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An Unpronounceable Culture

November 5, 2012

Pecha Kucha Dayton returns for 13th edition

Back in 2009, writer Jill Davis was looking for a way to merge the momentum of Dayton’s urban renewal efforts with a salon-type event—a fresh way to celebrate the creativity and diversity of the Dayton region.  In August of that year, Davis launched Pecha Kucha Dayton, Volume 1, featuring eight artists and community members speaking on a variety of topics.  Done in the strict 6 minute, 40 second format that defines one Pecha Kucha presentation—20 slides, 20 seconds per slide—the event demonstrated the strength of the Dayton creative community in meaningful snapshots of different topics.

Matthew Keener presenting about his local farm at Vol 12.  Photo by Liz Cambron

Three years later, Volume 13 is around the corner and the event is still going strong.  Already at an inventory of 98 presenters, over a hundred presentations, a dozen host locations, and a loyal following, PK Dayton is a landmark happening four times a year.  Through the volunteer efforts of its participants and organizers and the generosity of event sponsors and the hosts, PK Dayton is a testimony to the get-up-and-go character of an extraordinary community.

What keeps Pecha Kucha Dayton, an event that almost no one can properly pronounce, moving forward with such a positive reception?  Perhaps the following:

  • It brings diverse people together
  • It fosters learning in an easy-to-digest format
  • There is something for everyone
  • It celebrates the local community
  • It’s fun

All of these factors, as well as the efforts of a few volunteer organizers, have sustained PK Dayton.  Davis still coordinates the events, and is continually impressed by the impact each has. “The thing about PK is its simplicity,” she said.  “There’s not much to say about it; you have to show up and feel it, it’s an experience. Yes, you can transcribe Burt’s PK, but it’s nowhere near the experience of his delivery and the place and the people and the energy of that night. You can’t predict it, and you probably can’t exactly repeat it.”

  Juliet Fromholt, speaking on how to overcome writer’s block.  Photo by Steve Bognar.

Along with Davis, architect Matt Sauer has been instrumental in the past several years of PK events.  Sauer attributes its success to many factors.  “Partly, I think it’s become this extension of communities that existed loosely online—people who are interested in and invested in Dayton, and doing really cool things here…and it’s a party; a party for Dayton’s creativity,” he said. “The other part is this element of chance. We take a risk inviting someone to speak and they completely inspire the audience. You might get that from a TED talk, but it’s way cooler to get it from your neighbor who has a basement letterpress.”

Since Volume 1’s inaugural speakers, the range of presentation topics are diverse, plentiful, and remarkable.  Just within the last year, audiences have learned about amateur radio, an IKEA lamp assembly nightmare, the materiality of printmaking, a passion for beer, overcoming writer’s block, arts patronage in Dayton and beyond, the US system of taxes and their relationship to staircases, life-changing travels, and much, much, more.

Audience members at Vol. 12.  Photo by Liz Cambron

It would seem that the number of presenters on topics, no matter how creative, would start to dwindle after a certain number of PK events; instead, people come out of the woodwork to discuss issues of importance to them and to an audience.  Between Davis and Sauer, it is hard to pinpoint a favorite.  Sauer writes, “Honestly, my favorite always changes. I think I’ve decided on one, and then Jill reminds me of another. “Oh yeah, that one was really great…”

The next PK event takes place at the Fifth Street Brewpub, a space in historic St. Anne’s Hill in the process of a renovation through the DIY efforts of its neighbors. Presentation topics include the steampunk movement, a community voices project, an artist’s perspective of her painting, a local sewing initiative, Legos, and a house history investigator.

To learn more about the international organization of Pecha Kucha, as well as its pronunciation, visit www.pecha-kucha.org.  PK Night Dayton, Volume 13, takes place on Thursday, November 8.  For more details on the event, and to stay current on the latest PK Dayton news, visit www.facebook.com/pkdayton.

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