Ensemble

Our main crew! Ensemble members are the visual, literary and performing artists who collaborate to create the concepts for LFAE’s exhibits, performances and Healing Arts Intensives. These talented teaching-healing artists work on Creative Teams to produce the artwork, text, music and dance for each of the performances held during the run of our exhibits. Ensemble members are also the facilitators for the Intensives and Arts Classes.

For a complete list of the hundreds of artists, teachers and healers who have exhibited in LFAE’s art shows, given workshops, performances, healing sessions and spiritual ceremonies, please see the page Exhibiting Artists and Presenters

Joan Forest Mage

Joan Forest Mage

Founder & Director

Joan Forest Mage is a shamanic artist, healer and teacher based in Chicago. She founded Life Force Arts Ensemble (LFAE) in 1988, and has curated LFAE’s 39 art exhibits. Joan created the Life Force Arts Method, which uses the arts for spiritual healing, and is the basis for all the work of LFAE. A Certified Movement Analyst (Laban Institute, NYC), Joan has over fifty years of experience as a dancer, vocalist and director, including three music albums and 45 years of teaching dance, yoga and fitness. Joan received a Master of Arts Degree from De Paul University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, with the focus area “Creating Healing Ritual Through the Arts.” First awakened to energy work through her profound experience of the energy of music and dance, Joan began doing shamanic healing in 1995 and created the extensive Life Force Arts Shamanic Training program. She has studied shamanism and healing ritual with numerous teachers. Joan specializes in “training trainers”: artists, teachers and healers who want to develop the spiritual dimension of their professional work.

Steven Blaine Adams

Steven Blaine Adams

Associate Artistic Director & Curator
Steven Blaine Adams is an artist and designer who works with natural materials like stones and crystals to create symbols with spiritual resonance. He is LFAE’s Associate Artistic Director & Curator and store designer. The son of an astrologer and Tarot reader, Steve has been doing readings professionally for over 30 years, combining the Aquarian Tarot with the healing properties of gemstones. Steve attributes meditation, art, ritual and spiritual connection as instrumental catalysts in his path towards healing.
Natalja Aicardi

Natalja Aicardi

Natalja Aicardi is an international multi-disciplinary artist, theatre creator, energy practitioner, teacher, yoga witch from Italy via Croatia and Sweden, based in Chicago since 2005. She left her hometown, family and friends as a teen-ager because she was called to find out who she was, away from what was familiar. She figured things out in her own way, using her own strength and intuition. She’s learned to speak up and say NO to inequality and emotional abuse and she built the courage to say YES to her voice and her creativity.

As she trained for years in various artistic disciplines, while also juggling motherhood, it became very clear to her that making art and expressing who she is through movement, dance, music, art and theatre was not only something she loved to do, it was something necessary to do for her physical, mental/emotional and spiritual well-being and that of her children. This launched her to explore the integration of the arts with the healing arts, shamanism, sound healing and yoga in more depth.

Then Life Force Arts Center opened its doors to Natalja and gave her a home and a community to continue to develop and share her gifts. Performing, collaborating and making others feel comfortable in their own skin is her passion and being a member of Life Force Arts Ensemble means doing all three.Natalja’s dream is to help people retrieve their unique gifts and build a safe and free world where all voices matter and respect each other, using all the artistic and healing tools in her toolbox. After all, isn’t it true, when we all live our dreams, our hearts are at peace and our minds are put to good use for the highest good of all? You can catch her in shows, leading classes and workshops or doing creative healing sessions. You can follow her on instagram@nataljatheselkie.

Linmayu Appavu

Linmayu Appavu

Linmayu Appavu is a dancer, visual artist, manifestation teacher, meditation circle facilitator, and real estate broker in Chicago, IL. She has performed with the Ensemble since 2010, and her visual artwork has appeared in several LFAE exhibits. Linmayu is passionate about the true love of the Divine for all people and the value and importance of each individual’s unique life path, and strives to help individuals connect to their internal spiritual guidance, get their needs met, and fulfill their dreams while on this planet. Linmayu has studied ballet with Yvonne Brown Collodi and University Ballet of Chicago, modern dance at Cornell University, Middle Eastern dance with June Seaney and Francine Passias, and shamanic practice with Joan Forest Mage. In her “spare time,” she is obsessed with cats, fashion, architecture, working out, Matchington Mansion, and Chicago style pizza.
www.attractionmanifestors.comlinmayuappavu.exprealty.com

Sharon Bechtold

Sharon Bechtold

Sharon Bechtold is a full time artist, writer, bard, and shamanic practitioner. She holds the status of Illinois State Artisan and is represented by museums, galleries and collections throughout the world. Sharon studied shamanism through Life Force Arts Shamanic Training, holds the Bardic Grade from the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, and is well versed in elemental energy work. She is a professional award winning pyrographer (burning into wood) who has published over a dozen books on pyrography and founded the largest and most comprehensive international online art school dedicated to pyrography. Sharon is the author and artist of the Cattitude Oracle Deck and Color My Day Mandala Coloring Book. She has been a columnist and writer for numerous international print magazines. www.burningwithsharon.com

Christopher Bednash

Christopher Bednash

“I am an interdisciplinary artist who nurtures notions of a more peaceful, just, and ecologically wise world through education, outreach, and creative projects. My media and methods vary by the project, ranging from drawing and painting, to mixed media and digital arts, also incorporating performance, installation, community organizing, research, and education into my artistic practice.” “At the root, I am interested in expanding certain intersections between art, activism, and (non-doctrinal) spirituality– and specifically to create spaces where we are better able to imagine what a more beautiful community/world can be like. When I say ‘spirituality,’ I mean it in a very broad sense. I have no wish to push beliefs (or non-beliefs) on others, simply to help us to place the struggles and tragedies of our past and present into larger narratives, bigger pictures where meaning and beauty remain and transformation is always possible. christopherjosephbednash.net
Barry Bennett
photo: Danny Howard

Barry Bennett

Barry is an ex-pat from the Ozarks who has been in Chicagoland since 1993 and has been working with Joan Forest Mage off and on for two decades. In addition to that, Barry is a Jeff nominated maker of theatrical music and sound with over 40 world premieres, a multitude of albums under his own name (BarryBennettSounds) and as a band leader — with the seminal trance outfit, MiLkBabY and the art rock group he currently leads, GRAPE JUICE PLUS.

He is an artistic associate and resident composer for 16th Street Theater, Winifred Haun & Dancers, and the director of Impending Behavior Orchestra. Other companies he has worked with in Chicagoland include:

The Goodman, Victory Gardens, Lifeline, Chicago Dramatists (former associate artist), Mordine and Company, Something Marvelous, Writers’ Theatre, The Aardvark, Steppenwolf, The Art Institute, Emerald City, National Pastime, Cindy Brandle Dance Company, PROP THTR, Chicago Moving Company (former composer in residence), Estrogen Fest, Asimina Chremos and Breakbone Dance.

Since 1995, Barry has practiced the art of modern dance accompaniment. It is one of his joys and a constant source of inspiration to accompany classes at Columbia College Dance Center, Lou Conte Dance Studio and many other venues.

Barry plays percussion with a wide variety of groups across stages in the region which includes being the regular drummer for The Przmatics. Barry has no interest in “adulthood” and considers himself the luckiest boy in the world…say hello: barrybennettsounds.com

Mary Burton

Mary Burton

Mary Burton (B.A., SUNY Albany; M.F.A., School of the Art Institute of Chicago) the child of diverse parents (Northern European and Russian Jewish) grew up on a farm in upstate New York where she was blessed to be immersed in the beauty of nature and life forms. Observations of light and dark, trees, the seasons and natural phenomena as well as an ongoing quest for meaning inspired explorations of form and line in drawing, printmaking, painting, videography and video image processing. She has exhibited with the Chicago Artists Month, School of the Art Institute BareWalls, School of the Art Institute Fellowship Exhibition and others. A lifelong searcher and student of mysticism and spiritual sciences, her studies include comparative religion, mysticism, symbolism, yoga philosophy, spiritual astrology at the Temple of Kriya Yoga, A Course in Miracles at Unity Church in Chicago, music studies at Old Town School of Folk Music and New Tuners music theater workshop under John Sparks, as well as working for the Urantia Foundation. Mary is a graduate of the Life Force Arts Shamanic Training program. Mary’s family has been in what is now the U.S. since the 1600’s. Her ancestor, Mary Bliss Parsons, was accused and acquitted twice for witchcraft in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts. marybearart.com

Sally Cooper

Sally Cooper

Sally Cooper is a Chicago-based artist, poet and jewelry designer who does not let being visually impaired stop her from following her dreams.
James Cornolo

James Cornolo

James Cornolo has been playing guitar and percussion with LFAE since 1999. He has been active in the Chicago music scene for several decades in a wide variety of settings including accompanying for modern dance classes and performing in the styles of jazz, classical, and Latin jazz, notably with the Cuban singer Angel d’Cuba. He has a masters degree in guitar pedagogy from Northeastern Illinois University.

Kurt Fondriest

Kurt Fondriest

Kurt Fondriest is an expressive arts therapist at Misericordia home in Chicago, where he has worked for almost 30 years. He is an ordained nondenominational minister and certified pastoral counselor, holding a PhD in Holistic Ministries. His work is based on his life with a chronic pain condition called fibromyalgia. Dr. Kurt sees life as a ministry, a way of expressing one’s spiritual connection to others. One of the greatest gifts our creator gives us is the power to love unconditionally; it is through this gift we find ourselves and our work. Let us always remember to not keep the gift of unconditional love but to share this divine blessing with all. facebook.com/Healing-Seed-Expressive-Arts-Ministries

Dorothy Graden

Dorothy Graden

Dorothy Graden is an award winning contemporary artist whose art is inspired by Ancient Visions, prehistoric art of the Americas. Her mission is to bring awareness of these amazing places and to promote preservation and protection of ancestral sites on this continent, most of which are considered sacred to Native Americans. For over 30 years, Dorothy has traveled through the American West to photograph and draw prehistoric rock art images that were incised, pecked, abraded and painted on cave and canyon walls and boulders. Some sites are 30,000 years old. and hold spiritual powers. Dorothy has presented her field work on rock art at the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow and at University College Cork, Ireland. Her photographs have been published in the Theosophical Society’s journal, Quest. She presents, lectures and exhibits her drawings and ceramic sculptures throughout the Midwest. She draws with great admiration, respect and humility for the ancients who inspire her work. www.dorothygraden.com

Kat Kidwell

Kat Kidwell

Kat Kidwell moved to Chicago from Connecticut in 2008 to study audio engineering at Columbia College. Her main medium is music, which shows its influence in her visual art. She prefers surrealism and enjoys anthropomorphic art. Kidwell plays punkish psychedelic folk-rock guitar and enjoys jamming with her friends in rock opera bands and a jazz orchestra, as well as being a member of Life Force Arts Ensemble. Kidwell has exhibited drawings, paintings, and macramé crafts in several LFAE shows. She completed Level 3 (Shamanic Healers Practicum) of the Life Force Arts Shamanic Training program. She is also an Autistic self-advocate and activist.
Colleen Koziara

Colleen Koziara

Colleen Koziara grew up in northern Wisconsin on a farm, on an island. Seeing the magic of nature and the stories that it told filled her with a childlike sense of wonder, which she strives to capture in her artwork. Each of her works is a doorway through which the viewer may journey. Colleen attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and has illustrated more than 20 books. A Reiki Master and Ovate member of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids, she has been presenting, writing and providing art for Circle Sanctuary since 2002, and designed the Pagan Spirit Gathering logos for 2010-2018. Colleen is also in her 7th year studying as a Firekeeper. Colleen gives private art instruction from her home for all ages; creates Body Art and Custom Tattoo Designs; Visionary Art; and Commissioned pieces manifested from the visions and dreams of her clients. She works extensively with Elders teaching art and yoga, and has received for designing programs for seniors. mysticalwillow.com

Lorraine Moretti

Lorraine Moretti received her M.A. in Inter-Arts from Columbia College in Chicago with a thesis of performance poetry. She participated in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics Summer Writing Program in Boulder, Colorado, and has read her writing at many venues over the years. Lorraine taught classroom, art and E.S.L. in the Chicago Public Schools and for the Archdiocese. She is a graduate of the Life Force Arts Shamanic Training Program under Joan Forest Mage and has exhibited her visual art in several of Life Force Arts Ensemble’s exhibits. Lorraine, AKA Lolo Gypsy Beatnik Priestess of Poetry, often holds poetry workshops at LFAE that utilize Tarot, Full Moon and Willow energies to create healing art. She is a member of Life Force Arts Ensemble, LFAE’s performing company which bases their work in the Life Force Arts Method.
Lisa Nomikos

Lisa Nomikos

I graduated from Ray Vogue School of Design, Chicago for Illustration and worked for a number of years as a full time graphic designer, including being the graphic designer for Life Force Arts Ensemble. Surreal worlds coming to my consciousness during sleep, daydreaming, yoga and living. My art is energy art reflecting positive and uplifting inner visions. In the landscape of my mind spin worlds unseen by the human eye. My goal is to spread light and joy in the images I draw and paint. I have co-created with my business partner Lisa Gniady a number of meditation tools including: a 45-card Soul Reflection Inspirational Oracle Card Deck, Clarity of Life Cards, Believe-In Affirmation Cards, Lemurian Code Activation Cards and my newest co-creation the Inner Child Meditation Cards with intuitive life coach, Sonia Prado and Lisa Gniady. GatheringVisions.comwww.etsy.com/shop/LearntobeHappy

Shaan Souliere

Shaan Souliere

Shaan Souliere is a member of Garden River First Nation Band of Ojibwes in Canada. She moved to Chicago in 2018, and is a vocalist with Life Force Arts Ensemble. Shaan previously worked at the American Indian Center in Chicago as a Victims Advocate certified to serve survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence and earned Certificates of Training for “Beauty from Ashes” / ALET-Advanced Leadership Education at Garden River First Nations. Raised in a home where socio-political issues among First Peoples were emphasized just as much as faith, music, and the arts, at a young age Shaan developed deep spiritual roots alongside a passion for equity for her people. Shaan believes passionately that profound change within a society begins with healing the heart of its people, and incorporates her knowledge of the Ojibwe medicine wheel into the victim’s advocate training programs she offers.

Sujata Tibrewala

Sujata Tibrewala

Sujata Tibrewala is a self-taught artist who in 2009 gave up her electrical engineering career for her first love, art, and now uses her knowledge of science to spread art and issues close to her heart. Born in India, Sujata had successful solo exhibits and conducted many art workshops,some of which resulted in student exhibitions. Sujata moved to the U.S. in 2010 and currently resides in San Jose, CA. Her works are on display at many galleries including Regional Commission of Arts, St Louis and Marine Foundation, California. Her noted exhibitions include Life Force Arts Ensemble, Chicago IL; Gateway gallery, St Louis MO; Lalit Kala Academy; and Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur, India. Sujata is an artist member of many artistic organizations including the St. Louis Artists’ Guild, Women’s Caucus for the Arts, and Art Concoctions. Starting from her school days, Sujata won many awards, and her art has received rave reviews in leading print and electronic media of India and USA. www.pratibimba.info

Past Ensemble Members