It’s been 10 years since PechaKucha landed on the Midcoast, but there is still some question about how to say it. Longtime organizing committee member Kelly Finlay sticks with the admittedly Americanized PEH-CHA-KOO-CHA, and the local version of the Tokyo-founded presentation technique is still as much fun to attend as it is to pronounce.

PechaKucha Night Midcoast Maine’s first event of its 10th anniversary year is set for Friday night, Jan. 25, at the Rockport Opera House, 6 Central St. in the village. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the presentations start at 7 p.m. Admission is $5 (cash) at the door, and a reception will follow the program.

The affordable ticket and concise programming explain some of why PechaKucha Night Midcoast Maine, held three times a year, continues to fill some 300 and more seats consistently. The PechaKucha format was devised as a place for young designers to meet, network and show their work in public. The format is fast and specific: eight individuals share their work, ideas and creative process via a 20-image/20-second-per-image slideshow. On Jan. 25, there will be nine presenters, two of whom were in the premiere lineup in January 2009.

“Yes, every now and then, we have nine,” said Finlay the week before Volume 37 of the local PK.

The range of presenters demonstrates the primary reason people fill the rotating venues of PechaKucha Night Midcoast Maine. This edition’s presenters range from photographers to a woodworker; an aquaculture entrepreneur to online community creators. All will share their passion and process in six minutes and 40 seconds.

The concept was introduced to the Midcoast by photographer Sarah Szwajkos and Tom Weis, founder of The Steel House in Rockland. Both were part of Artists on Art, a discussion series at the Farnsworth Art Museum organized by Finlay, then working part-time at the museum. Szwajkos, in the audience, shared her experience presenting at PechaKucha Portland. Panelist Weis talked about how the Rhode Island School of Design grad students used the PechaKucha format to share their work with each other.

“And he said, you know, we should do one here. Hanna DeHoff, who was on the board of Midcoast Magnet, was in the audience and she said, great, I want to help make that happen. So we gathered names and we put it together,” said Finlay, who recently stepped down from what became a full-time post in the museum’s education department.

The organizers got advice from Portland’s PechaKucha contingent and linked up with the international PechaKucha 20×20. Weis agreed to be the emcee and artist Eric Hopkins offered his work and gallery space on Winter Street, in the industrial building that preceded the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. It was a sprawling space, yet barely contained the event that transpired.

“There was a snowstorm, and we were hoping for, like, 50 people,” Finlay said. “It was well over 200 people, in a snowstorm, and, yeah, not everybody could fit in,” she said.


Who’s who at Volume 37

Presenters are Sarah Szwajkos, fine art and commercial photographer; Dudley Zopp, environmental artist and painter; Maine historian and photographer Kevin Johnson; artists Anneli Skaar and Mark Kelly, who recently completed a project at the Arizona/Mexico border revolving around the themes of passports, identity and compassion; performance artist Heather Lyon; Sara Rademaker, founder and president of American Unagi; Betty Wyman and Amy Carpenter from the single-parenting online community Singlehandedly; interdisciplinary artist/Maine College of Art instructor Adriane Herman; and woodworker/business owner Beth Ireland.

The evening’s emcee will be multi-disciplinary artist Ariel Hall.

And PechaKucha Night Midcoast Maine continues to draw hundreds, which has led to some challenges for a volunteer operation that spans from Thomaston to Belfast. The Camden and Rockport opera houses have become mainstay venues. Others that have hosted PKN over its first decade include the Rockland Recreation Center, Owls Head Transportation Museum, the Blue Goose in Northport and, outdoors on the lawn/wall, Waterfall Arts in Belfast.

“I'm excited because in April, we're going to have our event for the first time at the Crosby [Center] … We’ve really been needing a larger venue in Belfast,” Finlay said.

The Crosby, like the opera houses, has the advantage of plenty of seating on site, as well as technical support. Longtime organizing committee member Maggi Blue has handled creating the presentation PowerPoints for years, but is stepping away, so that technology role will need to be refilled. Finlay’s replacement at the Farnsworth, Karen Francomano, is joining up; and architect Amanda Austin is returning to represent Midcoast Magnet.

“We try to have all the partner organizations represented, but there also are a couple of just independent people who aren't institution-affiliated,” Finlay said.

PechaKucha Night Midcoast Maine's organizing partners include CMCA, the Farnsworth, Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, Midcoast Magnet, the Strand Theatre and Waterfall Arts. Many of the organizers have been in place for years.

“I think that's probably what has kept so many of us going for so long, is we're just a really great group of people to work with, you know, as, as an organizing committee,” said Finlay.

At first, PechaKucha Night Midcoast Maine was happening four or five times a year. These days, it’s three times a year, skipping the summer season — the only time attendance would sometimes be a little low. The series is financially solvent, Finlay said, with the primary expense being venue rental. A past fundraising campaign provided for a screen and projector.

“We try to have some food and drink. For the last two or three years, Flatbread Co. has been bringing pizza, and they do it totally for free, which is great,” Finlay said.

The organizers usually supplement with a veggie platter or two. The adult beverages of earlier years, however, are no longer offered. Liquor licensing et cetera got too complicated, Finlay said, and it doesn’t seem like attendees miss, or need, the drinks.

“It’s just a little time to chat and connect,” she said.

Connections have led to creative collaborations; there’s something about the formal yet informal “show and tell” format that makes it easy for people to approach and talk to each other afterwards.

“Over the last 10 years, I do hear stories about all the connections that have been made between people and new kinds of projects that have come out of it or friendships or collaborations. That's what's really cool about it,” Finlay said.

The idea of imposing the 20×20 strictures on one’s life’s work can be daunting, yet many find the exercise enlightening. PechaKucha Night Midcoast Maine sweetens the pot by offering presenters a professionally filmed Vimeo link for their use; the recordings also give future presenters an idea of what’s expected.

“Ned Lightner films them and usually puts them on the public access in Belfast,” said Finlay of the Insight Productions/Bel TV filmmaker and BCTV.

Finlay, who had been working part-time since having a baby last year, is not sure what direction she will go in coming months. But her volunteer work with the Monhegan Artist Residency and PechaKucha Night Midcoast Maine is ongoing. There is just too much fascinating work out there to let them go.

“That's what's amazing about living in Midcoast Maine: there are so many people doing amazing things,” she said. “Sometimes you're in your own little world and don't know about it until you come to something like this.”

Supporting sponsor for Volume 37 is the Owl and Turtle Bookshop Café. For more information about PechaKucha Night Midcoast Maine, visit its Facebook page.