PechaKucha: creative fun

Thursday August 23, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Over the past year, I've really grown to love spending my Tuesday nights in downtown Pittsfield.

I have a standing Tuesday reading date with Leonidas and Lawrence of Dublin (aliases of course) at The Marketplace Café. Afterward, we stick around for events like $5 Tuesdays at Beacon Cinema, Writers Room at yBar or other options.

Earlier this month (Aug. 14), instead of the movies, Lawrence of Dublin and I decided to try something new to us: PechaKucha Night at the Berkshire Museum.

The museum announced it would host four PechaKucha nights (PKN as they already clued in call them) earlier this year as part of a new event series.

Like many cool things, the PechaKucha concept apparently debuted in Tokyo, circa 2003. It draws its name from the Japanese term for the sound of conversation, or what we English speakers would describe as "chit chat."

It rests on a slideshow presentation format that is based on the following formula: 20 images x 20 seconds = six minutes and 40 seconds of creative and, hopefully, inspiring connections between the audience and the presenter. This is also known globally as the "20x20" presentation format.

A promotional email I received about the Aug. 14 event said, "Berkshire Museum brings you the coolest array of 6:40 presentations ranging from the travels of Captain Ahab to medieval minds to savory sandwiches. Free beer provided by Wandering Star Craft Brewery."

Promising indeed.

I did not know much about PechaKucha going into the museum. What I do know is, at the price of $5 (free for museum members), we didn't have much to lose.

The event is open to all ages, but beer drinkers will be carded at the museum's customer-service desk and given a wristband.

The doors opened about a half-hour before the presentations were to begin. Lawrence of Dublin and I mingled with friends we saw and made new friends (welcome Emma Kerr, new museum naturalist and educator) while standing in a lengthy beer line that stretched the length of the Gallery of Dinosaurs and Paleontology.

We smiled, watching some kids dig at fossils while adults balanced cups of beer and plates of snacks (crackers, cheese, brownies, strawberries, etc.)

Once we reached the front of the line, we were greeted by Wandering Star master craft brewer/founder Chris Post himself pouring plastic cups of Zingari (a Belgian witbier) and Thunderbolt American I.P.A.

He had a cup out for donations -- not for tips -- but for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which was just as refreshing to see as the brews.

Refreshments in hand, we headed to the museum's Little Cinema auditorium for the main event. The space was nearly filled to capacity.

Nate Winstanley, president of Winstanley Partners, warmed the crowd with the best and cheekiest of his company's advertising designs and campaigns. We also heard about leadership lessons learned from superheroes, a presentation by Thomas Bernard of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Local author Ty Allan Jackson presented work from his publishing company, Big Head Books.

Artist Diane Firtell showed photo illustrations and read haikus inspired by people she met at Guido's Fresh Market place. Another artist, Richard P. Britell, shared his novel "No Cure for the Medieval Mind," curated through the use of Pinterest.

The museum's own Lesley Ann Beck and Craig Langlois presented on the best sandwiches and the use of Mason jars in performing every day tasks or in fighting a zombie apocalypse.

In a very "Call Me Melville" kind of fashion, the mini-Ahab from the online novelty website, made an appearance with his first mate Geeg Wiles, to share his roving tales. (See the website to believe.)

The lively, quick presentations each drew their own shares of "oohs," "hmmms" and all brought laughter. I, for one, will never look at Mason jars in the same way again.

The evening included a beer break halfway through the presenters' list and time at the end to socialize and shop in the museum's lobby.

Lawrence of Dublin and I left bubbling with chatter for our own ideas for PechaKucha presentations.

The next and final PKN for the year, at least at Berkshire Museum, will be a special Halloween-themed event scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 30. You can catch other upcoming PKNs in neighboring regions as well.

If you're looking for something fun and creative to do with your night out, consider checking out PechaKucha. Trust me, it will leave you

To reach Jenn Smith:,
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink


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