20×20: A PechaKucha Night to remember

The 33rd Volume of PechaKucha Night in Waterville—sponsored by Team PK, WatervilleCreates!, and the Waterville Public Library—kicked off on Oct. 3 at 7 pm in the Waterville Opera House. PechaKucha Night (pronounced pe-chak-cha) started out as a one-off event in Tokyo in 2003 held by Klein Dytham Architecture to promote discussion amongst architects. Soon, however, it took off globally, and is now presenters from a variety of careers and disciplines are participating in PechaKucha Nights in over 1,000 cities, Waterville being one of them.

The basic concept of PechaKucha Night is a bit like a slideshow presentation one might give in class. Presenters get 20 slides with 20 seconds of talking time for each, totalling up to a little under seven minutes. The slides automatically change, so there’s no delaying or going over your time—once the slides are done, the presenter is done, too.

The theme for Waterville’s 33rd PechaKucha Night was “Crafts”, inspired by the upcoming Maine Crafts Weekend. Olga Merrill, a Russian-born photographer, was the first presenter of the night and used her 20 slides to showcase her photography. Each photograph, blurred and doubled upon itself, revealed a new landscape, tracing Merrill’s journey from Russia to Maine and beyond. Her images of these places served as a travel journal of sorts, documenting the places that made her who she is today. 

“A few years ago, I stopped in Moscow, and I hadn’t been in Moscow in years,” Merrill said, gesturing up at a slide of a church with the famous “onion domes”. “The golden domes in twilight refreshed my memory, and I was deeply lost in this scene.”

Indeed, when looking at Merrill’s photograph, it is easy to feel the same way she felt, the hazy outlines of the church making it feel like a long lost memory. Her images, framed by stories of her childhood, took the audience back with her into the past.

Another presenter, Helena Melone, also shared her craft of silk-painting with the audience in her slides. An artist, dancer, and self-named “creative empowerment facilitator”, Melone spoke of how silk painting changed her mindset for the better. 

“[Silk] reminds us of our, evanescence, of our interconnectedness,” Melone said, displaying a variety of  her silk landscape paintings. “I love that I can’t erase dye-resist or paint. It requires me to loosen up, to trust and not try and control it much. In this way, it is healing.”

However, despite the theme, not every presenter was an artist. Waterville resident Faye Nicholson, who describes herself as “a people-person run amuck”, spoke about her local non-profit organization Revitalizing the Energy in Maine (REM).

“We’re building democracy in America, ladies and gentlemen,” Nicholson said, smiling. “Starting right here in Maine, in Waterville.”

REM supports a network of citizen volunteers hoping to improve life for their communities in Central Maine. Their initiatives include “Protect Human Potential”, “Beautify the Environment”, “Excel in Education”, “Empower Youth”, and “Expand Fitness and Recreation”, among several others. The organization has been doing work in Central Maine since 1996 and Nicholson has been there for the entire journey.

“When people look back at me, at my life, I hope they say ‘she was a creative person’,” Nicholson said of her legacy. 

Several other Maine residents—including Emily Davis, Sarah Doremus, Chris Kein, and Sandra Alastronia Tomasco—presented at PechaKucha Night, speaking about what the word “craft” means to them. For some, it was literal, a showcase of artistic ability; but for others, it was simply about the impact they left on the world.

For information on the next PechaKucha Night in Waterville, check out watervillecreates.org.