By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – Stephanie McDairmant and Abisha Gross are making the most out of chance meetings.
On Saturday afternoon, Aug. 14, they’ll celebrate those rare moments in life and the importance of diversity with a unique gathering to recognize the growing international presence of people – specifically those from India – who live in the Warsaw area.
The event coincides with India’s annual independence day and is from 4-6 p.m. at The Vic, an event center adjacent to 110 Craft Meatery, 110 N. Buffalo St., in Warsaw. Admission is free and the public is invited to stop in, enjoy Indian and American food, check out some art and mingle.
The event will have a casual vibe and they’re hoping people drop by and visit for however long they want.
In addition to food from 110 Craft Meatery, the owner of Biryani Kitchen, an Indian restaurant located a block from 110, is providing Indian cuisine.
Biryani’s is one of two Indian restaurants that have opened in Warsaw in the past year or so. The other is Bomy’s Authentic
Indians appear to be the second-fastest growing minority in the county right behind Hispanics. Gross is unsure how big the local population is currently, but said some research in 2018 suggested there were upward of 1,000 Indians in Kosciusko County. She admits, though, that that’s probably changed as a result of the pandemic.
Gross said she wanted to host an event to promote community, inclusion and diversity.
“I know these are all buzzwords, but this is really what we’re trying to do locally is to try to bridge the gaps between the different groups,” Gross said.
McDairmant, who discovered a unique painting style that has blossomed into a full-time career, fell in love with the country of India after a visit for a wedding in 2013.
McDairmant uses her breath to move paint, a technique that is certainly uncommon and quite successful.
In four years, she’s created more than 100 paintings. Her award-winning art is represented by Gallery 5 in Hyde Park, Chicago, and in private and public collections worldwide.
Gross, an engineer by trade who works for Medtronic, is heading up a non-profit, Ends of the Earth, geared toward supporting those from India and other countries who have made a home in Warsaw, often as a result of employment in the local orthopedic industry.
The two met at a Women in the Workplace meeting hosted by the Intersession Group a few years ago when they were seated at the same table. Their friendship grew at the same time McDairmant’s appreciation for India deepened.
In 2020, shortly before the pandemic hit, McDairmant participated in a three-week artists-in-residency program in India that attracted people from across the world. It was a rare opportunity where she had the chance to collaborate with two dozen other artists in a variety of mediums.
“It was life-changing. In the sense that I think I understood the true importance of community and how quickly you can create it,” McDairmant said.
“We still talk,” McDairmant said of the lasting connections she made with the artists. “I’m still friends with most of them, no matter where they are in the world if we have questions … we support each other.”
Gross later reached out to McDairmant to see if one of her paintings could be used in an auction for Ends of the Earth, and the two then eventually paired up to organize Saturday’s event.
Both women talked of the need to reach out to the growing community.
Gross told a story of a moment back in the winter of 2020 when she saw a woman of Indian descent walking along a street in Warsaw and appeared to be underdressed for the cold conditions. She reached out to the woman, gave her a business card and encouraged her to call.
Nothing happened for three months until the phone rang. It was a family member of the woman who said they were in a dire situation and needed to move to Texas for employment reasons. Gross said she cleared her schedule, helped get things organized and got them to an airport in Chicago to make the connection.
Bridging those kinds of gaps is part of what Ends of the Earth is all about, she said.
Ends of the Earth, she said, is intended to provide support for international residents. The group has a chapter in Indiana and supporters are still developing a program, Gross said.
New international residents don’t need money, she said.
“They need community. they need support,” Gross said.