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With the heat still bearing down on Rosedale Park around 8:30 p.m., PechaKucha San Antonio organizers waited until it had cooled off to get the rapid-fire presentation series started.
For the first time in recent memory, PechaKucha San Antonio busted out of its indoor, urban-core bubble and staged its storytelling event on the city’s Westside.
The heat, a change in lineup, last-minute emcee fill-ins, and the delay – more than three weeks following the May 30 rainout and nearly one hour past the scheduled starting time Wednesday – likely contributed to the slack energy emanating from the crowd of approximately 300. Food trucks and bartenders with cold beer drew most of the crowd until local artist and first-half emcee Gary Sweeney took the stage.
Sweeney got right to it, introducing the night’s first presenter, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center‘s Executive Director Cristina Ballí. Speaking on her home turf, Ballí dove into the history and trajectory of hyperlocal cultures, citing personal stories and anecdotes of Mexican-American artists, their struggles, and their accomplishments.
“Culture is about participation,” she said.
Small communities’ efforts of passing ingrained practices from one generation to the next have led to the formation of many influential organizations, which lend those cultures more credibility. Ballí pointed to the national recognition that conjunto has been gaining – an appropriate example since Rosedale Park is home to the Conjunto Festival, which will celebrate its 37th birthday in 2018.
As the public art curator for the San Antonio River Authority, Carrie Brown is elbow-deep in the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, which earlier on Wednesday gained another project approval from the City’s Historic and Design Review Commission. Brown’s intention for the temporary and permanent public art component of the creek is to reconnect the community to its historic beginnings.
“Share with me your stories and experiences, so we can share them with the city through public art,” she said.
The first section of the creek improvement will open May 5, in time to celebrate the city’s Tricentennial.
The crowd favorite, Meredith Doby, had the audience in giggles recalling some of the hits and misses she has experienced throughout her career of curating and maintaining museum exhibits, most recently the interactive ones at the DoSeum. A master’s in museum exhibition planning and design – “Yes, that’s a real thing, and you can get one of about five jobs in the country with that degree,” she quipped – as well as her own childhood influences guide Doby’s mission of teaching San Antonio’s children through doing. One of her favorite recent projects: getting kids “into the disco spirit” with a dance-themed exhibit. The 21-and-older crowd can get its groove on at the DoSeum’s Redo: Dot Com on June 29.
“Creative” John Mata has drawn inspiration for his art from the expansion and contraction of relational space, the tactile thrill of deejaying, and taking psychedelic drugs in Mexico City, but somehow he always felt like it wasn’t enough, “like I still needed to shed this external skin.” Personal experience has much to do with the graphic designer and musician’s creative process – perhaps so personal that it’s hard for the average audience member to grasp.
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After a quick beer break, former Spurs Coyote and the night’s second emcee Rob Wicall introduced visual artist Cade Bradshaw. Working with children informed a fundamental question that guides his work: “How do we build environments that contribute to the betterment of future generations?” For one, Bradshaw said, by letting whatever is happening in our heads come to life in art. But Bradshaw, who also is a trained biologist, approaches his work from a standpoint of science as well. The blend of those two approaches has resulted in projects such as Paper Cloud and Paper Sky with renowned artist Stuart Allen. Don’t underestimate the opportunities that San Antonio has to offer, Bradshaw told aspiring artists looking for their niche in the city.
The same day that San Antonio’s new mayor and City Council took the oath of office and celebrated their inauguration on the River Walk, Ron Nirenberg’s Deputy Campaign Manager Juany Torres took the stage at PechaKucha to share experiences from the election cycle. Praising Nirenberg, his staff, and the campaign’s many volunteers, Torres focused her six minutes and 40 seconds on the campaign’s motto of being “humble at heart.”
“We knocked on more than 70,000 doors,” Torres said. Presumably, more than one funny, scary, or awkward story came out of those 70,000 knocks, but Torres stuck to broad concepts and platitudes rather than giving those excited about the city’s new mayor a more personal glimpse into Nirenberg’s tribe and mission.
Every self-respecting Spurs fan knows who Spurs Jesus is. In real life, his name is Cord Maldonado, and he does more than wear sandals and a white robe adorned with silver and black. From a Halloween stunt of dressing up as Jesus and holding a “Jesus loves the Spurs” sign at a home game grew a recognized brand that Maldonado has been building ever since.
“I wanted to shine a light on a team that never got enough media recognition,” he said. “Also, I really hate shaving.”
Aware that some view his alter ego as blasphemous, Maldonado pointed to the charitable work that he’s been involved in through his growing brand. “It’s opened up collaboration with local artists, entrepreneurs, and area nonprofits” and contributed to the public’s positive perception of San Antonio and the Spurs.
PechaKucha San Antonio Vol. 27 will return to its roots at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre on Aug. 29.