Austin, TX

Austin, Texas. 

This blog is written by one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County.

Upon arrival in Austin, we could feel the SXSW energy as people checked into their hotels and as city workers scrambled to set up roadblocks.

This energy, despite how tired we were from our flights, was contagious and led us to want to get an early glimpse of Austin. Although the festival was hours away, we created what seemed like our own mini meet and greet within our hotel to get acquainted and map out our adventure as a collective.


Aurelio Diaz.

The following day once we obtained our badges, and it seemed we were officially part of the SXSW family. Since food and entertainment are the areas I’m focusing on for our community, I knew that I would not only be exposed to great concepts within the SXSW track sessions, but I would also get hands on experience within the downtown area.

As I walked to my first track entitled, “Bruce Mau’s 24 Principals for Massive Change,” I tried to take in the plethora of restaurants and bars along the way. It was at that moment that I knew that I was beyond lucky to have a fun area to absorb as the fleet of food trucks competed for their spaces and restaurants and other businesses opened their doors early to promote upcoming events.

In my session, Bruce Mau, a renowned designer known throughout the world, spoke about crucial steps needed to create effective and impactful changes.

Ironically, I was sitting next to a young man from New Zealand named Neil, who recently kickstarted a business called Camo Car Keys. Camo Car Keys features Neil’s very witty and simplistic illustrations inspired to bring a smile to people’s daily lives.

Neil has had much success in Wellington, New Zealand, selling his original prints and also makes a living by transferring his Camo Car Keys images on miscellaneous items which you can order online.

Before Bruce took the mic, Neil and I discussed the difference and similarities between Wellington and Mansfield. It turns out that Neil was very familiar with Mansfield thanks to the Shawshank Redemption movie, which doesn't surprise me.

Live music, international and delicious food and outdoor festivals are some things that Neil feels brings people to Wellington, in addition to Victoria University, which attracts swarms of transplants.

After the session, I felt like I met a friend who I could meet up with later and also correspond with down the road. In fact, Neil’s punk band may come play a show at Mansfield this summer.

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I attended 2 other sessions, but I found that reaching out to natives and picking their brains was the way to go if I wanted to really get inspired about new ideas. Most of the natives emphasized the same areas that Neil did, and I soon realized that in the process of asking questions about Austin, I was educating them about the great things that Mansfield is doing.

I’ve always been proud of the great accomplishments that we’ve done in Mansfield but verbalizing them to people who have never been to Mansfield felt like the best way to promote and to attract them our way.

From that point on I decided that I would get in journalist mode and meet at least ten people a day and have in depth discussions about innovative food and entertainment efforts.

Obviously, this also entails sampling a lot of food in this global pantry of a city. Let’s hope I don’t come back to Mansfield ten pounds heavier.

Stay tuned and follow the process via #SXSW419. Or watch for more blogs starting Saturday, March 10 at

This Solutions Journalism story is brought to you in part by the generous support of our Newsroom Partners: Spherion, Visiting Nurses Association, PR Machine Works, Nanogate/Jay Systems, DRM Productions, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, Richland Bank, Mechanics Bank, Area Agency on Aging, and many others. To learn more about Solutions Journalism at Richland Source click the "About Solutions Journalism."

Case manager at Catalyst Life Services, dance instructor for Richland Newhope Industries, Inc. and a musician known as Chico’s Brother. He's passionate about music, art and mentorship and aims to incorporate those elements at his building called La LUNA.