Austin Community Gardens On the Rise

Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, with growing sectors in technology, music, business, and now community gardens.

“They’ve been on the rise for the past 8 years since the city has become supportive of it,” says Sari Albornoz, the Grow Local Program Director at Sustainable Food Center and key contact for the Coalition of Austin Community Gardens (CACG).

Map of Austin Community Gardens

The city support she is referring to is the Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Garden Program (SUACG) founded in 2009 to “streamline the process for establishing community gardens and sustainable urban agriculture on city land.” The program claims to be “producing an estimated 100,000 pounds of fresh local, organic produce for Austin residents every year.”

One of these city gardens, the Deep Eddy Community Garden, is over 30 years old, 400 square feet and has a highly selective waitlist to get a plot for gardening. Gardens on city land require a lengthy paperwork process to get made, but represent less than a third of the rising gardens in Austin.

Most of the gardens can be found through the CACG, which works on a broader scope to help start and maintain gardens that are not just city sponsored. They provide panels and sessions to help educate people on how to start a garden.

“Gardens built at a center with a mission do very well,” according to Sari. These gardens include church, school, and neighborhood gardens. While city and neighborhood gardens typically have gardeners grow food for themselves, church and school gardens mostly donate theirs. Schools usually donate the food, but use the gardens as an educational tool according to Sari, while churches may donate the food or host potlucks.

Cherry Creek Community Garden

If someone cannot find the time or resources to get a garden made on city land or in their neighborhood, they can use resources like Urban Patchwork, which will send someone to help “turn unused yard space into farmland.”

Sari is not able to pinpoint the exact reason for the rise of community gardens in Austin, but explains how the benefits may be alluring to most people. She classifies them under health, economic, environmental, educational, and community building activities.

According to several studies, Sari says that gardening is considered a physical exercise and that “horticultural therapy” is rising with it. Parents will be happy to hear too that studies have shown that children will be more prone and even excited to eat vegetables when they grow them themselves. Sari says, “It’s something about the kids seeing the process of the plant grow from the beginning and to be able to pull it out of the dirt and eat it.”

Whether these gardens are to make income through farmer’s markets, to create a gathering space for neighbors, to educate on fresh foods, or just being outdoors, community gardens provide sustainable food that anyone can make in their backyard.


Midterm Story final CRISTINA RAMOS

Most Austinites were aware of the fact that their city was going to be invaded due to the ever so famous South By Southwest Festival, SXSW, that occurs during March. The festival brings in people who come from all over the world just to participate in all of the action. I scouted SXSW and found three different types of SXSW participants; Chelsea Williams who received a badge from work, Teresa Charnichart who volunteer at SXSW and Bella Santiago who had no badge.

Chelsea Williams, a Tek Boost employee, was sent by her company to hand out business cards and network with SXSW participants. She was given a platinum badge so she would be able to attend every event that required a badge. The events that did not require badges, such as the Square Root networking mixer, did not compare to those that did require badges, like her most successful mixer; the UK at SXSW event at Speakeasy. In addition to networking, Williams also made sure to attend some of the panels at the JW Marriott to see what new technology was coming out. Since she is in her thirties and still had to go to work early in the morning she said that she did not think that she was able to fully enjoy SXSW as much as a younger participant who did not have to go to work the next day.

Locations Chelsea visited 

Teresa Charnichart, student at UT, decided to volunteer at SXSW so she could receive a film badge. Charnichart heard about all of the great things that were going to be happening at SXSW this year, especially the films, that she did not want to miss out. The volunteering was not bad at all, Charnichart really enjoyed working with the film panel crew at the Austin Convention Center. Charnichart was able to sit in on some of the panels with celebrities such as Nick Offerman and Lee Daniels. As for SXSW, Charnichart was able to have priority access to the films that were premiering at SXSW. Some of the movies that she went to go see at the Paramount Theatre and ZACH Theater included; The Disaster Artist, Mr. Roosevelt and Life. Charnichart does not regret her decision to volunteer and said she plans on doing it again next year.

Locations Teresa visited 

Bella Santiago, a recent Texas A&M graduate, did not have a badge and was visiting Austin for the first time to support her friend’s indie band. Since Santiago did not have a badge she told me that she honestly just came to Austin so she could attend her friend’s unofficial SXSW performance at a UT Frat Party. In her free time she decided to go view the graffiti at Graffiti Park. Also on her list was to go visit the ever so famous nightlife of Austin on Sixth Street. However due to SXSW it was uncomfortably crowded and at some points she did not feel safe being down there. Santiago ended up having a calm night at Steampunk Saloon on West Sixth with a couple of friends. Overall Santiago had a great experience SXSW without a badge.

Locations Bella visited

There are many different ways to go about doing SXSW. Even if you are low on the money or don’t have a job that sends you to participate in SXSW, there are other ways around it. Such as, volunteering or attending the free events they offer. As SXSW continues to grow more and more people continue to want to be included in on the fun!

All locations of three interviewees

Midterm Story Final – Harris Foster

At St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, a classroom is filled with students, a typical scene for any major university. The students of this class are like any other. Working in groups, they are hunched intensely around their computers, occasionally glancing to their neighbors screen to make a quick suggestion or ask for help on a formula. Are these students future mechanical engineers designing the next great wonder? Are they scientists looking for the next medical breakthrough?  While math is greatly involved, their goals are far different. These students are creating fun.

One of St. Edward’s most notable game development teams is Alt Mind Ctrl. Alt Mind Ctrl is an independent game studio formed by students who met each other through St. Edward’s Interactive Games program. While many game projects are created as part of assignments to get an interactive games degree, Altmind Ctrl operates independently of the school, with hopes to make their own commercially available game.

While some students dread group work, Alt Mind Ctrl is a student formed organization that thrives off of it. Upon visiting the computer lab where Alt Mind Ctrl has their weekly meetings, a clockwork process can be observed. Coders and Engineers work alongside the gameplay designers to create the skeleton frame of the game, manipulating the mathematical, behind-the-scenes data that determines everything from in-game items to the speed of the player character’s movement. These elements are brought to life by the artists, who draw, sculpt, and animate on their digital canvas. All of this is overseen by a director. Just like in a film crew, the director runs the show. They call the shots, they make the decisions, and they have the final say. I sat down with head of the studio Lissa Argetecha to ask her about the project. An interview with Lissa can be heard at the end of this article.

Alt Mind Ctrl’s current project is a title called “A Matter of Time”, an adventure game with a horror setting. Taking place in 1950’s America, the game follows a protagonist named Amara, a young woman who is in search of her brother that has gone missing. The search takes her to the home of a suspected serial killer, where things take a turn for the worse. Amara is found in a mystical place where time can be manipulated, taking her on a journey throughout a range of time periods.

Unlike other student game projects that use a lot of license-free tech or art, “A Matter of Time” is being completely built from the ground up by St. Edward’s students. All of the games coding, art, and even an entire orchestral score is constructed in-house by those who are also earning their degree. The game has been in production for about six months, and while there is no release window yet, Alt Mind Ctrl is hard at work ensuring it will one day their passion project will be available to play. Until then, you can follow their development by liking their Facebook page.


Interview with Lissa Iracheta -Director, Alt Mind Ctrl

Midterm Project Final Draft – Rachel Hubbard

Lisa Beaman

I sat down in the home studio of Austin’s own esteemed artist, Lisa Beaman, whose work is currently displayed at The Davis Gallery downtown location. While getting the chance to get to know Lisa, I gained a fortunate amount of knowledge about her life as a mother, wife, and extremely creative artist of many concentrations.

Lisa Beaman was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts and lived there until moving to Boston to receive her BA in art. She met her husband, Joseph Beaman, at the University of Massachusetts and ended up moving down to Austin with him 38 years ago. They have four grown children, three boys and a girl.

As a young artist, Lisa started out as a quilt maker and became very well-known and esteemed in the business over time. She felt it was something she could do as an artist while also starting a family. After winning various awards and continuing as a quilt maker for 20 years, she wanted something new and fresh and proceeded to give away all her fabric at a yard sale. Once she was 40 years old, she got into oil painting and loved it. As an admirer for variety and change in her work, she also missed certain elements of quilting and started paper collaging about 15 years ago.

She describes paper collaging as a more direct and immediate form of art. A quilt would take her about two years to come up with an idea and get all the fabrics to make it perfect, while she can finish a paper collage project within a day. She likes to use antique paper and collects it at various places wherever she travels, recently taking a trip to Japan where she found some of the best materials. Now at 61, a prolific worker who can easily entertain herself by moving from project to project, a normal day at her home studio consists of her switching back and forth from her oil painting to her collaging studio as inspiration strikes throughout the day.

While working as a hobby and as a business, she works on various projects at a time and sometimes feels slightly overwhelmed with the amount of work she produces. Having said this, she will probably never stop working and explains, “I’m an artist, you don’t quit, I get an idea and I come back”. Besides oil painting and paper collaging currently keeping her busy, she also collects 3D antique artifacts and uses them to make color coordinated collages and mosaic work.

When describing her style as an artist, she prefers nontraditional and abstract pieces, loves everything having to do with nature, and likes creating pieces that are exciting and surprising. Her impulses are symmetrical but she enjoys the challenge of doing something more fun. For example, her dislike for Donald Trump was the inspiration for a recent project, portraying a comical and artistic depiction of him giving a speech. Though much of her paper collaging is abstract, she personally prefers to have an emotional connection with her work and tries to depict different themes and meanings whenever it’s possible. Her favorite pieces are the ones that she holds a sentimental value to and keeps for herself.

If she wasn’t an artist she would likely be an architect, her and her husband worked on remodeling a country home they shipped from upstate New York and made it into a complete work of art that they love spending time in. She loves to build projects and incorporates her work throughout her home, considering the way she decorates as form of art as well.

Midterm Story Final: JM Blay-Tofey

MUD Magazine is pushing to create a foundation for the wide variety of people who are creatively expressing themselves, as well as their culture through curation, photography, music, and many other creative directions incorporating individuality. MUD Magazine is an independent publication inspired by “a love for our hometowns” as well as the many different arts and music that spawn from the cracks of each unique street. MUD is striving to bring and capture southern culture to the world by showcasing an abundance of “talents, work, and spirit of individuals across the region and beyond.”

During spring break of 2017 MUD Magazine hosted their very own unique events while engaged in their second official appearance at Austin’s very own music festival “South by South west”. “SXSW” or “South by,” being a staple in new and live music to date is a platform for artist and organizations to be put on the forefront. With hundreds of brands, publications, and performers flooding the streets of downtown Austin, MUD hosted an event named “South-boiled” in collaborations with Heard Entertainment on the first weekend of the festival which incorporated an array of music across different genres as well as an abundance of crawfish to go around. This event amongst others showcased the many principles MUD strives to voice, as well as how and why the planning and preparation of creating a public event must be accounted for, from the social media aspect down to each artist alone.

Due to South by having a big reputation, many event are sponsored by popular publications like Fader, along with programs such as MTV (MTVu). When putting together an event for MUD, let alone south by, the audience is the main focus. Choosing a venue, or possible collaborations that would accommodate the masses, as well as decorating each event with welcoming messages and views to give everyone the positive image MUD stands by. This, along with incorporating social media by creating digital guides to south by with flyers and info on the event to give possible attendee’s an accurate synopsis of what to expect whether being performers, artists, food, or drinks (venders, etc.). Merchandising and brand image are key points in event planning, therefore being able to have “merch” available for everyone to advertise the MUD logo.

With south by providing a diverse audience, MUD orchestrated an ambiance that would both welcome new people to the world of MUD and remind the previous members why MUD is here in the first place. I was able to gain an insight many of us fail to recognize when visiting an event such as the southern broil, as I was supplied with a first hand look into cooperation and dedication many people put into the “MUD experience,” as well as the many people who come together to create the faces of MUD.

Midterm Story Final: CARLYE COOK

What simply began as a class project, has now become an organization that has impacted thousands of lives and launched a branch at St. Edward’s University.

Love Your Melon is an apparel brand that is determined to give every child battling cancer in America a hat. The brand also donates 50 percent of the proceeds to fund pediatric cancer research.

It was 2012 when, Zachary Quinn and Brian Keller founded Love Your Melon for an entrepreneurship class at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul Minnesota. Since then, the organization has grown into some 800 different groups, spreading across college campuses all over the nation.

The name Love Your Melon is referencing to love your head, whether covered in hair or not. One common side effect of chemotherapy, is hair loss. This is why the company wishes to give every child battling cancer a hat. The hats are aimed to help keep the kid’s heads warm, and to help the kids feel beautiful.

Collectively since 2012, Love Your Melon has raised over $2.6 million and donated over 51,000 hats to kids with cancer.

It was not until the fall of 2016 when Love Your Melon was brought to St. Edward’s University.

Beatriz La Vitola, and Aida Domingo felt the desire to reach out and make a difference. Both girls come from Latin America, where volunteer work is more of a common activity among young adults.

“In other countries it is more usual to do volunteer work, and we noticed we did not have something like this in Austin, and at St. Edward’s University,” said La Vitola.

The two got a group of four girls together to email and contact Love Your Melon, and shortly after St. Edward’s had their first Love Your Melon campus crew.

The main focus for the college campus crews is to raise awareness for pediatric cancer and to spread the word of the brand, Love Your Melon. The more people who are aware of the brand, the more purchases can be made, and the more money can be raised for research.

“We are basically brand ambassadors,” Domingo said.

However, the girls are wanting to do more.

Recently the crew has connected with two pediatric cancer survivors, Matthew Doyle, and Bailey Grahn.

“I will never quit,” Grahn said. “This is a lesson I learned and will use for the rest of my life. All of this was just a minor set back for a major come back.”

The boys have helped provide insight into the experience of having pediatric cancer, ways to help, and are now working on a fundraiser with the Love Your Melon crew at St. Ed’s.

“We are doing a fundraiser for Make a Wish and pediatric brain cancer. The event is to show the heroes and the family support on what they have been going through and to show Love Your Melon we appreciate them for doing this. We want to make this hard time into a memorable one, to have their reality fade away and to make the kids happy as well as their families,” Doyle said.

If you are looking to stay up to date with the events Love Your Melon has planned, follow them on Instagram @stedwards_lymcrew.

One can also help out by going to and making a purchase. Upon checkout, select St. Edward’s as the campus crew.

Midterm Final Draft- Karina Parra

The City of Dallas is a city with one of the richest cultures in Texas. The largest influence and cause for Dallas’s rich culture is due to the ever-growing ethnic minority group: Mexicans/Hispanics. The people from this Mexican community help contribute to their neighborhoods with the small businesses they own such as their panaderías, their paleterías and their elote stands.

Recently, there has been an increase of businesses that have taken parts of the Mexican/Latino culture and have shaped it to work in their favor by making a profit out of it. Non-Latinos make their business in order to cater upscale (white) clients.

A prime example of this is Steel City Pops. Steel City Pops is an ice-cream shop that sells gourmet, all natural popsicles that started in Alabama and later expanded to locations in Kentucky and Texas, DFW area having the majority of these shops. The owner, James Watkins, explains the idea originated when he and his family were on a vacation and came across a shop called “Las Paletas.” “It was a simple store, selling unique sweets called Mexican paletas—more commonly known as pops. But they were so much more than just pops…When we tasted these amazing pops, we decided everyone needed to know about this.”

These kinds of businesses are not necessarily harmful to the community. In fact, this kind of gentrification can actually help communities improve their services, become more profitable, and provide stability to the area. However, one business that opened up in the Oak Cliff area called Corn Connection became problematic.

On Corn Connection’s Instagram, they insulted other food cart vendors, which are mainly Latino-owned businesses. The post read “Elotes with swag. Buy them from the G’s who let the candy drip, Or I guess you could buy them from some roachin’ ass cart in front of Home Depot.”

After Corn Connection’s post came out, hundreds of angry posts appeared onto all of their social media platforms. These posts noted the violence that came about by Corn Connection and attempted to educate Corn Connection’s supporters as to why the post is offensive to the Latino community especially if the business is profiting off of a Latino business to begin with.

23-year-old, Lupe Garcia, helps her father at his elote stand outside of a local Home Depot and when she heard about this post, she was upset. “More than offended, I was deeply saddened by Corn Connection’s comments because it showed a lack of respect to the hard work put into the very businesses that made businesses like theirs possible. It’s one thing to see an idea, like it, and want to put your own twist on it, but it’s another to insult businesses by implying that the people running them are dirty and somehow less worthy of respect. It was a not so subtle attack on Latino business owners.”

After seeing all of the angry posts, Corn Connection’s owner, Miles, said that the post was made by a former employee—a Latino—and that at the time, all employees had access to the account and he never monitored the posts.

Since then, Corn Connection sent out a public apology on Facebook—which is now deactivated. Although Corn Connection and its owners have taken down all of their social media, they say that they will continue running their business, which Miles says is only a part-time hobby.

Data Mapping Exercise Ibarra

How Children in Poverty in Travis County has Changed from 2014-2015

TRAVIS COUNTY– Fourteen Travis County school districts saw a decrease of children in poverty from 2014 to 2015, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

With fifteen total districts represented in the county, only Coupland ISD experienced an increase of children in poverty. Coupland ISD saw an increase from 10% of children in poverty ages five to 17 in their schools to 13% of children in poverty in their schools — a 34% increase.

In contrast, Lake Travis ISD experienced a 30% decrease of children in poverty. Following closely behind are Eanes ISD and Hays Consolidated ISD with 25% and 29% decreases, respectively.

Travis County school districts comprise: Austin Independent School District, Coupland ISD, Del Valle ISD, Dripping Springs ISD, Eans ISD, Elgin ISD, Hays Consolidated ISD, Johnson City ISD, Lago Vista ISD, Lake Travis ISD, Leander ISD, Manor ISD, Marble Falls ISD, Pflugerville ISD and Round Rock ISD.