ATX Festivals SXSW

SXSW 2019: Who and What Makes Austin Austin?

What could be more Austin than having a panel about the city and its culture during SXSW? The panel — Who and What Makes Austin Austin? — was moderated by Joe Nick Patoski, author of “Austin to ATX.” The panelists were WP Engine CEO Heather Brunner, founder of Franklin Barbecue Aaron Franklin and local film editor Sandra Adair. And they got right into the panel’s premise.

The first thing each person on the panel noted was when they got to the city: Patoski in 1973, Adair in 1976, Brunner in 1994 and Franklin in 1996. There were comparisons of sorts, but each got to the capital city in their own time and appreciated it for what it was at that moment. And there’s one thing that we can all agree on: you can never be too early to Austin, but you’re always too late.

It’s fairly common these days to hear people gripe about the changes that have been happening in Austin. And it’s true, the city has changed pretty drastically, especially in the last few years. But despite the jokes telling people not to move here, it’s obvious that most Austinites do think the city is great, a place they’ve likely moved to (no matter when they got here) and a place that still is a great place to move to. The panelists focused more on the positive side of this, and all that Austin has to offer.

That last part, about altruism, was touched on over and over again. Austin is the largest no-kill city in the country for close to a decade, meaning at least 90% of animals entering the shelter are saved; every year Amplify Austin is a community day of giving, when residents of the city donate to any or all of Austin’s nonprofits. In 2019, over 31,000 donors gave to nearly 750 nonprofits, totaling more than $11 million raised. And that’s just one example.

The support of the community — and businesses who support these events — are what make Austin special. WP Engine is one of the many places in Austin that hopes to make a difference. Patoski pointed this out about the way that Brunner runs the company and makes decisions.

It was fascinating to see what different generations of Austinites think and feel about the heart and soul of Texas’s capital city, and sharing that with both locals and out-of-towners during SXSW.

If you want to learn more about how Austin has changed over decades (and what has stayed the same), Patoski’s book is a great educational tool and has many interesting stories. Read our review here.

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