Ryan Schulte admits it was the free beer and pizza that attracted him to his first PechaKucha.
A friend — scheduled to be one of the speakers at the evening event — had invited Schulte to come along to hear him talk about growing up as an artist.
“I love free stuff and I love art, so I went,” remembers Schulte. “I had never been to anything like it! It was awesome!”
In addition to his friend’s “hilarious” presentation, other speakers covered a wide range of topics. “It was enlightening,” says Schulte, who has served on the PechaKucha organizing team and has handled the technical aspects of the special evenings. “And I learned about things going on in Dayton.”
How it works
PK, as it’s affectionately known — especially by those who can’t figure out the pronunciation — is a worldwide phenomenon that now takes place in more than 1,000 cities — including Dayton.
The name PechaKucha means “chit-chat” in Japanese. The first PK Night, held in Japan in 2003, was the brainstorm of two architects who wanted to attract people to their experimental event space and allow young designers to meet, show their work, and exchange ideas. After that, other cities in Europe and around the globe began hosting the special nights. Dayton’s entrance came in 2009.
A few times each year a diverse and curious audience gathers to hear eight to 10 speakers share a particular passion. Although the atmosphere is casual, the format is prescribed: 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each while the speaker provides narration. About halfway through the evening, there’s a break for drinks, snacks and socializing. Admission is free, though donations are encouraged and appreciated. Anyone can sign up to present, though topics such as religion and politics are taboo.
Over the years you might have caught Jacobee Rose Buchanan telling how playing dress-up as a kid led her to entering mermaid contests in adulthood, or how Jared Grandy hopes to end gun violence by a campaign he created. Phillitia Charlton’s song and poetry reflected Dayton’s west side; Charlie Setterfield’s presentation highlighted the impact internships have on local architecture.
Next PK Night in Dayton
The next local PK night is slated for 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at Grace: A United Methodist Community, 1001 Harvard Blvd. in Dayton.
Speakers will share ideas and observations; inspirations for art and livelihood; social phenomenon and popular culture trends; and creative odysseys and life influences, according to the Facebook event.
Emcees will be Heather Atkinson and Lela Klein.
The speakers will include:
• Jehanne Dufresne: “Joy!, Antidote To My Past Depression”
• Bridget S. Hutt: “Strings Attached: A Love Letter to the Act of Crocheting”
• Matthew Brandberry: “What’s your Why?”
• Josh Weston: “Pew Baby”
• Corin Brewer: “Dominating My Discomfort”
• Nathan Kessler: “Resurrecting Jesus” (the statue on I-75)
• Mike Mitchell: “The Importance of Context”
• Sean Mitchell: “Collaboration, Community, and a Sweater”
How PK got started in Dayton
Jill Davis of Dayton is credited with bringing the idea to town after establishing a handshake agreement with the parent organization in Japan and agreeing to host at least four PK nights each year. Eight speakers on a variety of topics entertained — and educated — 50 people in the audience. “It felt like an open-mic night,” Davis remembers. “There was good energy and it was fun!”
It wasn’t long before many other South Park residents had joined her to plan future evenings. What makes the Dayton PechaKucha special, Davis believes, is that the venue is different each time. Events have been held in buildings ranging from the Dayton Art Institute and the University of Dayton to the K12 Gallery and the Gentile Building and the new Brightside venue.
These days a PK Dayton event typically attracts at least 300. “I kinda can’t believe it. I’m thrilled,” says Davis. “It’s become a natural networking event that attracts people who want to find things out. And it introduces people to new places in Dayton. A lot of people, for example, haven’t been to the Engineer’s Club or the Masonic Temple.”
Jason Antonick of Dayton has served on the PK planning team and has also been a speaker and an emcee. “You just don’t know what you’re going to get,” he says of the eclectic line-up. “You can hear someone talk about raising bearded dragons and the next person might talk about sex and sexuality. And the next one talks about ballet or 18th century literature.”
The great thing about the format, Antonick said, is that it moves so quickly. “If you like the topic, you’d better pay attention because it’s almost over,” he says. “And if you don’t like it, just remember that it will be over in a few minutes.” (Six minutes and 40 seconds, to be exact.)
His own topic was “Raising Butterflies and Moths.” “I took museum classes at the Dayton Museum of Natural History when I was a child,” he says. “When I did my presentation, a father of one of the kids I’d taken classes with at the museum came up to me teary-eyed.”
Katy Kelly, a librarian at the University of Dayton, is another member of the team and has handled marketing for the project. “I moved to Dayton in 2010, started going to PK and liked it right away,” she says. ” It was a great way to learn about Dayton and its people. You start making connections and have a real sense of community.”
Kelly believes the events have taught her to be more empathetic. “It’s about hearing other people’s stories that you wouldn’t hear otherwise,” she explains.
Although some have compared Pecha Kucha to the popular TED talks, Shayna McConville, a PK planning committee member and division manager for cultural arts for the City of Kettering, says there are some important differences.
“We prefer the grittiness of our presentations,” she explains. “They aren’t as polished, they don’t require so much time and effort. Ours are open to anyone; no auditions required.” Those who’d like to take the mic need only come up with a creative topic, write a script with 20 images to match. You don’t have to be a tech wizard; the committee will help you with the rest though it’s probably best to attend a PK night before participating. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s a raw event, ” McConville says. “Even though speakers submit their 20 images to us before the event, sometimes we haven’t even met the people in advance. Some people you may not think would be the best speakers turn out to be amazing!”