Art fills the presentation screen during PechaKucha Vol. 31 at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

On Tuesday night, two artists, a writer, a photographer, an attorney, and a designer walked into the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre. It was another PechaKucha San Antonio event.

The 31st PechaKucha San Antonio featured six speakers, who were each given six minutes and 40 seconds to talk.

State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) opened the event by urging people to vote. The next time PechaKucha meets again, an election will have happened, he said.

“Just know this – my predecessor, he won his election by one vote,” Bernal said. “Our current mayor was behind before his runoff, and MOVE [San Antonio] got involved and the folks they registered – that was the gap in the election. Elections matter, your voice matters, everything you think is possible is possible if you vote.

“Look, it’s a nonpartisan event, so if you want to keep things exactly the way they are – you should also vote because we’re coming for your ass,” he said to a cheering crowd.

Presentations began with self-described frontera artist Jose Ballí, whose collection “St. Mary’s Street” can be seen at the Gallery at MBS Yoga, closing on Aug. 31.

Jose Ballí talks about his art inspiration.
Jose Ballí talks about his art inspiration. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Ballí grew up in Reynosa, Mexico, and joked that he spent one-eighth of his life on the international bridge between the United States and Mexico. As he showed images of his childhood and his artwork, he told the audience that he studied geology in college and rediscovered the border that way, through geology research.

“The border is an amazing place with an extensive terrain,” he said. “Over 1,900 miles extending from the Gulf Coast, going through the Rio Grande, up into the Pacific. Imagine all the different families and people that are immersing themselves within the border.”

He said a lot of his work does highlight issues surrounding the border, but subtly.

“[Local artist] Ansen Seale has a saying, ‘Us fronterizos see both sides of the tortilla,’” Ballí said. “We understand we can come together and find common ground, and that’s something that’s lacking in today’s political culture. Even if you’re not like-minded, you’re human.”

Recent high school graduate and artist Bygoe Zubiate spoke about her art, which included a series of paintings of her friends’ crooked teeth and a plaster cast of her father’s hands.

“Both my parents are artists so I didn’t want to be an artist,” she said. “That didn’t work out.”

Bygoe Zubiate explains her work to the audience.
Bygoe Zubiate explains her work to the audience. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Zubiate’s father Peter – an artist and furniture maker who did his own PechaKucha talk in 2011 – died while she was working on the last artwork she showed, paintings of two people playing in the water. She started that piece trying to convey safety, she said, but it ultimately became about uncertainty.

Writer Sherry Kafka Wagner explained the impact words had on her life. Starting from childhood, she loved words, and now she writes for a living. She made her way to San Antonio to develop the World’s Fair, where projects began with words but ended in exhibits, buildings, urban projects, films, and television shows, she said.

Liberty Bar owner Dwight Hobart shared stories and photographs from his time in Beirut as a magazine and wire service photographer, before and during the Lebanese civil war. He shot many portraits, some of people holding guns casually while living in areas of conflict.

Attorney Monique Diaz, who is running for a district judge seat, spent her allotted time arguing whether Die Hard counts as a Christmas movie, sprinkling her talk with stories about her childhood and why she became a lawyer. Diaz ended her presentation by connecting the way she came to her Die Hard conclusion — it is indeed a Christmas movie — to how she thinks as a lawyer.

Henry R. Muñoz III closed the event by talking about his life, and how he came to be what he is today: a designer, philanthropist, activist, and financial chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

“I used to think that life was a journey,” he said. “Now I believe life is a design project and there are choices we can make, and it impacts not only our own life, but the lives of others.”

The next PechaKucha will be in December at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.