A Perfect 10

A Fast-Paced, Fan-Favorite Special Speaker Event is Back

After a two-year hiatus, 10x10, which features 10 local presenters each with 10 slides and five minutes to speak, is back.

By Kim Doleatto January 13, 2023

Karen Arango, a Sarasota visual journalist, has been among past participants at 10x10.

Image: Bill Speer

What do a cheesemonger, an architect and an environmental activist have in common? In roughly five minutes, they will each share a slice of their world and connect with their audience at upcoming 10x10 events.

The return of the popular speaker series follows a two-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Named after the number of participants and slides each person presents, the unconventional 10x10 lectures make for a fast-paced, engaging event.

“It’s tapas versus a main course, and we want people to leave feeling nourished,” says Tim Jaeger, a local painter and the curator of Ringling College Galleries, who helps organize the event and choose participants. The event is also accessible and affordable, lasting roughly an hour and a half and costing $25 per person (and less for students).

Since its debut in 2009, 10x10 founder and architect Michael Halflants, of Halflants + Pichette, has wanted to take a peek at the lives of his Sarasota neighbors.

“I work in a circle of professionals who revolve around design and construction, but there are so many circles of different interests and I want to see that passion and give others that ability, too,” Halflants says.

He also sees 10x10 as a cultural anchor. While the city is growing in both population and footprint, Jaeger and Halflants aim to uncover who lives here, what they’re working on and how it connects to the local community. 

“What is it that makes Sarasota unique? You have to know what and who is around you to find out and this event brings light to that,” Jaeger says.

At first, 10x10 started in local bars and art galleries, then moved to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune community room, The Francis (now closed) and the Art Ovation Hotel as events sold out and grew bigger. It takes place three times a year, avoiding the summer months, and the last event two years ago brought out roughly 300 attendees. This year's Sarasota Art Museum location is a first.

There are no hard rules for the lecture, but the presenter should live in the region, preferably Sarasota or Manatee County. And the slides they show should eschew clichés. “No sunsets, logos or text,” Halflants says. “The slides have to have an impact. A furniture maker might want to show 10 slides of 10 different pieces they’ve made, but showing just one and getting into the process and the why of one single piece might work better. This isn’t just about showing off a portfolio.” 

“Don’t talk about what you do, but the coolest part of what you do and where that comes from,” Halflants says.

Who takes the stage?

Of course, an architect and a painter have attracted many visual artist types, but 10x10 has also hosted a mime, a sea ship wreckage hunter, writers, a public defender and the head of a lemur foundation. Most of the presenters are chosen through word-of-mouth recommendations and borne of the mingling and hand-shaking that happens right on site.

Once the 10 speakers are done, there’s no question period and no one has to stick around, but—invigorated by the ideas and creativity in the air—many people do. “These people walk among us every day and do interesting things, and if you put them next to each other, it creates this vibration,” Jaeger says. “The beauty of 10x10 is the cross-pollination. Being an art curator and director, I find success in group exhibitions when you can offer the public different options. You may come for one thing, and learn about nine other things while you’re there."

The next 10x10 event takes place 5:30-7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Sarasota Art Museum, 1001 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For tickets, click here. To see who's presenting and to learn more, click here.

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