" are skeptical that a "young punk" from Burning Man knows what he's getting into. But Teutsch 3.0 is ready to move on from his Burning Man involvement and make his mark closer to home.
"The big art spectacles that are public and free can really impact lives," he says. "I want to create what we do out there in a tiny corner of Nevada in the middle of Portland."
Recommended Portland Bridge Fest Events
Get the party started right with music and art by more than 50 local creatives, including DJs and "Nuts, Bolts and Slabs of Steel," 3-D works curated by Portland City Arts.
Lift 100—Hit the Lights!
The main installation piece of the festival goes live, transforming the Hawthorne Bridge into a fabric-and-light show that interacts with nightly traffic. Check out the view from the Morrison Bridge or the waterfront.
MORSound: Free Concert and Hawthrone Bridge Centennial Party
Five hours of music on three stages, followed by a celebration for the 100th birthday of the Hawthorne Bridge. Join emcee and Voodoo Doughnut man Tres Shannon and more than 10 diverse local bands, from Sneakin' Out to MarchFourth Marching Band.
Brunch on the Bridge
The festival's grand finale will transform the Hawthorne Bridge into a public park for a picnic large enough to seat 2,000 Portlanders.
Portland Bridge Fest takes place on bridges and in venues across the city Friday-Sunday, July 23-Aug. 8. Visit pdxbridgefestival.org for info and a full schedule.