I recently wrote about traveling to Angers for the Correspondance Screening and to facilitate a Design Sprint workshop. The story wouldn’t be complete without spending a bit of time talking about the history of our sister city relationship and the incredible folks behind the scene that are working so hard to make these things happen.

In 2006 Austin’s St. Edwards University opened a campus in Angers, France which led to our then Consul general of France based in Houston to encourage a sister-city connection for Austin in France. In 2010, more traction developed as local citizens became involved and a friendship agreement was signed. In 2011, the Austin City Council officially executed the sister city agreement through a City Council act of resolution.

“This sister city relationship is important because it connects Austin to a vibrant, innovative, young, and culturally-talented city. Like Austin, it is a city of tastemakers and early adopters. In 2015, Angers earned designation as France’s leading city for the Internet of Things — a designation which will enable even more cross-Atlantic business connections.” — Ben Ramirez, former International Economic Development Manager for the City of Austin.

I first heard about the sister city relationship in 2014 when members of the Austin Angers Creative reached out to me and invited me to participate in Austin Week. A yearly festival in Angers that celebrates the art and culture of Austin. Austin Week is organized and coordinated by the Austin Angers Creative (AAC).

AAC works to :

Support awareness and growth of Angers artists in and beyond Austin and continue to strengthen creative collaborations between Austin and Angers.

Support development of Angers and Austin music, film, food & wine and tech industries.

Utilize existing “foodie” culture in both Austin and Angers to bridge the gap between our two cities and expose our mission and events to wider audiences.

Collaborate with the City of Austin and the City of Angers to develop long-term structures and support systems for the sister city program including funding, official designations, etc.

I was unable to attend the festival that year and instead visited in 2018 for the Premiers Plans film festival. As I planned for my trip, I began to reach out and connect with local Austin officials and organizers for the sister city relationship. Liz Wiley was by far the most prominent and passionate person I met. She was gracious enough to spend time with me and help me understand more about the sister city relationship and who was active on the project. Liz also told me all about French Tech and the work that has been done there to make Austin a French Tech Hub.

“Since I started going to Angers in 2011/2012 to discover what it had that we could connect to Austin — agriculture, gastronomy, the electronics sector in the broader Western region of France — I’ve seen the people involved and the types of activities for exchange diversify and grow exponentially.” — Liz Wiley, a business and IP attorney in Austin (www.generalcounselhub.com), Chair of the French American Business Council of Austin, Inc. and Honorary Consul of France for Austin.

Once I arrived in Angers and settled in, Vincent, my host, took me to meet up with Bruno Parisse, President of ACC, and Ganaelle Guiter, head of international relations at the Angers mayor’s office. Ganaelle had prepared an itinerary for me that included visiting with the city’s tech and startup mavens as well as film festival activities.

Our first stop was Le Quai for a delicious lunch at La Reserve. Interestingly, Levitation Festival, an Austin born music festival, hosted its French version of the festival in La Quai. After lunch, we walked across town to see John Pierson interview by Holly Herrick of the Austin Film Society. While in town, Holly was also scouting for films to bring back to Austin for French Cinema Week in April. Holly collaborates with Xavier Massé of Premiers Plans, to put together an incredible program of films, with each film introduced in person by the (French) filmmaker.

The next morning, Ganaelle and Bruno, along with our lovely host Vincent, took us on a pleasant trip to Bouchemaine. Vincent informed us that Bouchemaine translates to “mouth of the river” and I, of course, heard “mouse of the river” which led to much hysterics. We had a lovely lunch Le Noé.

That afternoon we watched a French filmmaker’s documentary about Austin music videos and then made our way to Jokers for the announcement of the clip winners.

The day of the Correspondance screening we all met at Chez Remi for the best meal of my entire stay in France. Remi is an incredible Chef and actually traveled to Austin as part of an AAC cultural exchange. During my visit to Angers, I also met a pizza chef and a brewer that also came to study and share with Austin craftsman.

Teaching Each Other

Angers was a pure delight. As I soaked in everything the beautiful city had to offer, I couldn’t help but think about our sister city relationship. Wherever we went everyone seemed to know each other, and I experience a bit of nostalgia of what it was like to be in Austin 20 years ago. While Austin can provide the citizens and leaders of Angers with a list of things not to do and things worth repeating, Angers can keep us humble and help us remember how to retain our roots of community.

AAC Board

Bruno Parisse (President)

Bruno Parisse, is the president of AAC since late 2016 and board member for four years. Bruno runs the Ruralfaune label that exists to offer some adventurous music projects on obsolete formats and various places. He also founded Silverclub, a small nonprofit that promotes experiment and avant-garde shows in museums and art galleries throughout Angers. Bruno’s passion lies in the love of meeting people and connecting them to encourage new and unexpected creative projects.

“It has been a true delight to witness the evolution of our sister city relationship as more and more Austin citizens find interest in working with this weird French city and these strange people who live her” — Bruno Parisse

Nicolas Nithart

Nicolas Nithart has been on the AAC board for 1 year but has been deeply involved in many Angers Austin sistership activities since 2012. Nicolas has travelled many times in Austin and has developped there a solid network of loyal partners and friends.

Nicolas brings Marketing, Communication and PR expertise to the board. Thanks to his over 20 years of international Marcoms & Events experience in Europe, US, India, and China where he created, organized, launched, and rolled out strategies and tactics. His work spans many verticals, including Computing, IT, Gaming, Music, Cinema, Food & Beverage, Travels, Government, Entertainment, etc.

“I consider Austin as my second hometown. I am always reenergized when I visit Austin, a city full of creativity, activities and entrepreneurship. I feel lucky and proud to contribute to build and seal partnerships and friendship between all the talented austinites and angevins — Nicolas Nithart

Davy Demaline

Davy Demaline has been on the AAC board for since 2016. Davy studied sociology with a specialization in cultural activities, specifically music and cinema. After school, he started to work in the music industry at the Fedurok, a French live music venue network before moving on to l’Olympic (Nantes), a live music venue that organizes Scopitone, an electronic music and digital arts festival which became Stereolux. After a two year sabbatical in Asia, Africa, and South America, join Chabada.

“ I love the idea of a bridge between our two cities and continents built through cultural exchange, sharing artists, creations, projects, points of view and ways to reimagine the arts and how to promote it.”

Xavier Massé

Xavier Masse is the founder and original president of AAC. Xavier also directs and manages Premiers Plans, a week-long leading European film festival dedicated to first films that takes place in Angers every January and just recently had it’s 30th anniversary. He first started with the festival as a volunteer and has been running it for 22 years now. His remarkable passion for sharing his love of film with his community is evident through all his hard work. Xavier also co-curates the French Cinema week in Austin, TX every April.

Check out my company, Voltage Control! Voltage Control facilitates innovation workshops and we specialize in Design Sprints. Contact Douglas at douglas@voltagecontrol.co if you are interested in having us facilitate your Sprint, coach your team on how to run an effective Sprint, or are curious to learn more about how to adapt Design Sprints or other workshop techniques to help your company grow.