For so many of us, 2019 will be remembered through a series of unthinkable events. However bleak our year, the optimistic spirit of Daytonians was unmistakable, and our community’s kindness and generosity far eclipsed hate and destruction. We often found ourselves converging to commemorate the good. As I reflect on 2019, I see many of these gatherings as reflective of our experiences, our desire to connect with each other, and a place for respect and appreciation as we process the world around us.
Several times in 2019, we gathered to share our stories during a PechaKucha event. In case you aren’t familiar with PechaKucha (or PK), here is a quick overview: PK is an event that started in Tokyo in 2003 by architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham. Their purpose was to create a fun, informal social event where stories could be shared, but long, boring presentations would be eliminated. They requested that speakers use a simple presentation format comprised of 20 visual slides that are timed at 20 seconds per slide. In 400 seconds, a speaker visually and verbally conveys a story to a captive audience. The PK experience caught on, and now “PechaKucha Nights” are hosted in over 1,200 international cities, including Dayton.
Celebrating our community was one reason that Jill Davis and Matt Sauer brought PechaKucha to Dayton in 2009. Over the past 10 years, PK Dayton has presented over 41 events, and included hundreds of speakers and thousands of audience members. Matt and Jill have since passed the PK baton to I, Katy Kelly, Mike Beerbower and Jason Antonick, and we continue to organize PK events four times a year.
In 2019, 37 people from our community presented their ideas, accomplishments, challenges and stories. As I looked back at 2019 through my PK Dayton lens, I connect what our speakers have shared to the spirit of our city. Here are a few examples.
Dayton is populated with local heroes – individuals and groups that dedicate their time and energy to the betterment of our community. Naval veteran Chef Thomas Johnson created Dayton Cooks, a West Dayton-based culinary arts job training program, presenting “Food for Thought: The Life of a Culinarian” with Dayton Cooks students catering the event. Lisa Grigsby of the Dayton Film Commission shed light on what it takes to be a film commissioner and economic development driver in her talk “Daytonwood,” including scouting regional helipads for a Mariah Carey production. Jes McMillan, a mosaic artist, shared “Community Artreach,” where collaborative efforts to create large-scale public art pieces throughout the region are a team effort. Amaha Sellassie presented “We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For” as he reflected on community organizing and advocacy work including the development of the Gem City Market in West Dayton which broke ground this fall.
Speakers often recognize the attributes that make Dayton unique. April Alford told the story of how local artists created a place for people of color to share their art in the Miami Valley and around the country, while offering arts education to community members in “Black Heritage through Visual Rhythms.” Sean Mitchell recognized that the greatness of Dayton was possible because of our collaborative nature and desire to work together for the greater good in “Collaboration, Community, and a Sweater.”
PK presentations are not always celebratory; presentations can be challenging and reflect our society’s shortcomings. Jacqui Taylor asked us to consider the under-representation of diversity in children’s books in “Long Overdue: Representation in Children’s Literature,” sharing the statistics gathered over the past few years that demonstrate this disparity. Joshua Weston shared his deeply personal story about a family trauma, a scandal and the stigma that effected his childhood in “Pew Baby.”
Other speakers shared humor: Samantha Enslen presented “The Secret Life of Barbie,” based on a childhood photo album that she and her sister created around three Darci Dolls and their documented adventures as models and martial arts experts. Lindsay Gustafson’s colorful, artist-inspired clothing (think Keith Harring prints or neon unicorns) mirror the art projects she makes with her middle school students in “Teaching the Arts: Fashion Edition.” Kristen Wicker recounts being scammed in “My Two Hours as a Federal Fugitive (or: Never Return a Call from the Social Security Administration)” with incredible illustrations by Josh Koenig.
Jacobee Rose Buchanan, an artist and librarian, shared “As NEVER Seen on TV” which chronicled her experience of leaving NY to move back to Dayton and help her HGTV-obsessed mom with rehabbing a fixer-upper – an ultimate test of DIY endurance along with unexpected critters, no plumbing, and insurance claims.
Another valuable aspect of PK is its nomadic nature. Taking place in different venues around the region helps motivate many of our audience members to visit a new neighborhood or building. We began the year at the Dayton Art Institute and learned about its remarkable beginnings 100 years ago through a Daytonian’s passion for the arts. We then took over the sanctuary at Grace Church, a vibrant community-centered space in the historic Dayton View neighborhood on Salem Avenue. We celebrated our 40th PK event at the newly renovated Liberty Tower (known previously as the Hulman Building) in downtown Dayton and admired the stunning art deco architectural details. We ended the year at The Plaza Theatre in Miamisburg, celebrating a 1919 movie theatre that was lovingly restored through community efforts.
This year was challenging, but this year also reminded me of why the people of our region are extraordinary. I remember the diverse stories our brave PK speakers shared, and the many connections that occurred with new and familiar faces in a crowd of people, I know we move into the New Year with hope, respect and compassion.
Save the Date for the first PK Night of 2020- Thurs, Feb 20th at the Dayton Art Institute