Pecha Kucha:

Strengthens community

Caitlin Taylor | Collegio Reporter

Pecha-Kucha Pittsburg invited students, community members, professors and faculty members to create PowerPoint slides with pictures, to tell a personal story of their choice.
The event was held in the student center on Wednesday, Feb. 22, and the variety of students, faculty and residents in attendance relaxed while listening to random stories from presenters.
Mark Johnson, professor in the College of Technology, says that Pecha-Kucha was created in 2003 by two Japanese architects: Klien and Dytham. Johnson says Pecha-Kucha means chitchat in Japanese.
“Basically, whoever is presenting puts together 20 slides of pictures, and they have 20 seconds for each slide to tell a story,” Johnson said. “It’s story telling with only pictures and no text or words on the slide. And if you mess up, there is no backing up or restarting; you just have to keep going.”
Johnson says the stories varied widely and can be used to broaden the audience’s point of view.
“The stories are widely ranged from personal stories, research stories, and even African-American leaders stories,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to help people create a free-flow exchange of ideas and foster free thinking. It’s perfect for artists because it allows people to walk through their galleries without actually having to go anywhere.”
Johnson says Pecha-Kucha is an international organization and there are 490 cities that host events like the one at PSU. He says 50 of those cities are performing this week, including PSU.
“We did three performances last year and are hoping to try and continue doing this on a monthly basis,” Johnson said. “We are currently trying to raise money to restore the Colonial Fox Theater, and once we do, we will be able to have these events monthly.”
Sarah Jensen was one of the performers at the event, and she is also helping to raise the money for the Fox Theater.
“We applied in 2010 for a matching grant from Save America’s Treasures Fund by the National Parks Service, to help raise money for the theater,” said Jensen, graduate in commercial graphics. “After 2010, when we were awarded the grant, the fund was taken off the national budget. So, we were grandfathered in so we can still receive it.”
Jensen says that to receive the grant, they will have to raise $500,000, which would be matched by the grant. Their goal is to have raised the money by October.
“Mark Johnson is really excited for it to open and really wants to have Kucha there,” Jensen said. “It will fit in very nicely with the other programs and lineups we are planning on having.”
The Pecha-Kucha event began with Johnson telling his own story about his PSU family and whom he has met along the way, after 31 years of being here.
“A great thing of being a family member of PSU is the everlasting relationships you make here,” Johnson said. “Students remember you forever and some even brought their families across the world just to come and meet me.”
The stories after Johnson varied widely, from the history of blues music by Devin Gorman, to African-American figures of PSU by Randy Roberts, to Percussion Zen: Summon & Axe by Susan Johns Smith.
Johnson also included four sets of improvisation PowerPoint presentations that allowed volunteers from the audience to make up a story to go along with them.
Marshael Almowallad says she volunteered for the second improvisation set, even though this was her first time coming to Pecha-Kucha.
“I was not expecting to do any improv,” said Almowallad, sophomore in medical technology. “I had just left a Student Government Association meeting and came down here to hang out with my friends.”
Almowallad says she wasn’t nervous when she came up because she was used to presenting, and she thought it was fun to try and make up a story to pictures she was seeing for the first time.
“It was really good and a pretty cool experience,” Almowallad said. “It helps create a laid back environment, and everyone in the crowd seemed to be having a good time.”
Norah Almazrua says she knew what Pecha-Kucha was, but she didn’t know what kind of topics the stories would be about.
“I wanted to see what it was about since this was my first time attending,” said Almazrua, graduate in human resources. “I heard it was really popular and really interesting and I wanted to see it for myself. It was really fun and also had a great amount of international value.”
Johnson hopes to make this a regular thing, especially with the restoration of the Colonial Fox.
“As of right now, Pecha-Kucha number five will be in April,” Johnson said. “And hopefully, monthly after that.”

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