The gallery space was packed with what appeared to be the largest PK crowd yet, and the Alamo beer and food by Tim the Girl went quickly.
This edition of PK was the first to take place with the support of the San Antonio Area Foundation’s SA4Good program, which allows the Area Foundation to serve as fiscal agent for PK SA, providing "individuals, groups and newly-formed organizations an opportunity to concentrate on their primary mission and purpose" by lending technical and administrative support, according to vice president for development and donor services Carrie Gray.
Alex Rubio, Artist
Serving a s studio manager and artist-in-residence for Blue Star’s MOSAIC program, Rubio walked the audience through the public art projects and murals that he and high school students undertake in the free, after-school art education program.
Youth are recruited directly from their art departments in area schools and have the opportunity to engage in commissioned projects as well as prepare their portfolios. “We are leaving behind these landmarks for our community,” Rubio said, as images of large paintings, tile art and mosaiced benches filled the screen.
Mary Cantú, Master Re-user
Recalling the way she landed her dream job—an arts education advocacy position—and subsequently loosing it due to slashed public education funding, Mary Cantú stated with resolve: “I refuse to let creativity and the arts slip from our schools because of lack of resources.” Spare Parts, a sponsored project of a non-profit arts service organization Fractured Atlas, works to connect educators and artists with donated items that might otherwise be thrown away.
“When donations come in,” Cant said, “we never know what to expect,” displaying photos of cowboy hats, a beehive that could be used in teaching math or biology, and fake flowers.
“My goal,” the artist and educator said, “is to create a sustainable model for dynamic learning and teach our community the environmental and monetary benefits of reuse.”
Mark Schlesinger, Painter
With a slew of public art commissions in San Antonio and elsewhere under his belt (Near to There, Up on the On, On Down, for example) artist Mark Schlesinger drew connections between loneliness, community, solitude, the viewer and the artist.
“I realized the power of public art to reveal a place where one can experience an presence of self and an awareness of physical and psychological connection to others and the environment,” he said, as images of his large-scale, brightly colored works appeared.
Describing the effect a creative project can have on a physical space he said, “The space becomes a place that we share and become responsible for … The suffering of loneliness is cured by our awareness and our acknowledgement of that which is around us all the time.”
Doris Palmeros, Graphic Designer
Melissa Guerra, The Esquire Tavern, Minnie’s Tavern and Rye House, Special Projects Social … As slides flipped by displaying some of the very familiar projects that graphic designer Doris Palmeros has undertaken, either by herself or as a part of the Giles Design team, the thought that echoed through my mind again and again was, “Wow, she did that one, too?”
Palmeros, a native of Laredo, Texas, described, how as a product of a bilingual environment, she never felt at home in either language, saying, “I see typography as a bridge between the visual and the verbal … “I have found that I can often express in typography that which I cannot express in words alone.” Her projects, many food based and many the result of a gourmet-food-for-design barter, evoke a particular feel, personality and even era. With the Esquire, for example, “our goal was to reinvent the oldest bar on the River Walk while paying homage to it’s past.”
Danette Schweers, Emergency Veterinarian
“If you think I’m going to show you a bunch of cute fluffy animals,” said veterinarian Danette Schweers, “you’re right.” In what was undoubtedly the most “aww” inspiring presentation of the night, Schweers brought the audience right along with her on her vocational journey. “One of the blessings and curses of veterinary medicine is adopting patients for care,” she said, telling stories of two different shih tzus that found themselves in dire—and then incredibly fortunate—situations. One of the pups, Schweers revealed, ended up going home with PK organizer Vicki Yuan!
She closed with a few rules for “pet parents” to always keep in mind: leash pets and keep them out of the streets; don’t let animals swallow indigestible items like bones; keep up with preventative care, such as vaccines and especially heartworm medication; avoid common anima; poisons (and this means no people-medicine); and, of course, spay and neuter!
Ryan Beltrán, Start-up Co-founder
San Antonio native Ryan Beltrán was born to a photojournalist and activist mother and entrepreneurial-spirited father, a pairing that imbued the artist/photographer/environmentalist with the go-getter qualities and diverse interests that led him to where he is today.
“I’m passionate about doing two things at once,” Beltrán said, a point which became evident as he described his forays into photography, film, travel and even activism, including a brief stint with Occupy Wall Street. Having immersed himself in his work with clean water startup Elequa, which employs electrocoagulation technology to clean pollutants from water with an electrical current, Beltrán described his passion for the mission of bringing clean water to families in Mexico. His advice to other startups? “Keep at it. Just keep at it.”
Angela Michelle, Photographer
Armed with a surprisingly normal point-and-shoot camera, photographer Angela Michelle creates beautiful underwater photos during her “fashion-based conceptual shoots.” She sought to engage in underwater photography, which comes with a host of challenges distinct from those on dry land, with simple equipment as a way to push herself creatively; could she produce a compelling image without fancy tools?
“While you definitely need to understand the equipment that you have,” Michelle said, “I believe the elements that make a photo outstanding have little to do with the equipment and more to do with you.” Leveraging the elements independent of the camera—vision, or “the story that you want to tell,” composition, and light—the photographer creates dramatic, surreal images of models in ethereal scenes, with fabric gently billowing and floating around them. She also revealed two behind-the-scenes facts: Most of her shoots take place less than four feet beneath the water’s surface, and the job of one of her assistants is to hold her underwater while she holds her breath to snap the shots.
Mike Casey, Urban Pioneer
If there’s one man who you should trust to offer a comprehensive, meaningful history of the development of King William, Mike Casey is that man. It may just have been Casey’s presence that packed the house last night—the dapper, bicycle-riding “Mayor of Southtown” has no shortage of friends, fans and adorers.
His presentation began in the summer of ’72, when he discovered that, much like Georgia O’Keefe realized about New Mexico, “This is where I was supposed to be.” He immediately followed that statement with the quip, “My friends were appalled; most people try to move up in life.”
Casey regaled PechaKucha attendees with colorful tales of rollerblading and loin-cloth wearing residents; the early days of the Compound and Sala Diaz, where “openings became happenings and drifted into the Compound backyard,” the rejuvenation of Blue Star; and the rotating residences of art community legends such as Franco Mondini-Ruiz, who was “reborn as an artist” in one of Casey’s Steiren properties, and the late Chuck Ramirez, after whom the artist residency program “Casa Chuck” is named.
It seems only appropriate to ask the man who played a vital role in the King William renaissance: What’s next?
“What I think about is the Eastside, (I) think about going down further south. When you look at what King William was in ’72, it was worse than what the Eastside is now. So let’s be looking at that, because something could happen there.” Can we expect Casey himself to venture east? “I don’t need another house,” he said with a smile.
Mark your calendars for the next PechaKucha, to take place on the evening of May 27 at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.