Ingrid Askew grew up in Boston and studied art therapy at Boston University and theater at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She settled in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1978, where she began her career as a cultural activist. In the early 1980s, she founded and was the artistic director of First World Images, a theater ensemble for community actors and students of all ages. In 1983, she was a founding member of New World Theater, a multicultural theater of University of Massachusetts students and community members. Askew directed and acted in the company, which toured in New England, New York, and once in Australia.
Ingrid met Sister Clare Carter in 1990 when she was the keynote speaker at a Martin Luther King Day breakfast that Clare attended. The two quickly became friends and, soon after, Ingrid became a lay Buddhist in the Nipponzan Myohoji order. When Clare approached her with the idea of an interfaith pilgrimage, Ingrid took to it immediately. It took five years to plan the pilgrimage and one full year to walk it. Ingrid, Sister Clare, and Ingrid's daughter Raina were among the 50 pilgrims who finished the pilgrimage on June 12, 1999, in Cape Town, South Africa.
Askew moved permanently to Cape Town in November of 1999, just in time to attend the Parliament of World Religions, where Ingrid and other pilgrims received the Gift of Service to the World award. Since living in South Africa, Ingrid founded the Ikhwezi Cultural Arts Ensemble, a group of young Xhosa men, ages 19 to 26, who live in the Cape Town townships. The group meets weekly to sing, write, talk, and work toward publishing a book of poems. Since Ingrid started the group, two men have gone to college, and four are in the process of applying. She also works at Bonne Esperance, a shelter for refugee women and children from the Congo, Rwanda, and Angola. She is organizing a conference for African and African American women to come together and discuss spiritual connections and economic development. With South African playwright Fatima Dike, Askew is coordinating a group of African students and students from the University of Louisville to perform a play honoring the Africans who died in the Middle Passage. Ingrid feels that her experience on the Interfaith Pilgrimage taught her to go deeper in her work. No longer is producing a play or writing a poem the central focus; it is about helping her students get in touch with their true spirits and know that they can be whatever they want to be.