The “Obatala & the Tree Goddess” Mural
A Tribute to the Village of Arts & Humanities
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Village, Lily Yeh designed this mural to commemorate the legacy of renowned artists Arthur Hall and Barbara Bullock.
The late Arthur Hall was an internationally eminent choreographer, dancer, and the founder of the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble and the Ile-Ife Black Humanitarian Center in North Philadelphia.
“Arthur Hall’s work has transformed many people’s lives, including my own, when he invited me to create an art park on his abandoned lot 30 years ago. The humble summer project with children evolved into the Village of Arts and Humanities. He showed me the power of art and creative action. I remain forever grateful.”
– Lily Yeh
Barbara Bullock is a highly acclaimed Philadelphia-based artist and teacher. She has received numerous prestigious regional and national awards.
“Forging together the vitality from African art, the inventiveness of contemporary art, with her unique sensitivity and humor, Barbara creates images filled with power and magic. Her ‘tree goddess’ has so moved me that I feel compelled to revive it. To me, the goddess personifies the beauty and fecundity of the place.”
– Lily Yeh
The figure swaying in an ample white robe on the left commemorates Arthur Hall’s creation and performance as Obatala in his signature theater piece of the same title. Obatala embodies the creative spirit, purity, and moral righteousness of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.
We heartily congratulate the Village’s recent prestigious award from ArtPlace America. It is one of the 23 selected from 1,000 applicants nationally.
New Project Announcement in Florida
From August 10-15, 2017 the Barefoot Artist Organization will visit West Palm Beach, Florida to initiate the Sun Set Park Project (working title, named because of the one time beloved Sunset Lounge filled with jazz and fun). By collaborating with the city’s redevelopment team and Jon Ward, the park’s Community Redevelopment Area Executive Director, we plan to transform the park into a community influenced public space.
More updates to come as the project develops!
Lily’s Reflections on the Mei Hwa School Project in Daxi, Taiwan
The Mei Hwa Gyro Tree of Life Mural Project was a great success despite many challenges.
Execution of the project was chaotic and difficult with so many pairs of hands, from kindergarteners to retirees, from the school community to volunteers from the local Daxi region and from the cities of Taipei and Taizhong. In addition, it rained almost every day. Drizzles continually washed away our paints and smeared our surfaces. It was not easy to create, salvage, and repair from a six-level scaffolding with people coming and going in different shifts. Yet, the dedication and persistence of the many participants paid off.
The whole community was moved by the scale and beauty of the mural.
The project transformed people’s understanding of the power of art. It empowered the school community to envision; it emboldened the Daxi residents to dare to imagine.
One of the reasons for its success is the dedication of our partners, the Gaya Foundation and Xiang Guang Shan Si (香光山寺) with its many devoted volunteers. When the school authorities and teachers doubted and wanted to withdraw from the project, they displayed courage and held steadfast to the promise of realizing a vision. Their confidence in me laid a solid foundation for the project.
Lily was inspired by the commitment of these two religious organizations to live the principle of compassion in everyday life. They were realizing Buddhist teachings of generosity and kindness through working with and strengthening the vulnerable in the society.
Zizhuo Shi, the principal sponsor of the project from the Xiang Guan Shan Si shared her reflection:
Chong An Transformation Project: One Life, One Story
In fact, I am the one who benefits the most through the process of teaching weekly art classes and preparing the creation of mural. I read your book Awakening Creativity several times and translated some part of it for Principal Yeh. Hence, I became familiar with your educational ideas and methods of guiding students to create artwork. Also, in the preparing period, in order to invite community people, I came to Mei Hua and visited quite a few local people and made friends with them. Accordingly, I became more familiar with the situation of Mei Hua community. Furthermore, the hardship of not being supported by Principal Yeh and other people, also made me stronger than before. Particularly, when the mural is finished, it confirmed that sometimes, a great work may not be understood by everyone.
I am so happy that the result turns out to be so great. More significantly, now Principal Yeh is very willing to take up the responsibility of preparing the building of a cosmic Gyro Top next year.
Although Yang Xuan is only in third grade, he has experienced a good deal of trauma in his young life. His mother — a victim of domestic violence — left home, abandoning Yang and his two little brothers. The family felt deep anguish.
His troubles manifested themselves in different ways, usually in negative ways. He was a bully who displayed unreasonable aggression. People regarded him as a delinquent-in-the-making.
Yang Xuan participated in the Barefoot Artists’ Chong An transformation project in Taiwan in 2012 and 2013, where he learned painting and mosaic making. To everyone’s surprise, his mosaic art won the third prize in Taidong’s art competition, a part of the 2014 National Art Event. Through making art, he begins to express himself and reshape his future.
His story is one of inspiration and encouragement, and we wish Yang Xuan the best as he continues to grow with his art.
(Left) Yang Xuan painting, (Right) Yang Xuan (in the middle) watching and learning the mosaic making process
Meeting Chong An residents and visitors
Barefoot Artists Director Lily Yeh revisited Chong An, the village of the indigenous Ah Mei people, with whom she’s been collaborating with since 2012 to bring colors and vitality to the village. Lily realized quickly that there are conflicts within the community. It makes the continuation of the Chong An transformation project difficult. She established the Community Harmony Committee. The four members are charged with the mission to turn conflicts into harmony.
Establishing Chong An harmony committee
Invisible Is Now Visible
Since 2011 when Barefoot Artists worked with the Twa people in Rugerero, Rwanda, the community has grown their pottery production. A government energy department is now partnering with them to make a special economic stove, which uses only one wood stick. The Twa villagers have extended their workspace and constructed a new kiln for the purpose. The production of the new stove helps to stabilize their income.
“When Barefoot Artists helped the Twa to construct their Pottery Center along a major highway with the beautiful mosaics and mural, it made the Twa visible. Their lives have been transformed.”
–Jean Bosco Musana, former Red Cross Regional Director
In May 2014, Stacy Bailey-Ndiaye, Executive Director of Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice, along with a group of young Ali Scholars on their International Learning Journey to Rwanda and Uganda visited Rugerero Survivors Village and the Genocide Memorial Park.