Mayor Ivy Taylor addresses the crowd with news on ride share. Photo by Scott Ball.
Mayor Ivy Taylor addresses the crowd with news on rideshare during a Tech Bloc rally in August 2015. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Mayor Ivy Taylor was busy preparing a dish for a holiday meal with friends and family Wednesday afternoon. But she’s expected to bring a different snack – one for the minds crowded inside the Majestic Theatre for PechaKucha San Antonio’s 20th event. Thing is, she hasn’t really started yet.

“I don’t know 100% what I’ll be talking about,” Taylor said. While her staff has compiled a loose list of suggested topics, none of them have resonated with her so far. She will be only the second elected official to participate as then-Councilmember Diego Bernal (D1) presented during Vol. 10 in May 2013.

The original PechaKucha started at a club in Tokyo in 2003, but its influence can be seen in cities throughout the world.  When PechaKucha San Antonio began in 2011, the event attracted small audiences, between 50-100 people, but it has grown with the city’s creative (read: hip), and civically engaged circles. More than 1,200 people are expected to attend the milestone event on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

The evening features 20-image presentations from eight locals with a story to tell and they have 20 seconds per image slide to do it. It’s an intimidating environment, especially for someone who is more used to speaking at ribbon cuttings, luncheons, and City Council meetings like the mayor is. Happy, sad, insightful, informative – the approximately six-minute stories run the gambit of topic matter and tone but the most successful talks are usually the funny ones. The memorable ones are more performance than presentation.

So, will Mayor Taylor be funny?

“I’d like to be but I don’t know if anybody would get my sense of humor or how it would come across,” she said. “I’m actually a little bit nervous since I haven’t been to (a PechaKucha night) before.”

She’s been listening to archived audio recordings of previous events on the PechaKucha San Antonio website that also display the speaker’s slides. Videos can also be found on YouTube here.

Mayor Taylor’s presentation will join the ranks with dozens of creatives, entrepreneurs, and hard-working San Antonians. People like Erik Sanden and Ryan Parker, who presented a particularly funny show-and-tell featuring the memories and drawings of legendary music venue Tacoland during Vol. 12 at Southwest School of Art. And then there was Larry Wedige in Vol. 17 at the McNay Art Museum, a home inspector who once found a kitten stuffed in a mason jar in an attic. Jeremy Joseph, a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating PSTD, presented a fascinating series of drawings and explanations that described how dreams work at the Arneson River Theatre on May 26.

YouTube video

I mentioned to the mayor that the pre-show happy hour at 6:30 p.m. always includes some kind of alcohol at a cash bar, so the audience will likely be more receptive. “Oh, good. That helps,” she laughed, still nervous about the show.

The light-hearted and sometimes-awkward WOAI-TV Anchor Randy Beamer will also serve as an icebreaker Tuesday night as he has emceed almost every single PechaKucha San Antonio event from start to finish since its start at the Center for Architecture in the Full Goods Building at the Pearl.

Despite Beamer’s thorough experience he still jokingly struggles to pronounce PechaKucha (“Pet-chack-koo-chawe”) and feigns ignorance when a presenter talks about anything more nuanced than a hamburger. Most of the time, it lightens the mood.

Here is some advice to the mayor and future presenters from the PechaKucha home base:

“Good PechaKucha presentations are the ones that uncover the unexpected — unexpected talent, unexpected ideas. Some PechaKuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip. Some are incredibly personal, some are incredibly funny, but all are very different, and they turn each PechaKucha Night into ‘a box of chocolates.’”

This time around, organizers are partnering with SA2020, the nonprofit “community visioning” organization, for the upcoming PechaKucha. SA2020 is expected to soon release its mid-point review on the status of the 56 physical and social indicators of progress towards City goals set for the year 2020.

Taylor said the visioning process and data from SA2020 will provide a “foundation and springboard” into the City’s SA Tomorrow comprehensive plan for 2040.

This year, the price of tickets will be decided by attendees, sort of. Proceeds, anything after the $5 base that normally goes to PeckaKucha, will go to SA2020 as it participates in the national philanthropic #GivingTuesday campaign. The “name your own price” tickets are available online here.

Artist Cruz Ortiz and Snake Hawk Press will also be on site, screen printing flat items that attendees bring with them. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., but the festivities will continue at The Last Word  with an after party at 10:30 p.m.

Full Disclosure: The Rivard Report is a media sponsor of PechaKucha San Antonio.

*Top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor addresses the crowd with news on rideshare.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...