When Katie Beck moved back to Akron after college, she noticed a distinct change in the North Hill neighborhood: namely, the surge in Nepali and Bhutanese refugees.
“I wondered who all these people were, and where they came from?” says Beck, who, since returning to Akron in 2014 has invested her time and efforts in socially conscious theatre projects, like a community-based play in the Firestone Park neighborhood where she grew up.
Beck’s curiosity led to being awarded a Knight Arts Challenge grant to launch Nepali Applause, an arts and cultural event in the North Hill neighborhood that is “artist led,” like many of her other collaborations.
The open air festival is expected to take place next May on North Hill and will feature multiple stages with artists, musicians, dancers and actors from Nepal and Bhutan, among other countries. The performance will culminate with an after-party catered by local Nepali food artists.
“I hope to grow the network of artists in North Hill and gain a larger audience in Akron and a safe place to have this cultural exchange,” says Beck, who now lives in the North Hill neighborhood and founded Gum-Dip Theatre as an umbrella organization for these grassroots projects to offer community-building through socially engaged performances. (The word gum-dip is a reference to Akron’s tire-making past and also is symbolic of the binding elements of a community.)
Because Knight Arts Challenge grants require matching funds, she’s launched a Kickstarter for Nepali Applause (Visit link here).
Through the artist-led focus, Beck works with collaborative artists for each project, which helps build this network even more.
While many Akronites are still learning about the culture of our diverse array of resettled residents, Beck hopes to build this bridge in a stronger manner. “I believe there’s still that gap between people of Nepali descent and people of Akron,” she says.
Beck, who has a bachelor’s degree in theatre and community and justice studies from Allegheny College, also is working with local girls for a performance that explores such topics as oppression and racism, under the principles of Theatre of the Oppressed, developed by Augusto Boal in the 1960s in Brazil.
For info, visit www.gumdiptheatre.com.