Thursday, May 4, 2017

“When I see brokenness, poverty and crime in inner cities, I also see the enormous potential and readiness for transformation and rebirth.  We are creating an art form that comes from the heart and reflects the pain and sorrow of people’s lives. It also expresses joy, beauty and love.  This process lays the foundation of building a genuine community in which people are reconnected with their families, sustained by meaningful work, nurtured by the care of each other and will together raise and educate their children.  Then we witness social change in action.” - Lily Yeh

Founder of The Village of Arts and Humanities, as well as Barefoot Artists, Lily Yeh has dedicated her life to bringing art to impoverished communities all across the world -- including locations within Utah, Kenya, China, Germany, Syria, Cite Soleil, and Damascus.

The Village of Arts and Humanities is an non-profit arts organization located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their mission is to "amplify the voices and aspirations of the community [of Philadelphia] by providing opportunities for artist expression and personal success that engage youth and their families, revitalize physical space and preserve black heritage." The Village allows individuals within the community to freely create art that both continues to feed the vitality of Philadelphia, while also amplifying their own narratives and interests. The artistic contributions are extremely beneficial for both the city, and the individuals who inhabit it: "For Lily," The Village's official website states, "the beautifications of physical space catalyzed positive mental and emotional shits in the way that residents viewed their own lives and the health of their neighborhood."

A Community Garden on Germantown Ave., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A Model of Lily Yeh's Vision for the Community Garden

In 1988, the Germantown Ave. Community Garden was Completely Renovated: The Mosaics, Murals, and Sculptures Were Created by Both Yeh and Community Members

Barefoot Artists is constructed in a similar fashion as The Village of Arts and Humanities, but extends on a more international scale. The non-profit organization aims "to inspire participants to initiate new projects, bring other volunteers, find new funding sources and discover other opportunities to serve communities." Barefoot Artists aims to bring artwork to impoverished countries and encourage community members to participate in creating different pieces that will further contribute to the richness of the different countries. These projects foster community empowerment, improve the physical environment, promote economic development, and preserve and advance indigenous art and culture. Lily Yeh collaborated with Zheng Hong -- who holds a PhD in Paleontology, had just earned her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University -- in creating the Dandelion School for immigrant workers, located in Beijing. Yeh's artwork played an integral role in creating the new institution, as well as encouraging the youth to create work inspired by their own experiences. She wrote a book, about the experience, entitled Awakening Creativity: Dandelion School Blossoms.

Lily Yeh's work is featured in a Netflix Documentary entitled Barefoot Artists (2013), directed Daniel Traub and Glenn Holsten. The film focuses on the origins of Yeh's innovative work, and highlights the impact it has had on various communities. Yeh also gave a TED Talk on November 17, 2013, at Cornell University. There, she explained the importance of using art as a tool for both unity and social change: "Listen to the voice in your heart. Be courageous to respond to life's calling. Take action. Creative action guided by compassion leads to transformation."

Her TEDxCornellU Talk Can be Viewed Below:

For more information about The Village of Arts and Humanities:
For more information about Barefoot Artists:
To watch the documentary, Barefoot Artists, please visit and type in the title in the search bar
*Netflix account is required
To order her book Awakening Creativity: Dandelion School Blossoms:
Different Themes
Written by Lovely

Aenean quis feugiat elit. Quisque ultricies sollicitudin ante ut venenatis. Nulla dapibus placerat faucibus. Aenean quis leo non neque ultrices scelerisque. Nullam nec vulputate velit. Etiam fermentum turpis at magna tristique interdum.