Reflections on the Roundtable’s September 30, 2013 Kick-Off Event

Roundtable Program Committee member Lauren Jacobs offers her reflection on and recap of the Roundtable’s Pecha Kucha-themed kick-off event of September 30, 2013.

By Lauren Jacobs

“Sharing Our Stories”: The NYC Arts in Education Roundtable Kickoff Event

The NYC Arts in Education Roundtable Kickoff Event, hosted on September 30 by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre on 42nd Street, explored the theme of “Sharing our Stories” through Pecha Kucha presentations, small group discussions, and a reconvening of the whole group – followed by informal networking.

First, Ted Wiprud and Kati Koerner, co-chairs of the Roundtable, welcomed the guests, and Phil Alexander, co-chair of the Programming Committee, introduced himself as our master of ceremonies for the evening. He spoke about the three strands that this season’s Roundtable events will comprise – Big Ideas, Toolbox Ideas, and Networking – and he expressed the Roundtable’s interest in hearing constituents’ ideas for future events, which were solicited in written form at the end of the evening.

Then Mr. Alexander introduced the concept of Pecha Kucha presentations, in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each, totaling six minutes and 40 seconds. He explained that Pecha Kucha would be a Toolbox idea, while the concepts to be introduced momentarily would be Big Idea presentations within that framework.

In a meta twist, the first was a presentation by Rachel Evans of Kean University about her use of Pecha Kucha itself. She explained that the format was invented in 2003 and is now practiced in 693 cities, and she offered a rubric for Pecha Kucha that evaluates the presenter’s timing, aesthetics, content, technical proficiency and synchronicity. And she made her case for Pecha Kucha with a lovely sense of humor.

The second presentation, by Jo Beth Ravits of Studio in a School, encouraged us to “ignore other people’s lines” and discover “new sight” through the self-direction and empathy that come with the process of making art. In her flowing Pecha Kucha, Ravits reminded us of Degas’ assertion that “Art is…what you make others see.”

Next, Anna Jacobs of the Metropolitan Opera Guild “improv”ed a Pecha Kucha in the sense that her slides were prepared in advance but her script was not. Her presentation focused on her process as both a creative artist and a teaching artist and very effectively aligned the two. She emphasized composition, research, collaboration, notation, orchestration, reflection, and community-building, and closed by saying that “People who create together come to understand each other.”

Lastly, Alex Sarian of Lincoln Center Theatre presented the challenges of “bolstering the creative economy” in a post-2008 environment. He compared the arts in education field to a rare species of toad facing extinction and emphasized that it is the ecosystem, e.g., the recent nearly 50% NEA budget cut and other funding cutbacks, not the endangered species itself that causes the challenge. In other words, without advocacy and support, AIE programming could go the way of the rare toad, but with enough dedicated grassroots advocacy across the board, arts in education budgeting and programming could prevail.

Following the presentations, we discussed in small groups what Big Ideas resonated for us and how we could incorporate Pecha Kucha into our work. People had enjoyed hearing teaching artists describe their personal artistic processes and had felt motivated by the clearly-stated need to challenge an unsupportive arts environment through advocacy. Participants agreed that Pecha Kucha (with its unique name) is a solid format that creates helpful boundaries for the presenter while actively engaging the audience through imagery and succinct narrative. We agreed that there are many different potential styles and that the rubric could indeed be helpful for evaluating the form.

Participants filled out evaluations of the event, submitted their written ideas for future events, and enjoyed beverages and snacks together for the remainder of the evening. We had indeed been invited to share our stories and kicked off the 2013-14 school year in style.

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