After researching the campus map online and planning my route and parking location based on landmarks I do know, I found the building readily enough. I had to park a good distance away, but the weather was kind and so the stroll to the building was comfortable enough. The lobby of the Diamond Building was very full, and I recognized only a handful of the other attendees. I stood still a bit and gauged the scene. There was a nice blend of elderly, middle-age, and college age people. Some snacks and synapse-lubricating alcohol were available. I myself eschewed the hooch, since I was still on a steady diet of cold medications from the Acadian Death Cold that had been plaguing me for 20 days. In fact, during my solo stroll to the building I engaged in some vigorous half-intentional power-coughing in an attempt to clear my lungs to sit silently and not be the most annoying man in the auditorium (which I probably only half-succeeded at). Anyway, while a beer sounded good, I didn't want to risk the paranoid delusions I once experienced in college due to an unwise combination of otherwise innocuous cold remedies and alcohol.
After perusing the informational table, which only made partial sense without the benefit of the upcoming presentations, I entered and selected a seat. Ostrove is a fine, modern, comfortable venue. Plenty of legroom I was delighted to find. There's a lot of negativity and contrariness in the air of this nation and town due to election-season. PechaKucha provided a much-needed antidote.
I was in for a night of inspiration and celebration of the human spirit. As follows:
Inspiration #1: The 180-seat Ostrove Auditorium was filled - in fact, there were people standing - for an event that is described by Tammy as "a symphony of ideas." Smart people with open and creative minds. Heartening to say the list.
Inspiration #2: Izzy Labbe, the 14-year old emcee, was dynamite. Her age would suggest she be referred to as a girl. Her poise at the podium, her command of the crowd, and her sense of humor demand she be called a young lady. I would easily have believed she was a college freshman rather than a high school freshman.
Inspiration #3: The format. Each speaker was well-rehearsed to keep their presentation in line with the 20 images they were permitted, each displayed for 20 seconds. Really. 20 seconds. The speaker could not control it. This format is awesome because it keeps the momentum rolling, ensures people are concise, protects the audience against tedium and tangents (though I assure you I detected no such trends), and gives a fantastic rhythm to the event.
Inspiration #4: Margy Burns Knight's (mother of Emilie Knight of Common Street Arts fame) germinating idea for a project examining statues of famous women throughout the country in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment. I was astonished when she displayed a statue of a Native American woman from the Yavapai tribe in my hometown of Prescott, Arizona. What are the odds?
Inspiration #5: Gift Ntuli, an unassuming, kind, and genuine Colby student from Zimbabwe, who matter-of-factly described how he is bettering the lives of orphaned children in his homeland by coordinating the acquisition and delivery to them of solar lanterns so they can study after dark. Their days are consumed with school and survival, since most of their parents have died from HIV/AIDS. The lanterns permit them to study and perform additional chores after night falls. I was moved nearly to tears at how this young man happily described how he has put this project together, and how he intends to continue it and expand it.
Inspiration #6: The friendly, warm, beverage-sipping speech of James Chute describing his project of making drawings while interviewing over 50 female artists. His drawings were juxtaposed with images of representative works by the interviewees.
Inspiration #7: The whimsical-yet-questioning relief and installation art of Barbara Sullivan. She called them frescoes, but to me it was more relief-like in nature. All of it insightful and tinged with humor, her work reminded me of why I've come back to seeking art after a couple of decades out of touch with it.
Inspiration #8: Chatting with librarian Sarah Sugden about the so-called "creative economy" in Waterville and it's potential to invigorate Waterville, during which we got that delightful fervent head-nodding "you're so right" kind of effect going.
Inspiration #9: Tammy Rabideau publicizing and talking up Common Street Arts and, when she asked how many people in the audience had visited the gallery/studio, seeing half the hands in the place go up.
Inspiration #10: Laura Lessing's presentation of the mysteries confronting a curator at Colby Museum of Art.
Inspiration #11: The humble, revelation-packed enthusiasm of Rurik Spence for beekeeping.
With that, I had to reluctantly break away before the last presentation to drive across town and pick up my daughter from the junior high dance. But on my way, I replayed the creative and positive displays of the night in my head and was infused with the warmth of hope, and the conviction that, yes, I would really like to do one of these myself one day. In the meantime, I hope to attend again. And should you attend PechaKucha? Yes. I firmly believe you'd find the presenters interesting, illuminating, and thought-provoking. And even if there is a dud, it'll pass in 400 seconds.
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