Barbara Ward Armstrong was an innovative artist whose life-sized African-inspired multi-textured fabric sculptures, called “soft sculptures,” redefined 20th century artforms.

Her work has been exhibited at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and Museum of African American History and is in private collections worldwide. “My goal is to use soft sculpture imagery to visually state our experiences, expand the knowledge about ourselves and others….My inspiration comes from living.” Barbara was the oldest of nine children born in Cambridge to Frances (Cole) and Richard Herbert Ward. She began sewing at an early age, making dolls and other crafts for friends and family and selling some in front of her Putnam Avenue house. After her father’s death in 1947, Barbara went to live with her maternal grandparents, James and Jennie Cole, on Concord Avenue.

She perfected her sewing skills and began to fashion her own exquisite clothes.

She attended the Houghton School, Cambridge High & Latin, and Emerson College, then moved to New York to study theater and dance. She joined the Billy Pope Dance Company and worked as a dance teacher, choreographer, and costume designer.

Back in Cambridge, Barbara founded The Projecteers, a singing group for area young people that performed locally. One of their most memorable appearances was with the singer-activist Harry Belafonte at Boston’s Sherry Biltmore Hotel.

Barbara married the inventive string musician, illustrator, and raconteur Howard “Louie Blouie” Armstrong (aka Pache). They traveled the world, performing with old friends and local groups. Their creative partnership is chronicled in the documentary film Sweet Old Song. Among their un-finished collaborations is an illustrated children’s book in-spired by Barbara’s memories of growing up in Cambridge.