Bean sees the world through many lenses – urbanist, artist, permaculturalist, social entrepreneur, queer feminist, amateur ethnographer, and more ever-changing perspectives. Her white and middle-class lenses have set her on a lifelong task of deep listening and trying to use her privilege to empower others. Her anti-corporate lenses lead her to gather and spread knowledge about self-reliance (how to make, grow and trade what you need) while always aiming to bring individuals into collectives. Her storytelling lenses overlay them all – how to create multimedia stories (podcasts, videos, writing, art) in a way that enables unheard voices to shape their own narrative, stories that encourage the audience to take positive action, stories that show visions of societal change. She was born in the woods of Western Massachusetts with the name Katherine but somehow became Bean as a baby through a mysterious nickname evolution.
At Dartmouth College Bean studied Environmental Studies and Human Centred Design with the grand plan of applying these two frameworks to urban planning – enabling citizens to call the shots when it comes to their neighborhood’s sustainable ‘development’. She came to believe that cities are the garden beds of systemic change during urban planning internships in New York and San Francisco, working on a community resilience strategic plan and a neighborhood sustainability action program. Amidst the affordability crisis in these cities, she realized that urban improvements will only contribute to gentrification if they are not accompanied by systemic change. This quest for bottom-up change leads her to Detroit, where her collaborators doing environmental justice work (shout out to EMEAC) changed her outlook on gentrification prevention, the whiteness of environmentalism, and the importance of true grassroots organizing. She took these learnings back to campus where she worked as the Social Justice Intern for the Sustainability Office, planning events and exhibits to highlight the intersection of social and racial justice with environmentalism. She also spent 3 of her college years co-founding a social enterprise called ArtxChange Marketplace, an online platform for nonprofits and artists to partner in mutually beneficial art auctions. Along the way she grew a love for creative direct actions, making podcasts and videos, and attempting various DIY projects.
After graduation in 2016, she spent a year in Australia on a fellowship to study community resilience. This started with ethnographic research on communal housing models and turned into a project called Re-Everything, a digital storytelling series about local approaches to systems change (reeverythingproject.com). Now that she is back in the US she hopes to continue collecting stories about local grassroots action, growing food and community, and contributing to the climate justice movement on the homefront until COP23.