Blogs » The Education Beat » Local reading series, a diamond in the rough


Image Among the many concerns I had before moving to Victoria was the absence of Houston's bountiful and established art scene.

My appetite for exhibits, indie films and the performing arts had ballooned in my time spent at an arts magazine.

To my surprise Victoria's art scene turned out to be bigger than previously projected.

The Nave Museum, festivals and wine selections have been able to keep this art hound alive.

But what really, really took me by surprise was the University of Houston-Victoria's American Book Review Fall Reading Series.

Now before I go on, I feel like it's important to say that Victoria College's Lyceum Lecture Series is just as great - Monday night historian and lecturer Rick Shenkman drew in a crowd of 180 community members to the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.

The Q&A session after Shenkman's lecture went well into the second hour.

In a town where sometimes it seems all there is to do is drink, shoot guns in the country and eat - a healthy, fervent and ripe reading series is more than welcomed by a shameless snob like me.

The only thing I don't understand is why hardly anybody of his or her own volition or outside the university seemed to be at the last reading.

This fall's reading series was opened by Steve Tomasula, who gave a reading to a packed room.

University officials, a spattering of locals, college freshman required to attend and a high school english class filled the Alcorn Auditorium.

Last Thursday, an equally obscure author was granted maybe a third of the first author's reception.

She was good, like really good.

In fact you're lucky if you even get to meet someone as honest, insightful and adorable as Paisley Rekdal in the Crossroads area.

And I don't mean to knock on Victoria — I moved here because I love the parts of this city that are still tangled up in old family feuds, oil boom growing pains and unapologetic conservatism.

It makes for good writing, or at least that's what I'm hoping.

I've made marvelous, charming and smart friends in my short time here and I'm writing about this issue because I care.

I care about these opportunities some art-starved Victorians may not realize they're missing out on.

At her reading Paisley brought a hip new presentation style to the Golden Crescent.

It's called a pecha-kucha.

You'd hear about it in places like Tokyo, San Francisco or Austin — but I, along with the few lucky-enough-to-be-required-to-be-there students and staff, got to see one in Victoria.

It's basically a slide show where you show 20 slides but for only 20 seconds each.

Rekdal said pecha-kuchas started out in Japan to keep business presentations short.

The style grew and has seeped into trendy coffee shops across the globe as a way for artists to explain their work.

It wasn't a crazy light show or anything, but it worked.

Rekdal was able to explain her very long and complicated photo book, "Intimate," in 400 seconds or less.

The high school students stayed awake because it wasn't boring, long and they got to time the narrating author.

And faculty members praised it during the Q&A.

All we needed were coffees, kolaches and berets for everyone.

This fruit is good for you, Victoria.

Why don't you eat it?

[illustration by Louie Rendon]