Did you say “Pecha Kucha”?

“Could you give a ‘pecha kucha’ talk?” Say what!?
That’s what Charlie Rathbun, Arts Program manager of 4Culture, asked me when he invited me to participate in Washington’s Cultural Congress, a statewide, collaborative event that brought together a diverse group of cultural leaders to strengthen skills, form new partnerships, and to learn from each other. This year’s congress had a special focus on using the arts to create social change. 

A Pecha Kucha talk is a 7-minute speech about any topic, similar to a TED talk. At the cultural congress last week, I had the opportunity to talk about hearing loss, hearing access, and how the arts community in Washington can help open the doors for all audiences to participate and enjoy the arts. For the talks, I installed a temporary hearing loop in Seattle Center’s Rainier Room. A group of generous volunteers helped me tape down the “squared snowman loop”, designed by Hearing Loops Northwest. We powered the loop with a Univox 700, which we then connected to Seattle Center’s excellent sound system.

Many people shared that they had never spent much time thinking about hearing loss, hearing loss technology, or how hearing loss would impact one’s enjoyment of the arts. Being at the congress made them think more about how important it is to ensure everyone can participate in the arts. Many at the event tried on headsets, and learned what it was like to use assistive listening device. They also tesed out hearing through a hearing loop—there were smiles all around the room as people experienced the clarity of the hearing loop and the telecoil receiver. It was such a cool experience to see artists, teachers, performers, cultural & civic leaders all interested to learn about hearing loss & hearing technologies. After the conference, Pamela Lavitt of the Stroum Jewish Community Center, told me that she was so inspired by what she had learned and experienced at the congress, that she was going to change her 4culture equiptment grant to include hearing loops!

During another part of the conference, the Round Robin, many saw first-hand just how difficult hearing can be for those of us with hearing loss—many people voiced difficulty hearing the different speakers in an acoustically challenging environment. Clearly it can be a challenge for everyone to hear and be understood when multiple people are talking in close proximity, which makes it that much more important that we focus on making spaces accessible for all hearing levels.

It was a huge honor to present with savvy cultural and social change makers of the Pacific Northwest! No two talks were alike; though most were punctuated with rapid fire dialogue. It was suggested that next year, speakers be sent a video to help plan their pecha kucha. Did I deliver a perfect 7 minute pecha kucha? Well, not exactly. But I did get the conversation started; Washington arts communities are getting in the loop.

I want to give a special thanks to all the speakers and everyone at 4culture, Washington State Arts Alliance, and Seattle Center for your interest and support.

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