Producer, singer and PechaKucha veteran Alyson Alonzo will host the speaking event for its in-person return at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

PechaKucha is back. Following a two-year hiatus due to a pandemic-related stoppage of large gatherings, the 40th instance of the popular speaking event returns March 3 at the San Antonio Botanical Garden outdoors on the lawn of the Betty Kelso Center.

Vicki Yuan, principal organizer of San Antonio’s version of the worldwide event, said the venue and timing are ideal to move PechaKucha from online presentations, as it’s done for the past two years, to an in-person event.

“We wanted to do it with confidence, safely, and felt like the spring, outdoors, would be about the right time,” Yuan said. “It’s going to be extra special because we have an even greater appreciation for being around each other in person. There’s no replacement for that.”

As in previous PechaKucha presentations, the seven speakers are each charged with showing 20 images for 20 seconds each, for a total of six minutes and 40 seconds. The goal is for creative-minded and entrepreneurial people to speak concisely and engagingly on topics of their choice.

On the occasion of Women’s History Month in March, the lineup of speakers includes several prominent San Antonio women: first lady Erika Prosper Nirenberg, poet laureate Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, chef Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin, ethnobotanist Maeve Bassett, and Mara Nathan, senior rabbi at Temple Beth-El. Tyler Ybarra, described as a “coffee pioneer,” and Heyd Fontenot, an artist and director of contemporary art space Sala Diaz, round out the group.

The San Antonio Botanical Garden is a particularly appropriate venue for Bassett, who researched its native plants collection in 2020 for an expanded education program and is now the garden’s conservation and volunteer programs specialist. Bassett is currently exploring Tex-Mex cuisine “and how the history of Southern Texas led to its creation,” according to her website.

PechaKucha organizers keep the content of the presentations secret ahead of the event, allowing each speaker the potential to surprise their audience. However, in the event announcement, several hints are offered: Prosper Nirenberg maintains a strong interest in empowering young women, Nathan regularly works out at Mission Crossfit, Fontenot “deftly mines the trauma of a Catholic upbringing in conflict with his queer identity,” and Ybarra left a career in political science to discover his true passion, to “uplift the Latino community and showcase another side of coffee culture.”

Whatever the case, Yuan promises that the event will be an opportunity for fun, learning and togetherness.

“We really miss seeing our friends and our community, and we’re excited that we can actually bring it back,” she said.

Musician and PechaKucha veteran Alyson Alonzo will play host for the evening, following a welcome reception starting at 6:30 p.m. and featuring a cash bar and complimentary samples of food prepared by local chefs and restaurants. Tickets are $7 in advance or $10 at the door, with advance tickets available for purchase through Eventbrite.

Disclosure: Nicholas Frank participated in PechaKucha vol. 37.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...