Katie Owings brings the performing arts to her humanitarian mission
Katie Owings began dancing as a 3-year-old and has never stopped. Twenty-seven years later, Katie has brought not only dance, but instruction in music, art and acting to hundreds of children through the Inspiration Performing Arts Center (IPAC) in Mahtomedi, Minnesota.
A 2003 graduate of Park High School in Cottage Grove, Katie came to Inver Hills Community College as a PSEO student with the goal to complete her general education classes before attending the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
“I remember Inver Hills for the community feel of the campus,” she said. “The college offers a small, intimate environment that is a great stepping stone from high school to higher education.”
Katie pursued a degree in social work at the university while performing with the UWRF Dance Theatre. She arrived at a watershed in her life when she received the opportunity to partner with Mahtomedi Community Education to start a dance school.
She followed her dream of owning and operating her own performing arts center by attending a fast-track dance education certification program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “The UNLV program was really intense,” she recalled. “We danced all day. We were submerged in training—it was like drinking out of a fire hose.”
An affiliated studio with More Than Just Great Dancing, IPAC has been serving the performing arts community for 10 years. Misty Lown, the founder of MTJGD, was instrumental in helping Katie press on with her business venture during a time when she almost lost heart.
“I am so grateful to have Misty as a mentor and business coach,” Katie said. “She reminded me to keep fighting the good fight of faith during the times I thought I couldn’t get through, which in turn gave me the support and confidence to never forgo my dreams and desires. In this fast-paced business world, I think it is so important to have honest people you can turn to, and Misty is just that. More than a mentor, she’s an angel. And, the entire community of More Than Just Great Dancing has been so much more than I could have ever expected.”
IPAC dance students“IPAC is inspiring with all the people, activities and mentoring. I am thankful I get to mentor the younger dance students.” — Elisabeth Kray, 13, Mahtomedi, Minnesota
“IPAC is a caring studio that is lots of fun and I have made many friends. I love the staff and their enthusiasm to teach. I also love the mentoring program where I can help others.” — Mikayla Holmgren, 19, Mahtomedi, Minnesota
“IPAC is a big family. I love experiencing the different things at the center. I’m looking forward to going on the mission trips.” — Hanna Bradt, 12, Grant, Minnesota
Along the way, Katie became interested in yoga. She is a certified yoga instructor with the Yoga Alliance and CorePower Yoga. She specializes in vinyasa, a yoga method that employs flowing, sequential postures synchronized with the power of the breath.
When asked what she likes best about yoga, Katie laughed. “Ya know, every time I come to my mat, I know I need it, and every time I leave my mat, I am infinitely grateful I did it. It’s really that simple.”
ImPACt and global engagement
Katie became immersed in international travel during a month-long stay in San Isidro, Costa Rica. While in Costa Rica, she got involved in the launch of a local performing arts program. That experience led to a service-oriented mission trip to Haiti in the summer of 2014. The Caribbean nation, the poorest in the Americas with a GDP per capita under $850 annually, had not recovered from the 2010 magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed an estimated 160,000 people while destroying a quarter million private residences and 30,000 commercial buildings.
“The Healing Haiti mission trip was life-changing and heartbreaking,” Katie said. “I went with a group of twelve and we were in Haiti for a week—go, go, go. We traveled to Port-au-Prince, Cité Soleil and Titanyen. I brought taps shoes with me on the trip and all the kids wanted to tap.”
Why do you think dance can be such a powerful missions platform?
“Dance is the universal language. The art form connects us all in such a powerful way—through the shared experience of movement, we are able to express, grow, inspire, empower, expand and learn.” — Katie Owings
Katie had an epiphany as a result of her visit to Haiti. She saw how she could merge the performing arts with humanitarian service to create a synergy that would empower everyone connected to a mission. She went on to found ImPACt, a nonprofit offering mission opportunities in Haiti and Uganda to dance studio owners and students around the world. ImPACt lives by the motto: “Dance, Love, Serve.”
“Haiti laid the idea on my heart,” said Katie, who later went on a mission trip to Kampala, Uganda. Katie’s sister, Alexandra Kisitu, was a driving force behind ImPACt and also her link to Africa, having married a man from Uganda.
“We are going back to Uganda on a ten-day mission trip in October 2015,” Katie said. “In September of this year, we are looking at purchasing land near Entebbe. Our plans include building a performing arts center with guest houses and a cafeteria.”
Katie’s nonprofit is hosting its first gala, To Inspire, To ImPACt!, in St. Paul at the Hillcrest Country Club on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016.
“We hope to raise the funds needed for the development in Uganda,” Katie said. “I love the phrase, ‘It takes a village.’ And it’s so true for this venture.”
A number of dance studio owners from around the country will be going on the Uganda trip, The Pearl of Africa Tour. The new center will be staffed solely by Ugandans. “We want the center to empower the local people,” Katie said. “We want to give back to Uganda.”
Her teaching philosophy reflects that focus on giving. “There’s a quote by Benjamin Franklin that encompasses my whole teaching philosophy,” she said. “‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.’ That philosophy infused with care, love, endless dedication and attention at the forefront is the groundwork for success in any classroom.”
Pastimes and priorities
Go, go, go continues to be Katie’s rule of thumb since her first trip to Haiti. She’ll be going on her second trip, the Hope for Haiti Tour, in August 2015. Because her life is so full, Katie enjoys uncomplicated pastimes, including walking, church activities and reading nonfiction.
Katie’s top priorities are as follows:
- Relationship with God
- Family and friends
- Learning and staying active
- Mission and business development
- Giving back
“This August in Haiti, we are partnering up with Emily and Brian Weber, the owners of Yorkville Performing Arts Center in Yorkville, Illinois, and Guy Roseen of Plano, Illinois, to offer an arts camp,” Katie said.
On the Uganda trip in October, Katie is partnering with the owners of MTJGD-affiliated studios around the country:
- Misty and Mitch Lown of Misty’s Dance Unlimited in Onalaska, Wisconsin
- Melanie Gibbs and Jo-D Meacham of Boca Dance Studio in Boca Raton, Florida
- Amber Brackett and Lindsay Roberts of Southern Dance Connection and Southern Cheer Elite in Greer, South Carolina
- Danielle Aikens-Holland of Northeast Georgia School of Dance & Music in Gainesville, Georgia
“What I enjoy best about dance is how it grants people of all ages the freedom for expression,” Katie said. “Dance gives us a platform to work together in an exciting and dynamic environment to create art. Dance is the universal language. How cool is that?”
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