UPDATED: ‘Our Austin, Our America’ exhibit to open at state Capitol

Published 6:15 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

Austin’s international flavor is reaching Minnesota’s Capitol later this month.

The Minnesota Historical Society has announced that the opening reception for the “Our Austin, Our America” exhibit on the 3rd Floor Exhibit Gallery will be from 4-7 p.m. on Monday, March 13, with remarks at 5:30 p.m.

This exhibit will be open to the public through June 30.

Photo taken and provided by William Taufic

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“Our Austin, Our America” is a collaborative community project that began with a variety of portrait exhibits and evolved into a companion book. The photography project, is the work of Austin native and current New York professional photographer William Taufic, and debuted in August 2022 during the Austin ArtWorks Festival. It also shares personal stories of the people featured in the portraits.

“I essentially spent three years in Austin,” Taufic said. “I always viewed this as a project to give back to Austin, my hometown, which helped me become who I am.”

While this most recent development in the “Our Austin, Our America” journey is still a week away, the foundations of the project took place years before in 2017 when he learned just how many languages were spoken in Austin.

It immediately sparked an idea of a photo project recognizing Austin’s worldliness.

“I was gobsmacked,” Taufic said, going on to say just how remarkable the change has been over the years for a community now featuring people from so many different countries. 

“Sitting at my desk one day after I got home I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something about this,” he said. “I have to record this for posterity.”

Relying on a core group of Austin residents to help facilitate the project, Taufic spent three years in Austin, taking 50 portraits that reflected Austin’s transformation into an international community. He finally completed the project in May 2021.

Members of the committee behind “Our Austin, Our American” are photographed on Main Street in downtown Austin. They include Danielle Heiny, from left, Lori Henry, Janet Anderson, Mayor Tom Stiehm, Bonnie Rietz, Sara Karki and photographer William Taufic. Herald file photo

“There are an awful lot of people in Austin that are helping,” Taufic said. “They contribute to helping these newcomers become new Americans.”

The project reached Taufic’s heart, who himself is the son of an immigrant from Brazil. That background and his own work on the project reinforced the need to reflect that we are of one planet.

“All human beings look to build a good life for us and our family,” he said. “We have a lot to learn from each other.”

The “Our Austin, Our America” book is available online through the Minnesota Historical Society online store and at the Information Desk in the Minnesota State Capitol while the exhibit is on display.

There are also copies available at Sweet Reads Books and Candy in Austin. Five hundred copies were initially printed with a second printing now in the process.

“Our Austin, Our America” was selected by the Capitol Art Exhibit Advisory Committee and approved by the State Capitol Preservation Commission. It is also the first of seven exhibits set to be shown at the gallery, something Taufic is incredibly proud to be a part of.

“I was over the moon,” he said upon finding out “Our Austin, Our America” had been selected. “I was born  at the University of Minnesota. I feel like I’ve come full circle in my life. I was stunned, I was thrilled, completely delighted and proud to have had somebody really honor the work as being valuable enough to show at the Minnesota State Capitol Art Gallery.”

Visitors to this exhibit can look forward to an experience that celebrates the positive impact of embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion in Austin.

“It has been such a wonderful community effort to bring this show to life and I am so thrilled to see the exhibit come together at the Minnesota state Capitol,” said Lindsey Dyer, Capitol and MNHS Sites Art Program Specialist, with the Minnesota Historical Society. “Austin’s sense of community radiates from the photographs in this show, the joy is infectious.”

Admission to the Minnesota State Capitol, including the 3rd Floor Exhibit Gallery, is free and open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. It is closed Memorial Day, Monday, May 29 and on Sundays.

The Minnesota State Capitol and 3rd Floor Exhibit Gallery is located at 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.,3rd Floor, (Rooms 320 and 321) St. Paul, MN. For directions and parking information, visit https://www.mnhs.org/capitol/visit/directions.