Lili Bernard, whose ancestry is Afro-Indigenous Cuban, Jamaican, Spanish, Chinese and British, is a multimedia artist born in Santiago de Cuba. When she was three, her family moved to the United States, and then later to Tokyo, where Lili graduated high school from the American School in Japan. Lili studied fine arts, theatre, science and German for three years at Cornell University and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in German from the City University of New York. Lili is currently in the 2014 MFA class in Public Practice at Otis College of Art and Design, under the tutelage of Suzanne Lacy.
Lili’s artwork explores her Afro-Indigenous Caribbean ancestry in a quest to examine issues of racism and feminism, past and present. Currently, Lili is working on a series of large oil paintings wherein she alters classical European paintings, which were created during the slave trade era, to tell Afro-Caribbean slave stories. Lili is also Afro-futuristically exploring the impact of the ancestral and the spiritual upon modern American society, as it pertains to contemporary racism and her own life experiences.
Lili’s interests in the arts extend to activism. For five years, ending in December 2011, Lili maintained an art studio as a public space in the Chinatown, Los Angeles, art district. There, she ran the youth mentoring program, HABLA: Harvesting Asian Black Latino Artists, and regularly hosted events, including book signings, poetry readings, live music and art performances, artist discussions, critiques, and an adult artist collaborative which produced ten exhibitions in the HABLA Underground basement gallery of her studio.
Currently, Lili’s community organizing efforts focus on her arranging and facilitating roundtable discussions between mainstream arts organizations and BAILA (the acronym Lili created for “Black Artists in Los Angeles”) and Black art patrons, curators and collectors. Participating organizations have included Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Hammer Museum, California African American Museum, Watts Towers Arts Center and Golden State Mutual Legacy foundation. Part of her public engagement work with BAILA includes independently curating exhibitions (for which Lili has received critical acclaim), publication and performance.
Lili has also enjoyed a career as an actress, having performed extensively in theatre and TV, both in Los Angeles and New York, where she ran a mentoring program for disadvantaged youth in her neighborhood of Harlem, during the early 1990’s. In 1995, Lili married solo-practicing civil rights attorney Franklin L. Ferguson, Jr. The couple lives in Los Angeles with their six young children to whom Lili gave birth in a ten year span. In 2001, Lili founded and charted the nonprofit all-volunteer run youth organization, City of Angels Little League, which continues to serve Los Angeles children, under the leadership of her husband, Franklin. Lili also serves as a long-term board member of the Parent Teacher Organization at her children’s school.