First time PechaKucha guest Amelia Lewis stands in front of the Majestic Theatre ticket booth in anticipation of the evening. Photo by Scott Ball.
First time PechaKucha guest Amelia Lewis stands in front of the Majestic Theatre ticket booth in anticipation of the evening. Photo by Scott Ball.

More than 1,000 attendees packed into the Majestic Theatre for the 20th PechaKucha San Antonio event on Tuesday night. The commemorative event was held in partnership with SA2020 to raise funds and recognition for the local nonprofit’s efforts to improve, connect, and engage San Antonio.

PechaKucha officials screened a congratulatory video from architects Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, who founded the first PechaKucha event in 2003 in Tokyo. Today, San Antonio numbers among the 882 cities that host PechaKucha events around the world.

Most San Antonians may not pronounce PechaKucha correctly, but the local event has successfully hosted 160 speakers and thousands of attendees since 2011.

“We’re so happy that our city has beyond the original premise of solely architects and designers showing their work to talk about everything from the philosophy of luck, to why you should buy a $4 croissant, to how to play competitive scrabble,” said Vicki Yuan, chair of the local PechaKucha volunteer committee.

“I think it’s says a lot about our city, where a small group of people can try something new and receive so much overwhelming support from the community and see our project grow every year.”

SA2020 President and CEO Molly Cox gave a tearful shout out to PechaKucha and SA2020 partners and donors like the Las Casas Foundation, which has supported both the event and nonprofit.

“You’re just amazing people who just want to help,” Cox said. As part of #GivingTuesday, all event profits went to benefit SA2020, and their community visioning goals.

PechaKucha emcee and WOAI-TV anchor Randy Beamer kicked off the event by asking questions and cracking jokes, noting that the large attendance numbers included “some hipsters in the crowd.”

Emcee and local news anchor Randy Beamer takes a photograph of attendees during an intermission. Photo by Scott Ball.
Emcee and local news anchor Randy Beamer takes a photograph of attendees during an intermission. Photo by Scott Ball.

Throughout the event, attendees enjoyed happy hour drinks and local bites from restaurants including Pharm Table, Esquire Tavern and Folc. Photographer Josh Huskin set up a free photo booth while artist Cruz Ortiz and Snake Hawk Press were busy screen printing items that guests brought to the show.

Here’s a quick recap of PechaKucha Vol. 20:

Doug Melnick

As the City’s first Chief Sustainability Officer, Melnick works to improve and ensure the sustainability of life and transportation in San Antonio. Melnick discussed the international climate talks in Paris, and why they were relevant to San Antonio

“They’re making sure that carbon emissions occur, and that climate change is under 2 degrees celsius,” Melnick said. “Anything above 2 degrees celsius is a gateway to dangerous global warming.”  

Melnick encouraged the crowd to fight climate change by planting new trees, growing their own foods, try composting, start using bikes and mass transit instead of cars, and to replace lights or turn off the lights.

“Unless we start really raising this as an issue, we’re not going to start making the changes that we need,” Melnick added.

Douglas Melnick, San Antonio's first Chief Sustainability Officer, spoke about necessity of city-wides changes due to climate change.  Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
Douglas Melnick, San Antonio’s first Chief Sustainability Officer, spoke about necessity of city-wides changes due to climate change. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

Laurie Ann Guerrero

When Guerrero wrote her first song at age eight, she dreamt of becoming a rockstar. Instead, the native Southsider has crafted a successful poetry career, serving as the current San Antonio Poet Laureate and was recently named the 2016 Texas Poet Laureate.

Guerrero comes from a family of talented storytellers, but she acknowledges her family’s past sacrifices in her success as a Latina artist.

“We make art because we carry our history on our backs,”Guerrero told the audience as she passed through black-and-white photographs of her own family and pictures of working children.

Guerrero credited the stories of her grandfather, who had to pick cotton rather than attend school, with inspiring her to pursue literature. Though she advocates literature and literacy in San Antonio, she remembers her past, her ancestors and the sacrifices made for her success. She continues to honor their memories and stories through her present and ongoing work.  

“You do not speak for the dead, the dead speak for you,” Guerrero concluded.

Poet Laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero shakes hands with Irby Hightower. Photo by Scott Ball.
Poet Laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero shakes hands with Irby Hightower. Photo by Scott Ball.

Jody Bailey Newman

Businesses like The Friendly Spot Ice House and Alamo Street Eat Bar may seem like fun, casual places for social interactions, but those interactions are important to growing networks, neighborhoods and cities.  Since 2009, Newman has created those ties through her restaurants and ice houses.

“You can advance a city through being friendly,” Newman said. “I’ve seen it so many times.”

She told the audience to look for opportunities to build an urban family, and to welcome new people to the community.

“One of the things I love about San Antonio is there’s so many things you can be a part of. None of us went to UTSA, but on Saturday, we’re Runners.” She encouraged people to not be fooled by appearances. “Funny looking people are doing amazing things in this town,” Newman said. “Don’t miss out.”

Newman shared colorful photos of herself as Queen Anchovy, her impressive impersonation of Chad Carey, and her family over the years. “People are going to think you’re crazy,” Newman said. “Do it anyway.”

Friendly Spot's Chief Friend Jody Newman walks through The Majestic moments before her presentation. Photo by Scott Ball.
Friendly Spot’s Chief Friend Jody Newman walks through The Majestic moments before her presentation. Photo by Scott Ball.

Kylie Helterbrand

As a local eighth grader, Helterbrand is the youngest local PechaKucha presenter to date, but she’s already begun improving her community. An honors student, self-described “band geek” and the first female quarterback at her school, Helterbrand is a representative for a new generation – one that doesn’t care for labels or limits.

“Don’t judge us by your standards or how you grew up, in fact, don’t judge us at all,” Helterbrand said.

She won’t graduate (or be able to vote) until 2020, but Helterbrand told audience members to start improving the world now. Helterbrand wants to see equal rights extended to all groups, regardless of gender, race, sexual identity or background. Helterbrand believes the key to change and equality begins with educational opportunities.

PechaKucha presenter Kylie Helterbrand and her friend Hunter Wall (right) pose for a photo in front of The Banana Stand. Photo by Scott Ball.
PechaKucha presenter Kylie Helterbrand and her friend Hunter Wall (right) pose for a photo in front of The Banana Stand. Photo by Scott Ball.

Mayor Ivy Taylor

San Antonio’s Mayor Taylor shared a lesser-seen side to her personality during her presentation titled “Breakfast, books, buildings.” Taylor admitted that her love for books, including her favorite novel Gone With the Wind,” had led her from a childhood spent in Queens, New York to an education at Yale, a career in public service, and a family in San Antonio.

Taylor urged the audience to search for opportunity and explore the surrounding communities in San Antonio.

“I see evidence of previous greatness,” Taylor said of San Antonio’s historic buildings and homes in San Antonio. “Then of course, we have our we have our Spanish colonial missions. I want all San Antonians to take the time and learn from that heritage.”

Mayor Ivy Taylor presents at PechaKucha2020.  Photo by Scott Ball.
Mayor Ivy Taylor presents at PechaKucha2020. Photo by Scott Ball.

David Heard

Heard, a founding member of Tech Bloc, has been fighting to keep STEM-related talent in San Antonio for years. Heard hopes to accomplish that through his work with the Tech Bloc movement, which recently helped bring rideshare back to San Antonio. Heard acknowledged that San Antonio was on the right track to creating new jobs and attracting young, creative talent through a strong urban core and beautiful history.

Austin should be seen “not as something that we should look North in angst, but we should look with partnership and open arms,” he added.

Techbloc Co-Founder and Tech activist David Heard socializes before the presentations begin. Photo by Scott Ball.
Techbloc Co-Founder and Tech activist David Heard socializes before the presentations begin. Photo by Scott Ball.

Tony Leverett

For Leverett, the Eastside Promise Neighborhood director, the verse “Moving on up to the East Side,” is a relevant life aspiration for everyone, not just for The Jeffersons. Leverett said he has always gravitated towards the Eastside of any city as a desirable place for community.

He acknowledged how SA2020 had helped connect all parts of the city, including Eastside San Antonio. Grants from the Eastside Promise Neighborhood, Eastside Promise Zone and the CHOICE Initiative will help fund and improve the educational and social opportunities of San Antonio.

“We finally got our piece of the pie,” Leverett added.

Director of Eastside Promise Tony Leverett gives his talk at PechaKucha2020. Photo by Scott Ball.
Director of Eastside Promise Tony Leverett gives his talk at PechaKucha2020. Photo by Scott Ball.

Steve McHugh

Chef Steve McHugh of Cured spoke about his passion for great service, sharing his story through quotes that had led influential people like his wife, mentors and friends through their own careers and lives.

“My lesson to my servers is ‘we do it because it makes us happy,’” McHugh told the crowd before sharing humorous and touching experiences from his childhood in Wisconsin and his days as a young chef in New Orleans. Other lessons included: surrounding yourself with people who share your high standards, creating an inviting environment for your guests and to keep a thirst for learning.

“It’s our job to exceed expectations, but you can only exceed them if you know what they are,” McHugh added.

Chef Steve Mchugh started his restaurant Cured after battling cancer.   Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
Chef Steve Mchugh started his restaurant Cured after battling cancer. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

The audience cheered for all event presenters before continuing the celebrations during the official after party at The Last Word. San Antonians can expect to see Pecha Kucha, Vol. 21, on February 23, 2016 at Paper Tiger.

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


Related Stories:

PechaKucha San Antonio 14: “Work Hard, and Don’t Be an Idiot.”

PechaKucha San Antonio Vol. 16: Empire State of Mind

PechaKucha 15: It’s Not Where You Are, It’s Who You’re With

PechaKucha Finds a New Home at Empire Theatre

PechaKucha Packs the McNay

Lea Thompson

Lea Thompson is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events. Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter or Culture Spoon.