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Presenters at the Berkshire Museum's PechaKucha Night discuss 20 slides for 20 seconds each. Photo courtesy Berkshire Museum

PechaKucha at the Berkshire Museum: 400 seconds of creative sharing

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By Wednesday, May 9, 2018 Arts & Entertainment

Harry Park. Photo courtesy Berkshire Museum

Pittsfield — Harry Park, public program specialist at the Berkshire Museum, underwent a particularly unique interview process when he applied for the job just two years ago: He was asked to prepare a PechaKucha presentation. Luckily for Park, a graduate of Colby College who hails from Los Angeles, he was familiar with the format (20 slides at 20 seconds each), nailed the presentation and landed the job. Today, Park’s job description includes organizing and hosting quarterly PechaKucha Nights at the museum. This Thursday (May 10) at 7 p.m., the Berkshire Museum will roll out PechaKucha Night #20: Celebrating Knowledge featuring, among other creatives, a selection of local schoolteachers from Berkshire County.

PechaKucha presentations are concise and fast-paced; the name itself is the transliteration of an onomatopoetic Japanese term (ペチャクチャ) that means chit-chat. The presentation format was devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, of Klein Dytham architecture, based on their shared professional observation that architects talk too much. The partners’ experience was not unique to their field. Their belief—give a microphone and some images to an architect and they’ll go on forever—is true of most creatives. This realization ultimately fueled the first PechaKucha Night, which was held in Tokyo in February 2003. In the ensuing 15 years, the trend has really taken off.

Pittsfield ranks among more than 1,000 cities around the world where PechaKucha Nights are now happening. In fact, the Berkshire Museum has an annual handshake agreement with PechaKucha HQ to run its event series. This ensures that each PechaKucha Night is relevant to the city in which it takes place and can create a unique platform to uncover that city’s creativity. The Berkshire Museum’s involvement in PechaKucha supports the museum’s mission, one aimed at “Bringing people together for experiences that spark creativity and innovative thinking by making inspiring educational connections among art, history, and natural science.” Park is admittedly passionate and sheds an interesting perspective on the role of museums: “The museum holds this really interesting space in the community, and it is evolving to become more than a place to look at objects and paintings,” he explained. One of the things that drew Park to his current post is that these connections need not happen in front of a piece of fine art. “Museums are putting themselves out there to be a space for learning,” he added, making it clear that this education can come both from the museum’s collection and those we encounter while there.

A recent PechaKucha Night at the Berkshire Museum. Photo courtesy Harry Park, Berkshire Museum

Park’s enthusiasm for PK Night, as he calls it, is evident. “We like to bring people together, to share ideas, to spark innovation and creativity,” he said. And the premise is really simple: to facilitate connection among community members. As to the appeal? Most cities, from Tokyo to Pittsfield, have few public spaces where individuals can show and share their work in a relaxed way. Enter PechaKucha Nights, informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and share their ideas, works, thoughts, holiday snaps—just about anything, really—in the PechaKucha 20×20 format. It is also a opportunity for presenters and audience members to mingle, make connections and network. “It brings me great joy to see others’ reactions,” said Park. “They leave so much more satisfied than when they originally came,” he added, noting that the combination of new and familiar faces he sees in the audience suggests that the community is interested in learning more about creative projects in the Berkshires as well.

A slide is shown during PechaKucha Night at the Berkshire Museum. Photo courtesy Berkshire Museum

“I look forward to PechaKucha because I get to learn so much of what’s going on in our neighborhoods,” says Park. “The creative works and projects from the artists who present, the passion and the motivations behind why the familiar individuals we see in the community are doing what they are doing, and the efforts folks are putting into creating a diverse, culturally-rich, and creative landscape are all so fascinating and inspiring to see. In addition, the 20×20 format forces speakers to get creative. I always look forward to seeing how each of the speakers interpret and interact with the 20×20 PK format,” he added.

Thursday’s PechaKucha Night #20 (May 10) will include presentations by Jess Sweeney, Pooja Karina, I’in Purwanti Cox, Carole Castonguay, Parker Chandler, Mackenzie Greer and Howie Marshall. In addition, there will be a cash bar provided by Balderdash Cellars, a local Pittsfield winery. The event, which begins at 7 p.m., will be held at the Berkshire Museum, located at 39 South St. Admission is $5. For more information or to inquire about presenting at an upcoming PK Night, email hpark@berkshiremuseum.org.

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