Ile Ife Mural’s 30th Anniversary

Cheers to nostalgia!

The Village of Arts and Humanities (The Village) has been building community-art relations in Philadelphia, PA for over 30 years! The Village is a multifaceted arts organization dedicated to community building through the arts.

In 1986 Lily Yeh began the design and painted a three-story mural “Ile Ife Guardian Mural” with a mythic owl beaming rainbow colored light and life to plants, fish, and animals under its gigantic wings.

The Village today, continues to be a vibrant force of creativity and a deep sense of rootedness.

More information about The Village can be found here.

Barefoot Artists

Ile Ife Park site at 10th St & Germantown Ave in 1986

Barefoot Artists

The Village today, continues to be a presence of creativity and jubilance

New Project Announcement in Florida

Barefoot Artists

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!

The EACH Foundation
Barefoot Artist
We are deeply grateful for the generous grant from The EACH Foundation which empowered our organization to revisit and continue it’s work with the Mei Hwa School Transformation Project in Daxi, Taiwan. It will also enable us to return in September to the Blackfeet community in Browning, Montana where our team plans to work with students from the Heart Butte High School to develop a community project.

“Thank you for empowering us to continue our work!”
-Lily Yeh

The EACH Foundation prides itself on being radically inclusive and open to everyone. We are an egalitarian, ethnically and socio-economically diverse group of 25 civi-minded individuals from all walks of life, trying to make a positive impact in our communities and the world around us. Very simply, our philosophy is to bring positive change through our free physical and intellectual efforts, in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
Skibbereen Arts Festival 2017 in Ireland

The Barefoot Artist film is screening at the Skibbereen Arts Festival 2017!

Skibbereen Arts Festival
Town Hall
August 1, 2017
More details here.

Art is everywhere in West Cork, Ireland in the scenery, in the people and in the atmosphere.

During the Skibbereen Arts Festival Wests Cork becomes one big art gallery with a world-class programme of music, film, theatre, exhibitions, poetry, installations, workshops, walks, talks and a spectacular 1970s street disco. This year it celebrates the arts as a positive force in areas of conflict around the world and in the field of mental health. We also focus on national and local history and of course ‘disco’!

Maryland Institute College of Art Visit

“It was a privilege for me to hear their voices and feel their inspiration.” -Lily Yeh

(March 7, 2017) Lily Yeh’s visit first and second year students at the graduate program of Community Arts at MICA. The students are mature, committed, smart, and creative! They will walk into society as torches of light fueled by the knowledge, disciplines and purpose from the faculty and classmates of their department and mission of MICA, Maryland Institute College of Art. 


Coming April 2017

Mei Hwa Transformation Project Phase III

Barefoot Artist

Mei Hwa Transformation Project 2016

In Daxi, Taiwan the Mei Hwa Elementary School will be entering phase III of the Mei Hwa Transformation Project this April.  Learn more about the project here.

Community Design

In Gao Hsung, Taiwan the Barefoot Artist organization will be working with Zi Zhu Ling Shi and communities on art and mural design.

‘We’re still here:’ Artists seek to restore pride, color in Blackfeet lives

Missourian Newspaper

HEART BUTTE – There’s a beauty in this Blackfeet reservation town that a sunrise on the Rocky Mountain Front can only match.

It has to do with the proud, fierce and buffalo-rich lords of the plains, their horses and guns and a way of life that once seemed like it would last forever.

But it has to do too with terrible things – smallpox infestations, a massacre on the Marias in 1870, the Starvation Winter of 1883-84, the devastating flood of 1964, the fire that forced evacuation of Heart Butte just two summers ago.

And it has to do with Heart Butte itself, rising stark behind Heart Butte School but hidden from the rest of town. With enough prompting, Jeremiah Hinkle will tell you why.

An soft-spoken high school junior, Hinkle was thinking about that very thing as he rode the bus to school last week at daybreak.

“I don’t really think about what happened on the mountain,” said Hinkle, who sports glasses, a mustache and a goatee. “It’s more a respect for the mountain, a respect for nature.”

In this century the Southern Pikunni huddle here in wooden houses, at a time of year when their ancestors would have been settling in for the winter on the Teton River around Choteau. The arctic winds don’t blow so hard down there.

“A lot of the culture we had came from nature,” Hinkle said. “We learned how to hunt like a wolf, watched how they hunt together in a pack as a team. We got our shelter from buffalo. We learned how to be sly from the coyote.

“That respect for nature. … It can be powerful. It can be peaceful.”

Those are words to cling to for Sally Thompson and Lily Yeh.

Thompson is an anthropologist from Missoula who has spent much of the past 30 years studying the rich textures of Blackfeet society. She’s convinced that the best way to come to grips with the poverty, substance abuse and hopelessness so prevalent on the reservation is for the people themselves to come to grips with that proud and terrible past.

Yeh is all in.

The diminutive artist was born in China but has spent most of her life in the United States, when she’s not globe-trotting to some of the most destitute and broken outposts in the world. She is a global superstar at what she does, helping communities transform the bleak and ugly into monuments of color and beauty.

And Yeh, who lives in Philadelphia, has the Blackfeet Reservation firmly in her sights.

Continue reading here.

Gorlitz, Germany Update 4 Gorlitz, Germany Update 4

Let It Be

We are at the end of our stay in Gorlitz and are inspired knowing that the artists here will take this experience and encourage it to grow and blossom as it will.  Lily felt this on our first workshop day, noting that “the artists here see the beauty and want to awaken the soul.  We come together to journey collectively to touch our souls.  Through art we are called to make the way free.”

From the Barefoot Artists perspective, the success of this particular effort was not necessarily in a concrete result but in the process; that there was an engagement, enthusiasm and imagining that seemed not to have an inclusive and safe space to unfold before this camp.  Our part in this was minor, serving only as a catalyst through the sharing of a particular methodology.  What emerged through the Bohemian Crossings’ direction is uniquely theirs, perfectly timely for this moment and space.


Below is a video of the Smoke Ceremony conducted by Tony Harwood of Australia.

Gorlitz is a rich place, these are rich people – not necessarily in resources and money, but in depth of experience, in pain and suffering, in resiliency, in hope.  An essay by Michael Meade eloquently speaks to many questions that have arisen and the conversations we have had while in Gorlitz, touched by individual stories, historic community trauma and the global crisis that binds us all.  He says, “the counterbalance to collective forms of terror and tragic acts of inhumanity must be found first of all in the awakening of the individual soul to the underlying wholeness and inherent meaning of life.  We must find a greater sense of self or become more isolated, divided and subject to increasing anxieties and feelings of helplessness.  In the great drama of life the awakened human soul becomes the extra quantity and uniquely living quality needed to help tip the balance of the world away from destruction and towards ongoing creation.”

We continue to find our way, at least take steps, on the journey of awakening.  As one of the team members shared during our final reflections, “On the first day I was sad.  Now I am exhausted, but happy. So happy that I want to scream!”

Poems emerged out of our workshop exercises and were shared in the evenings as we sat around the dinner table, so perhaps it is fitting to end with one as well.  These words by Federico Garcia Lorca captures what Barefoot Artists believes and what we have felt here, what has been offered us in vulnerability and open-heartedness.  Thank you Bohemian Crossings and Gorlitz.

The poem
the song,
the picture,
are only water
drawn from the
well of the people
and it must be given back to them
in a cup of beauty,
that they may drink
and in drinking,
understand themselves.

– Federico Garcia Lorca

Gorlitz, Germany Update 3 Gorlitz, Germany Update 3

Working with Youth

This week, Bohemian Crossings summer camp has welcomed youth groups to the site to create story poles.  We have been delighted to meet little ones from a day care, a group from the refugee community, elementary classes from a public school as well as secondary-age youth from the local Waldorf school.  Poles are decorated with paint, buttons or are carved.  The younger ones practice first on a large roll of paper before working together to paint a large pole with hand prints and dripping paints.  The older youth scatter immediately into groups of two or three with drills and carving tools in hand.  Adults from the community occasionally stop by and create their own design and pole.  The energy is spontaneous, feels welcoming and diverse.

The Bohemian Crossings team themselves are a diverse group of artists who bring talent for poetry, storytelling, music and the visual arts to the gathering.  After the children wash up from all the stray paint that never made it to the pole, they gather around team members who play the guitar, banjo and

harmonica, singing folk songs from America, Ireland and Germany. They smile, clap and join in with the singing.

The inability to control the result of such unfolding of enthusiasm and energy was at first unsettling, at least requiring in us a shift from our original vision of a sort of unified, cohesive outcome.  Yet what is arising feels potent.  Within the team, there seems to be a blending of the diverse personalities and, at times, competing energies; a sense of order is forming out of what felt initially to be a chaotic, empty space; we feel our connection deepening with the shared desire to create beauty.

The cohesion, however, doesn’t come just from our efforts; instead, it seems to take shape through the youth.  The harmony, the common language we adults have been talking (sometimes arguing) about for the past days is here. What is the common language?  It probably won’t be obviously visible in a public art piece.  Our poles will form a random forest of color and shapes that can, we hope, at least be a physical seed of hope to inspire the unfolding of similar efforts over the years.  No. The common language, the harmonious note is this:  joy – a light that so gracefully absorbs the grey.

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