About Malia


Malia Araki Burkhart (she/they) is a Multidisciplinary Performance Artist, Singer-Songwriter/Musician, Visual ArtistSomatic Massage Therapist, and Arts-Educator. She lives, works, creates, and organizes in Minneapolis, MN.

Malia Burkhart

“Art is necessary for the growth and sustenance of the human spirit. I dedicate my life to saying YES to creative urges and healing creative wounds. Imagination is a wild place where we walk into unexplored corners within. Expressing what we discover is an act of bold vulnerability. Sharing deepens courage and forms a web of trust as empathy grows compassion in the witness. As we refine our skills and craft, we build belief in our own power of manifestation. With these tools we can mend our fractured spirits and create our lives anew.”

~Malia Burkhart, February 2, 2018

Where I’m From:

Half of my ancestors came from Japan, to sugar plantations in Hawaii, and half of my ancestors came from England/Germany to farms in Iowa.  I was born and raised on Dakota and Anishinaabe land, known as Minnesota, 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:

After a summer interning on Round River Farm in Finland, Minnesota, I moved to South Minneapolis in 1999. I joined Americorps, serving my first year at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater. I served my second year in Americorps at Pillsbury House and Little Earth of United Tribes, working with youth in arts and education.  I am currently in my 2nd term serving as Co-chair of the board of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater.  From 2000-2010, I was an Associate Artist with the theater and worked as a puppet-builder and performer in several mainstage productions, including the Invigorate the Common Well series, dealing with issues of water rights and our relationship to this precious resource. I was a MayDay Parade artist from 1999 – 2009.  I am a member of Chicks on Sticks, an all-female professional stiltwalkers cooperative.  I have also worked as an artist-coordinator, Co-Director, and board member for Barebones Productions’ annual Halloween Extravaganza (1999 – 2009). In the past decade I’ve visited hundreds of schools, teaching K-12 residencies in puppetry and mask-making across the Twin Cities Metro Area and Greater Minnesota. 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.

International Arts-Activism: In 2003, I co-directed a puppet-pageant, “Kamogawa Shukusai” in Kyoto, Japan with an international group of artists, raising awareness about water pollution and its effects on wildlife. In 2004, I worked as a volunteer English teacher, traveling around the world onboard the Peace Boat’s 47th Voyage. Onboard, I led passengers in the creation of two puppet street-theater demonstrations at COP 10 in Argentina, to raise awareness about Climate Change leading to rising sea-levels and its effects on island nations.  Another street-theater performance called for Chile’s pristine habitat in Patagonia to be declared a World Heritage Site, placing it out of the reach of bottled-water corporations. Other international work includes: 2005 Parade Artist for the Dream Parade in Shijr, Taiwan.  2001, an artist with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater’s production “Declaration of Peace” for the 2001 Madanguk Festival in South Korea.

Performance Art:

My work in Performance Art is influenced by Butoh, Global SomaticsTM Process, Contact Improvisation, and “Moving Stories” (aka Improvisation Movement Theater, as well as my experiences in puppetry and mask-work. 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 Foundation’s Naked Stages Program. In 2020-2021 I was a grant-recipient through Monkeybear Harmolodic Workshop to create a new work “The Creature”. In 2022, I have been part of a cohort of Monkeybear Alumni learning about film creation with puppets.  In March 2023, I will be co-presenting a new work, “Communion”. Video excerpts of my work can be found on my Performance Art page.


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 (2009-2014). In 2009, I studied and practiced landscape-based improvisation at Earthdance in Massachusetts.

In The Creature – a puppet film (2020-2021, to be released in 2023) I combined Butoh movement explorations with puppet imagery, poetry, and sound-landscapes in collaboration with Thomas Myrmel.


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.  I released a CD in 2011, “Humble and Receive”.

Most recently, I am exploring sound in the context of puppet-films, and more experimental approaches to creating acoustic art.

Healing Arts

I graduated as a Global Somatics Practitioner in 2011, as a Somatic Massage and Movement Therapist.  I practice massage therapy in South Minneapolis.

In February 2015 I completed my certification as an instructor in Eternal Spring Chi Kung from the CK Chu School of Tai Chi in New York City.  From 2015-2019, I was a member of People’s Movement Center, a healing justice collective.  I currently co-nurture a bodywork collective and offer sessions through Oshun Center, located inside Family Tree Clinic in Minneapolis.

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