University of Vermont

University Communications

PechaKucha Comes to Town

Release Date: 11-05-2010

Author: Thomas James Weaver
Phone: 802/656-7996 Fax: (802) 656-3203


The Marble Court audience awaits 11 presentations of 20 images in 20 seconds.

In line at the Fleming Museum on Nov. 4 for the debut of PechaKucha in Burlington, one woman explained to a friend what they were about to put $5 down to join. "This is a happening, right?"

Happening it was, and PechaKucha was simultaneously happening that evening in Finland, Sweden, and Slovenia. The global gatherings began in Tokyo in 2003. A pair of architects bored by endless presentations created PechaKucha (the Japanese word for chit chat) as a way for creative people to share ideas in a high-speed format. Each presenter gets 20 slides to show and 20 seconds to talk about each slide. (That's 400 seconds to get your point across.) The phenomenon is now in 364 cities worldwide and counting.

One of the PechaKucha by-laws requires just one organizer for each city, and the Fleming Museum is the center of Burlington's new PechaKucha universe. Fleming staff transformed the Marble Court into a salon. Music from Guster and the Talking Heads filled the hall as people mingled before the show and at intermission. A long couch and cafe tables took a place on the floor by the marble sculpture of Penelope, and as the crowd grew and the central staircase was repurposed into bleacher seating, a beer or two might have been set down alongside Sir George's shield.

A diverse line-up was on the card for volume 1 of Burlington PechaKucha: photographer, architect, artist, art student, guitar-maker, designer, among others stepped up and showed their work. One might imagine the presentations would somehow have the potential seizure-inducing flash and speed of Japanese animation. Paris-based artist Pippo Lionni's amusing, antic delivery and provocative, pictogram-inpired work came the closest to feeling like a Red Bull rush, but mostly seizures were not a worry. Twenty seconds per slide and twenty slides actually seemed like a fine amount of time for each presentation. There wasn't room for much rambling, but there was also room to communicate and get a conversation started -- which is what PechaKucha is all about.

The conversation will continue with PechaKucha Volume 2, scheduled for Thursday, February 10. Those interested in presenting, can contact Chris Dissinger at the Fleming, (802) 656-8582 or

This report was adapted from an entry on the Vermont Quarterly blog.