Five years ago, when I was a senior in high school, an event like PechaKucha San Antonio wouldn’t have happened in this city. Impossible. Or, if it would have happened, it would have been smaller and not as well attended. Now, after having been away for some years, I’m relieved to experience something like PechaKucha, where like-minded individuals come together to celebrate one another.
I didn’t have an inkling as to what PechaKucha was before going to the Arneson River Theater Tuesday night. I’d heard people talk about this mysterious event, but when I dug deeper into what exactly happened during PechaKucha, I was told that I must attend the presentation to fully understand.
Now I know what they meant. It’s not so much that the event itself is that complicated. Eight people who do interesting things with their lives speak about their passions. Each person is given 6:40, 20 slides times 20 seconds, to share their passions. What makes PechaKucha is the people who attend the event. Since arriving back in San Antonio, I’ve never seen so many hip people in one place. Young men sported cuffed jeans and button down shirts, and older ladies embraced their natural salt and pepper hair color.
The night started off tamely. Esteemed author and historian Lewis Fisher spoke about the making of the River Walk, a Depression-era endeavor that began as a three-mile project in 1939 that has since morphed into a 15-mile stretch that attracts tourists from all over the world.
Architect Brantley Hightower spoke about his book “The Courthouses of Central Texas,” which centers around the foundational architecture of county courthouses in Texas. Snatching time from family and small babies, Hightower traveled to small towns to photograph the courthouses, capturing their impact on the surrounding town. Hightower said he was shocked to find these well-constructed government buildings throughout Texas, a mostly red state that tends to stray away from celebrating the government.
Psychologist Jeremy Joseph, who is interested in how we relate to our dreams, spoke about his job of working with patients who suffer from nightmares. Public Radio journalist David Martin Davies used the hallucinogenic cactus, peyote, as a way to engage the audience to think about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
As the night wore on and drinks were gulped down, the subject matter took a creative turn. Artists took the stand, unveiling their obscure lifestyles and fresh ways of thinking. Avi Avalos is known as “Mr. Piñata SA” around town. He was dubbed the name because he dresses the part, covering himself from head to toe in tissue paper and bringing the piñata to life. Avalos serves as the cultural ambassador for San Antonio and travels around the country to spread the city’s culture.
Speaker Amanda Bianchi works at Cinnabar Art Gallery and is a style contributor for the LGBTQ publication, Out in SA. She’s an illustrator who uses her pen, which is often nearly drained of ink, to express the imperfections she sees in the world, such as “how the funniest people (she’s) ever met often turn out to be the most depressed” and the “struggles we face between doing something ‘right’ and something that feels ‘natural.’”
Musician and road trip enthusiast Libby Wardlaw Maddin told the crowd about her obscure lifestyle on the road, and Helena Zambrano and Corey Squire, who are both sustainability coordinators at neighboring architecture firms, awed the audience with their eco-friendly lifestyles.