Barefoot Artists brings the transformative power of art to the most impoverished communities in the world through participatory and multifaceted projects that foster community empowerment, improve the physical environment, promote economic development, and preserve and support indigenous art and culture. Barefoot Artists develops projects in collaboration with individuals and agencies on the ground in identified communities.

Art in this context becomes a vehicle for amplifying and coordinating existing efforts through projects that inspire individuals and physically transform communities. The collective process used in these projects fosters a sense community pride while allowing participants to experience a sense of individual accomplishment.

While Barefoot Artists draws inspiration from world art and culture, each project is tailored to the unique needs and characteristics of that community. When possible, Barefoot Artists incorporates local artists and craftspeople into our projects. Moreover, Barefoot Artists aims to develop markets for locally produced and fairly traded crafts.

Barefoot Artists recognizes the power of art, image making and narrative stories to move and educate people. Therefore each Barefoot Artists project is carefully documented and distributed as broadly as possible through the Internet, print publications, speaking engagements, and video.


From 1986 – 2004, Lily Yeh served as the co-founder, executive director, and lead artist of The Village of Arts and Humanities, a non-profit organization with the mission to build community through art, learning, land transformation and economic development. Under her eighteen years of leadership The Village’s summer park building project developed into an organization with twenty full-time and part-time employees, hundreds of volunteers, and a $1.3 million budget.

The Village has become a multi-faceted community building organization with activities including after-school and weekend programs, greening land transformation, housing renovation, theater, and economic development initiatives. The center works on local, national, and international projects, and has been a leading model of community revitalization throughout the country. The Village is now under new and wonderful leadership with great vitality and programs. Please visit villagearts.org to learn more.

Lily Yeh developed a unique methodology for using the arts as a tool for community building and personal transformation during her tenure at The Village. Founding Barefoot Artists in 2002, Lily Yeh now works internationally on projects in places including Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, Ecuador, and China. Barefoot Artists aims to train and empower local residents, organize communities, and take action for a more compassionate, just, and sustainable future.

Barefoot Artists is a volunteer organization with few encumbrances of staff and overhead. Lily Yeh raises funds for specific projects that pair volunteer expertise with local people to improve environments, and to advance health, education, and economic development. When funds are raised for a project, a call for volunteers is held and some paid staff are organized.

During the project process, participants learn Barefoot Artists methodology on community building and economic development through art. We aim to inspire participants so that they will take the initiative to start their own projects, bring other volunteers, find new funding sources and discover other opportunities to serve communities in need. We intend for the various programs initiated by volunteers to become multifaceted and interconnected in order to better serve communities.

Please visit our Projects pages to learn more about Barefoot Artists work throughout the world.

Download Lily Yeh’s CV


penn_logo Penn IUR Urban Leadership Award, University of Pennsylvania (2012)

Fellowship of Reconciliation, Member, May delegation to Iran on a peace mission (2006)

American Visionary Art Museum, Race, Class, Gender ? Character, eleventh original mega-exhibition, dedicated to the artist and visionary, Lily Yeh (2005 – 2006)

Philadelphia Water Color Society, Achievement in the Arts Award (2005)

The International Council of Fine Arts, Deans Award for Arts Achievement and Excellence (2004)

Philadelphia Business Journal, Woman of Distinction Award (2004)

Thomas Jefferson University, Excellence in Community Service Award from Safety, Awareness & Public Health Education (2004)

Leadership for a Changing World Award, Ford Foundation, NY (2003)

Arts Leadership for the Future Program, Mentor, ALF is a partnership funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to explore and strengthen the development of new and established leaders in the arts. (2003)

The Arts and Healing Network, Annual Award, San Francisco, CA (2002)

Headlands Center for the Arts, Resident Artist, Sausalito, CA, (November 2001)

Congregation Kol Ami, Tikun Olum (Healing the World) Award, Philadelphia, PA (2001)

The Office of Juvenile Justice Development Program, Award of Recognition, Pennsylvania (2001)

Pennsylvania Governor’s Award by Tom Ridge for Arts and Leadership (2000)

The First Comcast Newsmaker Award (1999)

Pan Asian Association of Greater Philadelphia, Annual Community Service Award (1998)

Children’s Miracle Network, Home Town Hero Award and Profile, Salt Lake City, UT (1997)

Annual Award, Mesa, AZ (1996)

The Prudential Foundation, Leadership Award, Philadelphia, PA (1996)

Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, Human Rights Award for Arts and Culture, Philadelphia, PA (1995)

Ford Foundation, Visiting Artist and Project Director of Korogocho Project in Nairobi, Kenya (1995) http://barefootartists.org/projects/international/korogocho-kenya-1994-present/

Lila Wallace Arts International Fellowship, for a three months residency in Kenya and Ivory Coast (1993) http://barefootartists.org/projects/international/korogocho-kenya-1994-present/

Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Philadelphia, PA (1992)

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