About Malia


Malia Araki Burkhart (she/they) is a Multidisciplinary Artist, Community Activist, Somatic Massage Therapist, and Arts-Educator.

Malia Burkhart

Where I’m From:

Half of my ancestors immigrated from Japan to work on sugar plantations in Hawaii, and half of my ancestors immigrated from England/Germany to farm in Iowa. I was born and raised in Mni Sota Makoce (Minnesota), the homelands of the Oceti Sakowin and Anishinaabe people, where I now live, work and create.

I attended the Arts High School at the Perpich Center for Arts Education to study music composition and visual arts, and graduated in 1994.   I attended St. Olaf College’s Paracollege program, a student-centered “parallel college”.  I graduated in 1998 with a BA in Studio Arts and a Paracollege self-designed major in “Arts as Community Activism”.

Community Arts, Arts Education, and Puppetry Bio:

I have led projects and taught art locally and internationally since 1999.  I began as an Americorps intern, serving at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater, Pillsbury House and Little Earth of United Tribes.  I was an Associate Artist with  In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater (HOBT) and worked as a MayDay Parade Artist, puppet-builder and performer in several mainstage productions. I am currently serving as Co-chair of the board of HOBT.  I am a member of Hijinks Stilts, (formerly Chicks on Sticks), a professional stiltwalkers cooperative.  I have been an artist, Co-Director, and board member for Barebones Productions’ annual Halloween Extravaganza. In the past 2 decades I’ve visited hundreds of schools, teaching K-12 residencies in puppetry and mask-making to people of all ages and backgrounds. I am on several artist-rosters for my work in education, including COMPAS, The Minnesota State Arts Board, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the East Side Arts Council. Visit my Arts Education page for more information.

Performance Art

My work in Performance Art is influenced by puppetry and mask-work. Butoh, Global Somatics Process, Contact Improvisation, and “Moving Stories” — Somatically-based improvised storytelling. Past productions include Sacred Garden,  BreatheLoveKnowRelateThe Survival Pages, and Remembering Rachel Corrie. I have been awarded several grants for my work including Forecast Public Art’s McKnight Mid-Career Professional Development GrantMinnesota State Arts Board’s “Artist Initiative Grant” and the Jerome Foundations’ Naked Stages Program. In 2020-2021 and 2022 I participated in grant-supported fellowships through Monkeybear Harmolodic Workshop. Video excerpts of my work can be found on my Performance Art page.


Through support from Monkeybear’s Harmolodic Workshop, I produced and directed two puppet films. “Communion” (2022-23) and “the creature” (2020-2021). Through a fellowship in puppet film-making, I learned how to storyboard, write a screenplay, plan and direct filming-sessions, and post-producion editing.  Both films were screened at the Detroit Puppet Company in September 2023.


In 2001 I was awarded a grant via the Asian American Renaissance and Jerome Foundation to study Butoh dance with Min Tanaka at the Bodyweather Farm in Yamanashi, Japan.  To continue my studies in Butoh, and to connect with my Japanese heritage, I worked as an English teacher in Osaka, Japan, in 2002-2003, as an employee of Japan’s national JET Programme. I practiced and performed Butoh with Ken Mai and Bridget Satsuki, in Kyoto, Japan, as part of the dance troupe Azelea.  In Minneapolis, I studied and performed Butoh Dance with Gadu Doushin. In 2009, I studied and practiced landscape-based improvisation at Earthdance in Massachusetts.


I sing and play a variety of instruments: piano, accordion, guitar and others.  Many of my early explorations have been in the form of solo and group-improvisations and instrumental compositions, as well as singer-songwriter, folk-style songs.  Most recently, I am exploring sound in the context of puppet-films, and more experimental approaches to creating acoustic art.

Healing Arts

I have been a Global Somatics Practitioner since 2011, as a Somatic Massage and Movement Therapist.  I practice massage therapy in South Minneapolis.  In 2015 I became a certified instructor in Eternal Spring Chi Kung from the CK Chu School of Tai Chi in New York City.  From 2015-2019, I was part of People’s Movement Center, a healing justice collective.

In 2022 Ihotu Ali and I co-founded the clinic at Oshun Center, located inside Family Tree Clinic in Minneapolis. The Oshun Center for Intercultural Healing is an integrative health clinic and training center.  Bodywork therapists integrate reclaimed cultural therapies, trauma science, and practices in reproductive justice, and health equity.

Visit the Oshun Center website or at www.kochikara.com for more information and updates about my Somatic Massage practice.