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Where Were We: Pecha Kucha at Dallas Center for Architecture
by Anne Bothwell 25 Jun 2010

Artists, designers, writers – anyone with an idea or project to share – show 20 slides, speaking for 20 seconds about each. Dallas gets its third Pecha Kucha night, and it goes over big.


The premise behind Pecha Kucha is simple:  Presenters – artists, designers, architects, writers, or anyone with an interesting idea to share – show 20 slides, and get 20 seconds to talk about each one.

Conceived in Tokyo, the concept has spread around the world.  And last night, The Dallas Center for Architecture hosted the third meeting of a Dallas/Fort Worth group.  (Manny Mendoza blogged for us about another group two years ago, and we reported on a merger earlier this year with Spark Club, so there may be others out there.)  Co-organizer Bryan Brian Murphy describes the event as a cross between creative sharing and show-and-tell.  To me, it’s like a salon on speed. And I mean that in the nicest way – a great catalyst for ideas, an opportunity to connect with others who are doing interesting work.

Such as? First up last night:  Comic book writer David Hopkins. As his slides of scripts and finished comics scrolled past, Hopkins talked about what he does – much more than filling in the words in the balloons coming out of characters’ mouths.  Hopkins says he frequently writes 20,000 words for his projects, of which perhaps 6,000 are actual dialogue. The rest are descriptions, ideas for images, word pictures that will guide his artist partners as they bring his characters to life. Then Hopkins segued into making points about artistic collaborations.  The idea of the artist almost always centers on an individual creator, which, he points out, completely overlooks the collaborations necessary to make movies, theater productions, video games, etc.  He closed with his tips for nurturing successful collaborations. Six minutes and out.


Architect Jonathan Brown, associate at JHP, a firm devoted to the concept of “whole community design.” He and his co-presentor, Melissa Joesoef, protested “too many brown buildings” and urged the architects and designers in the room to explore color. They showed  apartment and retail projects they’ve done in The Colony, Garland, Plano and Dallas,  awash in bright greens, reds, blues.

Speaking of color, Fort Worth artist Joyce Martin showed off some of her work using salvaged plastic trash – specimen cases, cable packaging ties – to create brightly-hued organic shapes that resemble thistles and pods, coral, barnacles (slideshow here). Martin was inspired by the floating trash islands … and she bases some of her work on the idea of building an island out of your trash and her own.  One of the wonderful things about being an artist, she observes, is that “you get to change what’s reality by your own interpretations.”

Scott Horn also touches on environmental issues in his work, such as an installation recreating the High Five interchange, made from canvas and hung from a ceiling; or a collection of “jellyfish” made of plastic bags and water bottles. But empowerment was the spine of his message: “Anyone can create culture in their community.” He quickly traced his own path, beginning with Pink House in Lawrence, Kansas then, in Dallas, helping create Pigeon Stone Project and Art Conspiracy, turning the Magnolia Theater lobby into a gallery, and collaborating on shows like FuNction in the Cedars.  He closed with a shout-out to others, such as photographer Ange Fitzgerald, who are spotting needs and opportunities and then making them happen.

Brad Goldberg closed out the first half of the evening with his stone sculptures – enormous and painstaking works  installed in the Miami and Dallas airports, above an abandoned quarry in Scotland. Six giant stone eggs lined with solar panels in China. Work in Allen, Fair Park’s Dart station, and coming soon, a water tower in Addison. (Photos of many of these can be seen here.)

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the second round of talks. I missed artists Brad Ford Smith and Nancy Rebal, toymaker Edward Ruiz, paper conservator Tish Brewer, muralist Chris Arnold and furniture maker Sean Springer.

Pecha Kucha joins what seems to be a growing collection of local groups fostering idea sharing and networking. Some, like Pecha Kucha, stop there; others seek to forge new partnerships or accomplish a goal.  Not all of them are arts-related. I’m thinking of events like Art Conspiracy and Pin Show; networking groups like Spark Club or Net Impact,  conferences like TedXSMU and Big Bang (which threw together social entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and non-profits earlier this month).   Hat tip to Jim Schutze who noticed energy shifting in Oak Cliff in a column about efforts to build community gardens there and make it biker-friendly.

Regardless of where any of this might lead,  an evening spent absorbing snapshots of cool projects going on around town reminds one – hey, you know, there are really some cool projects going on around town – and might just inspire you to start your own.

Check back here for the next Pecha Kucha event. Know that they “sell out” quickly. The event is free, $5 donation suggested at the door, but tickets are required. There was a lengthy waiting list for last night.


1)You can read a q/a with Sarah Jane Semrad, co-founder of Dallas chapter of Pecha Kucha over on Front Row.

2.) Neat idea, but how the heck do you pronounce that word? Brian Murphy pronounces it PeCHOCKcha. That is slightly different from this.

  • Seeing how people actively pursue public issues they think should be improve upon, or what people have done in order to follow your dreams, or simply someone taking the time to show an audience of 150 people what gives them happiness is a wonderful experience, and very inspiring.

  • Pingback: Speaking of Pecha Kucha « Joyce Martin Studio: News and Notes()

  • Anne Bothwell

    @Brad: I couldn’t agree more. Nicely said. @Joyce – thanks for the link.

  • I’ve been following the “Whole Community Design’ project and it was thrilling to see Jonathan and Melissa of JHP discuss there work! Plus, I’m in love with the ‘whole’ Pecha Kucha concept. Thanks for a great informative fun night!