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'I just want my life to be of service': Louisville artist uses the power of arts as mechanism of healing and expression

You may not know the name Julia Youngblood, but countless Kentuckiana youth and artists know her as the woman who gave them a chance to expand their horizons.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It’s not everyday you find someone who is a motivating force, challenging you to spread your wings and fly to new heights.

Countless youth and artists within the Louisville community know Julia Youngblood as someone who gave them a chance to expand their horizons.

An artist herself, Youngblood has been one of the quiet forces ensuring arts programming is available for anyone needing an outlet for creativity or expression – regardless of their neighborhood or economic status.

She became affiliated with ArtsReach, a Kentucky Performing Arts education program started in 1990 by Debbie Shannon and Ken Clay. The program inspired arts involvement and instruction while helping young artists in the community to embrace and develop their talents.

After the torch was passed to her by friend and fellow artist Portia White, Youngblood dedicated her time into making the community better.

“For the 16 years I took care of it, I really worked on opening up the space more and more for communities, especially for communities of color or folks that might have felt like they really could walk in that door,” she explained. “I produced hundreds of events, open mics and many performances on many big stages – all the stages throughout the building.”

Credit: Sherlene Shanklin
Art created by Julia Youngblood

Youngblood would produce shows like “Keepers of the Dream,” a community showcase celebrating the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision and the annual ArtsReach education showcase where kids from various community centers and groups share skills learned from artists in residence while attending ArtsReach camps.

She’s introduced thousands to the Kentucky Performing Arts space that may not have had that opportunity.

“One of my biggest joys was creating culturally related performance pieces that came from the community. It wasn't me creating those pieces. It was reaching out to the community and saying what do you want to express today. To me that's extremely powerful,” she said.

These days, Youngblood is putting her energy into her company Youngblood Harmonizing Arts where she practices Jin Shin Jyutsu as a mechanism to help everyone live their best lives through harmonizing the mind, body and spirit.

Credit: Julia Youngblood
An undated photo of Julia (right), her brother (left) and mother (back) sharing a moment while making art.

She recalls an important moment of her life that led her on this journey.

“A really pivotal part of my life was in my 20’s. I was living in California and just within the span of two weeks, I lost the ability to walk. At the time they thought I had MS. Over time, being helped by many other people, I was able to get well,” Youngblood said. “Once I really got to where I was able to function and walk again, I thought that I just want my life to be of service.”

Youngblood’s belief in the power of healing gives her a unique way of looking at life and understanding that expression is a part of the process when healing a community.

“A lot of time, people feel the need to feel seen and that's a healing.”

It was similar to the advice Youngblood’s now 90-year-old mother gave her as a child.

Credit: Julia Youngblood
Julia Youngblood and her mom

“[She said] ‘Walk into any space and sit down.’ So that is what I hope for all of us in life – that we all can walk in and feel like it’s okay to be where we are,” she said.

The self-taught artist said her mother and 25-year-old daughter Jonnie Storm inspire her.

Youngblood will showcase her art at the “Held in the Sway” exhibit, featuring 40 pieces ranging from paintings to print on textiles.

It will run April 1 through April 30 at Lodgic Everyday Community located at East Market and South Hancock Street.

Credit: Julia Youngblood
Julia (right), her husband Scott (left) and daughter Jonnie (center)

For more information on Youngblood Harmonizing Arts, click here.

Credit: Julia Youngblood

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►Contact WHAS11’s Sherlene Shanklin at sshanklin@whas11.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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