20 slides, 20 seconds: PechaKucha slated for Levitt Pavilion

Speakers will share their passions on Sept. 1

No one knows quite how to pronounce it correctly, but that hasn’t stopped Pecha Kucha from blossoming in our area. The last live PK event, held on Feb. 22, 2020 at the Dayton Art Institute just before the world began to close down, attracted more than 400 who gathered to hear mini-talks on subjects ranging from rocks and photography to artmaking.

The big news is that the live event is back and will be held on the lawn at the Levitt Pavilion on Wednesday, Sept. 1. Everyone in the community is invited to head downtown with a blanket or chair and a snack. The event, as always, is free with donations appreciated. The correct pronunciation, by the way, is Pe - Chak - cha, Japanese for “chit chat.”

Over the course of a couple of hours you’ll be entertained and educated about a variety of subjects by members of our own community. Although the atmosphere is casual, the format is prescribed: 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each while the speaker provides narration. The result is that the evening moves along quickly and is seldom boring. About halfway through the program, there’s a break for drinks, snacks and socializing.

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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; Luther Palmer discussed “The Language of Numbers, and Why ‘Twelve’ Must Die.”

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 to show their work and to exchange ideas. After that, cities in Europe and around the globe began hosting the special nights. Dayton’s entrance came in 2009 and has been hosting local events since. It is now one of over 1,200 official PK cities.

Upcoming speakers

Emceeing the Sept. 1 event will be Sean Mitchell, who says he loves Daytonians’ thirst for stories and listening to one another. “The PK audience is so caring and gracious that it doesn’t matter if you are talking about a traumatic event in your life, or your favorite flowers,” he notes.

Expect to meet:

  • BK Elias, who has been creating murals all around Dayton, will discuss the art of mural painting in his talk, “Paint the City.” One of his murals is adjacent to the Levitt Pavilion.
  • Leslie Picca, a University of Dayton professor, will speak about the history of redlining in Dayton. Federal government programs and policies exacerbated housing racial segregation in the early 20th century with redlining maps. Nearly a century later, says Picca, we are still living with the legacy of this redlining from cradle to grave.
  • Charlie Campbell’s topic is Webster Station. In 1974 he started working there and in 2019, he moved there. “While this neighborhood has totally changed,” he says, what’s even more important is what’s now “under construction.”
  • Danny “Travado” Rodriguez has practiced and taught Capoeira, an African Brazilian Martial art, for almost 20 years. His topic? “Is that Breakdance Fighting?”
  • Tipp City artist Guustie Alvarado will talk about the intricate COVID mosaic wall she has created on her garage.
  • Shawn Green will discuss “Type Drawer Collections” and NaAsiaha Simon will share info about a local “Selfie Museum.”

Dedicated volunteers

Shayna McConville, who serves as division manager of Cultural Arts for the City of Kettering, has been involved with the project since it was first introduced to Dayton and continues to be one of the active volunteers who organizes each PR evening. Others on her team are Mike Beerbower, Jason Antonick and Katy Kelly. There is no paid staff. Donations at the events are used to help cover costs of the venue rental, photographer and technical crew.

“We spend many hours working together and, as volunteers, recognize the power of the event in bringing our community together for something special,” said McConville. " Each PK event feels unique.”

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Kelly, who works in the library at the University of Dayton, has handled marketing for the project. “I moved to Dayton in 2010, started going to PK and liked it right away,” she said. " It was a great way to learn about Dayton and its people. You start making connections and have a real sense of community.” She says the events have taught her to be more empathic. “It’s about hearing other people’s stories that you wouldn’t hear otherwise.”

How PK got started in Dayton

Jill Davis of South Park 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 once recalled. ”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 unusual, Davis always said, is that the venue is different each time. Events have been held in buildings ranging from the University of Dayton to the K12 Gallery , the Gentile Building and the Brightside venue.

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 said 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 believes, 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.”

Although some have compared Pecha Kucha to the popular TED talks, McConville says there are some important differences.

“We prefer the grittiness of our presentations,” she said. “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.”

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“It’s a raw event, " McConville said. “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!”

You can watch past presentations from around the world, including Dayton. Check out PechaKucha.com

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2440 or email Meredith.Moss@coxinc.com.


What: PechaKucha Night Dayton

When: 7:30-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 1

Where: Levitt Pavilion, 134 S. Main St., downtown Dayton

Admission: Free. Donations are appreciated and keep the event sustained.

All are invited to bring picnic blankets, chairs, food, beverages, and alcohol (alcohol will also be for sale).

Parking: Park in the Oregon District garage for $1; or park on the street for free.

For more information: Facebook or contact: pkdayton@gmail.com.

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