Last month, Bunnell Street Arts Center rolled out a new form of storytelling in Homer: PechaKucha 20×20.
The brand name for a format devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture, PechaKucha emphasizes brevity and quick presentations to share certain dimensions of personal experience, often related to explaining or sharing one’s work involvement. For this particular project, the goal is to share a variety of personal skills, talents and diverse expertise that contribute positively to the larger community identity of Homer.
Sponsored by Bunnell on July 25 at The Shop: Kachemak Bay Art Space off Bear Creek Drive, nine people spoke in the first of a three-part series of PechaKucha talks titled “A Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea.”
While similar to the storytelling programs inspired by The Moth, and as seen in Anchorage’s Arctic Entries, Homer’s Spit Takes or Soldotna’s True Tales Told Live, the PechaKucha format adds a visual element. It provides each speaker with 20 PowerPoint slides that self-advance every 20 seconds. Some speakers use script and others just speak with the imagery he or she provides.
“Pechakucha was the format that inspired this idea in the first place,” said Brianna Allen, the Bunnell staff member who brought the event to Homer. “The fast paced tempo of impassioned people sharing personal causes is invigorating for an audience. I also love the creative place-making aspect of the rotating venue. I’d love to take it to unconventional venues, public or private, such as a yurt, a high-tunnel or a hangar. The whole experience to me is like a tall glass of water: leaving me feeling restored and filled right up.”
To select the first presenters, Allen said, Bunnell reached out to form a panel of other people potentially interested in helping get the event off the ground.
“From there, we formed a group list of possible presenters and individually followed up,” she said. “Having a diversity of speakers is one of the most important parts about this event.”
Contributors in the first of the series included Conrad and Eryn Field, Emily Garrity, Jeff Lockwood, Steve Baird, Paula Martin, David Pettibone, Heidi Aklaseaq Senungetuk, Sarah Robertson and Jeffrey Dean.
With a nearly full audience of community members, Allen introduced the digital show.
“This is something I’ve been dreaming of for years,” she said. “This is the pilot project and we’re really trying to gauge the local interest. This is all a big experiment at this point.”
Then, in turn, each of the contributors took to the microphone and with their digital slides advancing in the background, spoke.
The Fields discussed Antarctica and the Arctic, the intricacies of ecosystems and various adaptations that humanity is instigating.
Garrity shared Twitter Creek Gardens with an explanation of what a bio-intensive garden entails and how it operates with a successful market component.
She closed her talk by saying, “I’m your neighbor and I planted 30,000 carrot seeds; please come get one.”
Lockwood, who works at KBBI Public Radio, spoke on the intricate relationship between audio and sound. His description of the mechanics between the two similar terms included many visual details that helped clarify the difference.
Baird, with the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, talked about the role of coastal erosion in the Kachemak Bay area and included dramatic imagery of where the bluffs in town used to be located compared to where they are now.
“I don’t love sea level erosion, but I love understanding how it works. Let’s share it,” he said.
Martin’s point of interest was entomology, particularly aquatic insects.
Pettibone’s discussion was related to art and painting and the various ways of using oil (or colored mud) to add texture to features such as faces, bark and scales.
Senungetuk gave her presentation partially in Inupiaq with translations in English. The languages weave throughout the story as she expressed her personal experiences in Alaska Native studies and in a post-doc in Indigenous Studies at McGill University. She concluded by stating, “Today and in the future, we all live together.”
Robertson, with the Homer Birth and Wellness Center, shared her values on the role of birth in a family context.
“A normal birth is a natural experience,” she said.
She concluded by repeating, “peace on earth begins with birth” and “the less we do the more we gain.”
The final presenter was Dean with a piece titled “Sources of Inspiration: Fueling Your Creative Fires.” This piece explored wood-carving and, as the title suggests, a more philosophical dimension of fire.
After the show, conversation buzzed about the presentations.
“People who had been solicited to be a presenter excitedly confirmed they would participate in the next two show volumes,” Allen said.
Though the direction for where this is headed as a community event is not entirely clear yet, it’s an innovative way to share community interests.
One of the beauties of the presentations as an entire collection was that each speaker made his or her awareness of the chosen topic simple. Conversation was typically clear and casual without excessive background details. This simplicity made it easy to digest a diverse assortment of topics. And, in each one there was a genuine sense of compassion for how the feature discussed has influenced the person’s life.
The audience, in general, was very receptive to the dialogue context of performance. Each piece received substantial applause from clearly supportive listeners. There was a subtle undertone throughout the presentations that implies the necessity of holding an awareness of community as a shared space. There are values and benefits that can increase exponentially when this is considered with a positive point of view rather than a focus on the dimensions of community which might create more conflict.
The next volume of talks will be 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22 at the South Peninsula Athletic and Recreation Center in Homer. Topics will include salmon in Bristol Bay, guitar building, mental health, cannabis and Kachemak Bay shellfish farming. Planning for the third volume is still in the works.