The facade of the Hermann Sons Life Home Association Building.
Hermann Sons Ballroom is a new venue for PechaKucha. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

PechaKucha is back again for its 37th incarnation in San Antonio, and the first program of 2020 will be on Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Hermann Sons Ballroom, a new venue for the series. 

The six speakers will include artist Nicholas Frank, the arts and culture reporter for the Rivard Report, and the program also will pay tribute to the late San Antonio artist Katie Pell, who died of cancer last December.

Pell was known for her wildly unconventional style, including one art installation in which she set a pink stove ablaze. She, husband Peter Zubiate, and her daughter, Bygoe, were all presenters at previous PechaKucha San Antonio events, according to Natalia Prieto, a spokeswoman for the event. Zubiate died of a degenerative disease about two years before his wife.

As a way of honoring Pell’s contributions to the community, one of the presentations will include art students Fernanda Quezada and Daniel Espinoza, who worked closely with Pell in the Teen Studio Intensive project at the Southwest School of Art, where she was an instructor. Lacey Mills, another instructor at the school, will present with the students.

PechaKucha comes around four times a year in San Antonio, and gives six local leaders from various fields an opportunity to quickly and concisely present their ideas and experiences.

In the format of PechaKucha, which is Japanese for “chit chat,” each speaker gives a presentation that includes 20 slide images, displayed for only 20 seconds each, for a total of six minutes and 40 seconds of speaking time. 

Frank described the PechaKucha speaking style as an opportunity to take something that could be perceived as a problem or constraint and turn into an advantage.

“I think the time constraint is brilliant,” Frank said. “It helps people make their points effectively and efficiently.”

He has been to many previous PechaKucha events and said he enjoys the content as much as the presentation style, which he described as art entertainment.

“It’s like a documentary with cocktails,” he said. “You can just relax and have fun with it by just taking it in. PechaKucha is a night of ideas conveyed by singular human voices. It’s a chance to really focus on someone else’s experience of the world and see if you can connect to it and relate to it. After a night of PechaKucha, you should come away feeling like you’ve learned something.”

PechaKucha presenters cover wide-ranging topics, which are sometimes funny and light-hearted, but Frank said his topic will be rather more serious. He plans to discuss how his mother’s progressive dementia influenced his art.

The other presenters will include social entrepreneur Beto Altamirano, health advocate Laura Molinar, activist and educator Olivia Ortiz, and Joel Rivas, founder of the Saint City Culinary Foundation. 

San Antonio’s first PechaKucha event was in February, 2011, and now attracts hundreds of attendees to every series. More than 1,200 cities worldwide have hosted PechaKucha series.

Prieto said this month’s event falls on International PechaKucha Day, chosen because the date is 2-20-20. According to the PechaKucha website, hundreds of events with thousands of presenters will take place across the globe.

Local filmmaker Angela Walley will emcee the local event, and Noah Harris will provide live music during the welcome reception, which begins at 6:30 p.m. with a cash bar and complimentary bites from local chefs. Presentations will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $7 and can be purchased here.

Here are PechaKucha’s Vol. 37 presenters (biographies provided by PechaKucha):

Beto Altamirano, social entrepreneur

Beto Altamirano’s interest in public policy and community involvement has led him to work at the White House as a U.S. trade representative, the U.S. Senate, and the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Driven by his passion for technology and civic engagement, he co-founded Cityflag Inc., a technology company that developed the first social network for 311 services. Altamirano has received a MacArthur Foundation Grant and was included on a Forbes 30 Under 30 list. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in government from the University of Texas and a Harvard Executive Education Certificate.

Beto Altamirano. Credit: Courtesy / Josh Huskin

Nicholas Frank, artist 

Nicholas Frank is an artist who has been a Singing Flower, a professional curator and art fair organizer, a college art teacher and administrator, a fiction writer and experimental poet, a guitarist in a touring alt-rock band, and a Milwaukeean. He came to San Antonio as an Artpace artist-in-residence, and relocated here because he fell in love, then got married. He writes about San Antonio culture for the Rivard Report

Nicholas Frank. Credit: Courtesy / Josh Huskin

Lacey B. Mills, Fer Quezada, and Daniel Espinoza, Teen Studio Intensive

Lacey B. Mills received her MFA in printmaking from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia and her BFA in painting and drawing from her hometown college, the University of Texas at El Paso. Her work deals with social and gender roles, using printmaking as a basis for her large-scale pieces, which have been shown in the U.S., Mexico, and Italy. She works at the Southwest School of Art as the interim teen coordinator and adjunct faculty in the printmaking department. Fer Quezada is currently enrolled in the BFA program at Southwest School of Art with a focus on printmaking, and Daniel Espinoza has been a student of the Teen Studio Intensive Program for the past two years. Both Quezada and Espinoza worked closely with Katie Pell in this program.  

Daniel Espinoza, Lacey B. Mills, and Fer Quezada, Teen Studio Intensive. Credit: Courtesy / Josh Huskin

Laura Molinar, health advocate

Laura Molinar is a proud Tejana from San Antonio with a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology from the University of the Incarnate Word. She also studied global health at Northwestern University, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. Molinar has worked in child and maternal health at the University of Texas School of Public Health and the University of Chicago’s Urban Poverty Lab. Her organization, Sueños Sin Fronteras, has served over 30,000 adults, children, and infants at the U.S.-Mexico border and in San Antonio since it was founded in June 2018. Her vision and work are rooted in liberation, autonomy, and self-determination for immigrant women and families.

Laura Molinar. Credit: Courtesy / Josh Huskin

Olivia Ortiz, activist

Activist, educator, and CEO Olivia Ortiz has dedicated herself to the development and enrichment of her community. Ortiz is CEO of Burnt Nopal, which offers a full range of services around branding, design, and experiences that she began with her husband, contemporary artist Cruz Ortiz. As part of her community work, Olivia Ortiz serves with Eva’s Heroes, South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Bexar County Child Welfare Commission, and San Antonio’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Olivia Ortiz. Credit: Courtesy / Josh Huskin

Joel Rivas, nonprofit founder 

Joel Rivas is the founder and CEO of Saint City Culinary Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the mission to support men and women in the restaurant and bar industry. AlthoughRivas is a San Antonio native, he has spent time living in Mexico City, Portland, and Minneapolis. When he isn’t busy with Saint City, he’s happiest spending time with his four amazing children or in the kitchen cooking for the people he loves. 

Joel Rivas. Credit: Courtesy / Josh Huskin
Jennifer Norris

Jennifer Norris

Jennifer Norris has been working in journalism since 2005. She's a native Texan, but a new San Antonian who is excited to get to know the city.