Smile Politely

PechaKucha Night Vol. 23: Highlights and photos

PechaKucha Night (PKN) is an international event that C-U participates in by the will and hard work of Champaign-Urbana Design Organization (CUDO). It’s similar to T.E.D. talks in that presenters get to talk about literally anything to a large audience with 20 slides and only 20 seconds to explain each slide. Presenters at this 23rd volume ranged from people who invested in kid-directed play, mom’s holding together a family, growers, to record label owners. The house was pretty packed and attendees were quite entertained by the PKN talks, beer, and of course the whacky MC of the night. 

Check out photos and some take home messages from the talks. 

The beautifully lit Virginia Theatre welcomes guests for the 23rd volume of PKN talks in C-U. 

Local artist, Hillary Pope, holds the poster she designed for Saturday’s PKN. Awesome work.

Guests gather snacks, sodas, beer and wine before going into the auditorium.

Excited guests pose with the PKN symbol. 

The upper balcony was closed off for seating but the main floor was probably 90% full. The crowd was vocal, reactive, and appreciative of the speakers. 

In between PKN sets, a local DJ spun records. 

A welcome from CUDO’s Tim Kuehlhorn and the 23rd volume begins. 

Suddenly, our MC Ralph Roether, busted out of the crowd carrying a handful of balloons and dragging the wonderful artist, Pope, onto the stage. 

Roether riles up the crowd.

The first speaker, David Michael Moore presented on his experience in designing, testing, and playing his very own board game. He had photos showing the process and he spoke highly of his fellow creators. What I realized most during Moore’s talk is that there are people among us who work incredibly hard to create working board games for no other reason than the pride of doing so and having some creative fun. 

“Just do it!” Moore remembers thinking when he was considering making a game. 

Up next was Kate McDowell who spoke about how you tell the story makes a difference in how it is received. Of special interest during her talk was a sort of triangular theory of storytelling: the teller, the story, and the listener. “All of these elements should be changed by the end of the story,” McDowell explained. 

Local record label, Heirship Records, owner and operator Isaac Arms talked about the DIY music scene, that of which is dear to my own heart. He showed photos of basement concerts, Mike and Molly’s bar, and talked about how the DIY scene has afforded him many opportunities that have enriched his life.

Kelsey Langley expressed how important it was for children to have unstructured play time. She reminded us all of our own childhoods, riding bikes without parents hovering or playing with friends in a park making up games. She stressed that without this kind of play, children aren’t able to develop as thoroughly. Play is important and she supports the Kid Owner & Operated Play (KOOP) which has a local chapter here in C-U. 

Roether entertaining the crowd. You almost loved to hate his character. He was kind hearted but rough around the edged. And cursed like a f**king sailor!

Hugh Monahan talked about another type of game. One that has billions of users: video games. But he didn’t nerd out too hard. He spoke about how video games may actually promote empathy in it’s users. A position that is in opposition to many critics which point to video games to blame for making children into heartless car jackers. Monahan believes in games and the power they have and is confident that we can use that power for good. 

Candice Solomon-Strutz is a black woman, who is married to a white man. They’ve got kids. And please, spare all of the comments about how cute mixed babies are — she’s over it. Solomon-Strutz talked about the challenges she and her family have faced from comments from friends (and strangers) to family traditions. Strutz celebrates diversity and spoke very positively of her experience while still maintaining a very realistic perspective. 

Ainsile Heilich is a co-ownder of Vintage Karma, a tattoo shop that landed in Tuscola, Illinois of all places. Heilich sang praises of the town, its infrastructure, cheap space, and central location. He also showed some great tattoo photos. 

Roether roling around. 

This is Kirby Pringle and he is trying to bring back our natural prairie scape. Did you know that at one time the prairie scape stretched from Canada down through Illinois? And this good soil that we enjoy today is because of that prairie? If that doesn’t make you appreciate the prairie, Pringle also says that planting prairie is not only beautiful and good for our soil but you don’t have to mow it. 

Nicole Musumeci was my very favorite of the night. She operates the Prosperity Gardens which is an urban garden which is cared for by urban kids. They learn to farm and eat well at Musumeci’s program. They also share the love by selling their produce at farmers markets and at a “pay what you can” cost in food deserts. Yes, we have food deserts here in C-U. Bravo, Musumeci. 

Finally, Sierra young wrapped up the night with a high-flying story of drones flying above grassy lands, high in the sky, above water, crashes, and small helpers of both the human and robot variety. 

A photo of the 23rd volume presenters. 

Photos by Veronica Mullen. Full disclosure: Mullen was hired by PKN to photograph the event, so the photos will be used promotionally in nature outside of this article.

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