Lessons in history and looks at the future dominated the talks of seven presenters who took the stage at Trinity University’s Laurie Auditorium Tuesday night for 2017’s final installation of PechaKucha San Antonio.
The speaker series not only aimed to “bring together the best and brightest of the city,” it also encouraged the more than 600 attendees to engage with one another – or “mingle responsibly,” as News 4 San Antonio anchor Randy Beamer, the night’s first emcee, put it.
With a mere six minutes and 40 seconds to address the numerous Trinity students, alumni, and others in the audience, Trinity President Danny Anderson dived right into the university’s past. “It’s the journey that matters,” Anderson said of the school that occupied three locations in Texas before planting its roots firmly in the soil of the campus hosting PechaKucha. That journey created the connections necessary for Trinity to become “a university of the highest order,” one for which he, too, transplanted his roots. But the former University of Kansas dean and longtime lover of Mexican culture had another incentive to move to San Antonio: enchiladas.
The name O’Neil Ford rings a bell for many San Antonians, especially the Trinity community and architects. What some may not know is that the renowned Texas architect responsible for the design of most of the Trinity campus’ buildings between the 1950s and late ’70s had a younger brother, Lynn, who excelled in art, crafts, and woodwork. Author and artist Mary Lance, the second and arguably most adorable speaker of the night, filled the audience in on the man who taught her how to make ceramic light fixtures.
Lynn Ford contributed commissioned public and private art to San Antonio and decorative objects to Trinity’s Chapman Center and the Margarite B. Parker Chapel. Lance at one point paused to let attendees take in the images of Ford’s “disarmingly simple, yet sophisticated works” on a series of automatically advancing slides, prompting giggles from the crowd when she asked: “How can 20 seconds be so long?”
The power of public art lies in community-building, said artist Margarita Cabrera, whose forthcoming Arbol de la Vida: Voces de Tierra project at Mission Espada honors San Antonio’s ranching history. Shaped around themes of land, labor, food, and celebration, the public art piece gathered more than 700 people ranging in age from 9 to 85 years in charlas – community discussions – to put history in context and enhance it with personal stories. Participants created clay sculptures to be hung on the tree’s branches and to remind community members that, like clay, we are malleable. And though we may sometimes crumble, we always have the opportunity to rebuild ourselves as something stronger.
Having represented Texas’ 20th Congressional District for 14 years, Charles Gonzalez knows a thing or two about having to be malleable. “Time ripens all things; no man is born wise,” he began, quoting Miguel de Cervantes, followed by a heartfelt and humorous account of lessons bestowed upon him by great men in his life.
His father, who represented the same district from 1961-1999 and for whom San Antonio’s convention center is named, instilled in him the value of friendship and loyalty. U.S. Rep. James Langevin of Rhode Island, a quadriplegic due to an accidental shooting, taught him that “the human spirit – not physical capabilities – determine our destinies.” Various colleagues on both sides of the aisle proved that when people listen to one another, they can find common ground despite being polar opposites, he said.
In San Antonio, though we are “spread out geographically,” he said, “my dad would want us to come together again and find that common ground.”
Three glasses of wine during PechaKucha’s customary beer break got Ancira Auto Group Vice President April Ancira talking – but not about cars. Instead, the Trinity alumna shared her journey to “an unexpected Ironman.” Her quest to get back in shape after having children lead to her participation in a slew of competitive races, the next one coming up in – wait for it – April.
You can’t expect to keep local talent if you don’t pay them living wages, Magik Theatre founder Richard Rosen said, drawing whoops and hollers from the audience. The self-described “artistic architect” was once responsible for the late ’70s production Alice, a seminal piece of local theater that paid artists living wages and was popular enough to tour multiple cities.
Rosen’s focus shifted to fostering future generations of artists when he founded the children’s theater at his old stomping grounds at Hemisfair in 1994. “We have to educate a generation that appreciates art,” he said, and much of that lies in promoting literacy and education. Although he retired last year, Rosen sees the fruits of his labor when he finds former Magik Theatre students now on their own artistic path.
Leighton W.‘s path has been paved by strong women. As images of the local couturier’s designs flashed across the screen, he commended women who create and nurture empowerment when society is more inclined to deny them that right. Moving past times of “social, physical, and mental abuse,” Leighton hopes future generations will value “the one thing we all share” regardless of gender, skin color, and sexual orientation: our humanity.
With that, another year of PechaKucha San Antonio came to a close. The quarterly event will kick off its seventh season with Vol. 29 on Feb. 20, 2018, at the Magik Theatre.