Katy is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Fine Arts. At IU, she focused on fine art printmaking, arts education, and women’s studies. After college, Katy worked for Fort Wayne Community Schools as a paraprofessional. She also worked in her home studio creating works of art. Katy has held instructional artistic programs at venues including The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art and the Huntington City-Township Public Library. Her love of artists, artwork, and their important relationship with communities led to continued personal growth and passion for engagement through the arts.
In 2017, Katy co-founded the Huntington Chalk Walk, where she first collaborated with the City and County of Huntington. Profits from that event allowed the Huntington County Community Foundation to create a scholarship fund for students pursuing an education in the arts. Through this experience and encouraged by the amount of support given by the public, Katy decided to further invest in the community.
In 2018, Katy joined the LaFontaine Arts Council. As a board member, she dove deeper into the existing structure of community arts and by participating in the development of the City of Huntington’s Community Arts Plan. Katy attended trainings with NeighborWorks America on the topic of community development through the Community Leadership Institute in Houston, Texas, which fueled her passion for creating arts and cultural opportunities on a local level in her hometown of Huntington.
In 2019, Katy was hired for the dual role of Executive Director of the LaFontaine Arts Council and Director of the Huntington Arts & Entrepreneurial Center (HAEC), a project of Pathfinder Services. During the first year of Executive Directorship, Katy worked closely with Debbie Dyer of the LaFontaine Arts Council to ensure a smooth leadership transition and learn the ins and outs of Council operations. Katy received additional educational training in Arts in Cultural Practices and Grant Writing during preparation for the opening of the HAEC.
Katy serves on the board of the Huntington County Visitors and Convention Bureau where she joined the steering committee for the Make It Your Own Mural Festival developed by Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. The Mural Festival spawned the Huntington County Mural Project which sponsors the execution of a mural in all five towns in Huntington County that is being spearheaded by the Bureau. In 2021 implementation of the local On-Ramp Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator Program begins with Indiana Arts Commission hosted at HAEC. The program provides working artists the opportunity to advance their artistic career with an extensive curriculum focusing on strengthening business skills, career goals, and community engagement learning.
Katy is a proud member of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and a descendant of the famous war chief, Mihsihkinaahkwa or “Chief Little Turtle”. Katy is also the granddaughter of the last primary chief of the unified Miami people of Indiana, Topeah or “Chief Francis La Fontaine”. A melting pot of DNA also makes up Katy Strass and she often jokes about being a “true American” because of it. She says without arts and cultural preservation, these interesting identity facts may have been hidden and they have been a major influence for her to learn about, celebrate, and accept all people and cultures from an early age.
Various fine arts traditions like printmaking, painting, sculpture, ceramics, and drawing are personal and professional interests of Katy’s. She also enjoys the great outdoors, traveling to explore new sites and meeting new people, taking adventures, and accessing learning opportunities not necessarily available in rural Indiana. Still, her Indiana roots run deep and the Northeastern region will always be home.