"Our Austin, Our America" Captures City's Diversity

February 27, 2019 10:30 PM  (Written by ABC 6 News) -

Austin’s arts community continues to grow, as does the city’s diversity – which is the focus of a photography exhibit at Riverland Community College.

A local man, who moved away to pursue his photography career 40 years ago, has come back and rediscovered the city he grew up in decades ago.

“Who I am has a lot to do with where I grew up,” said William Taufic, the photographer of “Our Austin, Our America,” whose home just happens to be Austin, MN.

“Austin is really an amazing place to live with a lot of very interesting, very smart people who have their stories to tell,” Taufic said.

"Our Austin, Our America" Captures City's Diversity

It’s telling these stories and the story of his hometown through photographs that’s become his mission.

“Going around and seeing all these pictures, I know quite a few of them and that’s pretty neat to see,” said Tom Cotter, a lifelong Austin resident who’s featured in the exhibit with his brother-in-law, Tony.

When Taufic came back to Austin a year ago, he said his mind was blown by how culturally diverse Austin had become, and knew it was a story he needed to tell.

“A story about a community in a small town in southern Minnesota that has been very welcoming to people from the outside,” he said.

His exhibit shows some of the many people, who have come from all over – Mexico, Bolivia and Myanmar, to name a few – to make Austin their home.

“This is where I met my wife, you know and this is where my kids were born,” said the owner of Sunny’s Ice Cream, who moved to Austin nearly 20 years ago, building his business from the ground up.

Cotter said the diversity only makes the city stronger.

“Leaving a violent country, leaving a poor country and really coming here and succeeding – that is the American dream,” he said.

“We live together. What’s the point in shunning people and having animosity and excluding people,” Taufic said.

He hopes to make the photographs into a book and take the exhibit on the road to show other communities how diversity is a good thing.

“Our Austin, Our America” is on display through March 2.