Art For Art’s Sake – Karen Barker, Massage Therapist and Actress

Karen Barker - Crag & Canyon article

Published on: July 7, 2020 | The Bow Valley Crag & Canyon

Karen Barker’s motto is ‘Live Your Brilliance’.

She is a professional actress and registered massage therapist. Barker moved from her home in Winnipeg to Canmore in 1998 with her daughter Aly.

“I was welcomed immediately by the community,” Barker said. “I opened the Canmore Theatre School, teaching classes for all ages and running my therapy practice in tandem. I am always open to weaving creativity in ways we can heal.”

Her love for the theatre and film started at a young age.

“I was a drama specialist in the parks and recreation department at 13,” Barker said. “I was accepted at Manitoba Theatre Centre in 1978 as an apprentice. After auditioning for the Vancouver Playhouse in 1979, I was accepted to train professionally and never looked back.”

Barker has been an actress in the TV series Heartland and she was recently in a Hallmark Channel movie called ‘Winter in Vail’.

“I was cast in Heartland season 10 as the head ER nurse,” Barker said. “The Hallmark movie was filmed in Bragg Creek and Turner Valley in the crazy snowstorms of November 2019. I white knuckled it to set. The film is about following your heart in life’s decisions. I felt that it was in perfect alignment to what I integrate in my practice and life. I play the real estate agent, Bev, who shows the star Lacey Chabert, a home she has inherited from a dead uncle in Vail. ”

She also had the experience of doing a Command Performance for the Queen.

“It was a Gala Performance of ‘Prairie Wind’ to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the opening of Saskatchewan legislature and the 1987 Royal Visit,” Barker said.

And she worked alongside Tennessee Williams in his play called ‘Red Devil Battery Sign’, at the Vancouver Playhouse.

In 2011, Barker was asked to head the ‘ArtsWell’ section of the Artspeak festival in Canmore.

“It introduced drumming, Qi Gong and walking the climbing rope Labyrinth, and presented Laura Schlessinger’s cello music at the RCMP Barracks.”

Barker was born with Necrotic femoral arteries at birth, which meant that her hips were deformed and she could not walk properly. She had hip replacement surgery in 1996 and then revisions to the surgeries from 2000 to 2011. At 14 years of age, she developed severe osteo arthritis.

“At 36 years of age, after I gave birth to my daughter Aly, I became cripple,” Barker said. “I could barely walk a block with two canes. Pain formed my understanding of what I do today. I became a practicing Buddhist in 1996 and explored Qi Gong to help train my mind to deal with the constant pain.”

Don Petersen of New World Samurai in Canmore tattooed Barker over her hip replacement scars. With Barker, they put together an ArtsWell exhibit called ‘Transformations, Scars Graced by Art’, with photos by Richard Alan Brown.

“The show was a story about four people who overcame a tragic incident which left them disfigured,” Barker said. “Their scars were transformed into beauty through tattoos.”

Barker was inspired by massage therapy because as a performer she used it to address her pain.

“I felt it was time to switch roles and be the therapist learning viscerally what constant pain does to ones heart and mind,” Barker said. “I trained with the Western College of Massage Therapy for a two year advanced course and never looked back.  I took my portable table on the road as I performed, to treat company members.”

She discovered the work of osteopath Dr. Jean Pierre Barral in 1993.

“I knew in my heart it was calling me, so trusting the signs, I have been with him for 27 years on a yearly basis, as he shares his new research on the cranial sacral system, (visceral, neural and brain). These are gentle manipulations, which track external force trauma involving the emotions and mind,” she said.

“After 30 years with my basis in training massage therapy, I coin what I do to be called Integrated Osteopathy,” Barker said. “I assistant teach at the Barral Institute when I have the time. I am inspired when clients or therapists are relieved with gentle anatomical precision.”

Please visit her website for more information and to read her blog ‘Inspiring Health in the Human Spirit’.

Pam Doyle

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