Lessons from Palestine On Walls, Cultural Resistance, and the Artistry of Lily Yeh

Tikkun Magazine
The Barefoot ArtistBY ARIEL BLETH

The small Palestinian village of Al- Aqaba, home to 300 inhabitants, lies atop a rocky ridge in northern West Bank. Its large, striking minaret punctures an otherwise earth- bound, rugged geography, and the Jordan Valley fans out to the east like a desert mirage. Waves of brown, orange, and red blur into one another — a strik-ing view from the three- tiered scaffolding that precariously hugged the wall of the village’s most prominent building in the spring of 2015. Up and down the rickety structure for the better part of a week, Philadelphia- based artist Lily Yeh gave most of her attention to the aqua- colored expanse in front of her and the task of painting a mural on the twenty- five- foot wall…

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The Barefoot Artist

Who owns culture? Who needs culture? How can we answer these questions and avoid the stratifying, hierarchical categories of providers and recipients? Following up on conversations hosted by the British Council’s “Culture and Conflict Summit” in September 2014 and Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ forum “What is the Role of the Arts Presenter in a Community in Crisis?” earlier this year, we will convene on June 17 to grapple with these issues, particularly on the level of U.S. cities. Drawing upon the Festival’s and Yale School of Music’s relationships to New Haven residents, our day-long symposium, “Listen. Engage. Act,” will focus on the power of community-driven artistic initiatives to mitigate conflict in urban centers. Through presentations and discussions, we will consider—and ideally begin to practice—how artists, arts providers, politicians, and city residents can listen to and engage one another, and then act in concert for mutual benefit.

Lily Yeh will be participating in the Engage the City panel from 2:00-3:30 pm on June 17.

Find more details here.
Register for free here.

Mei Hwa Update, 2016 Mei Hwa Update, 2016


This is Barefoot Artists’ second year working with our team in Mei Hwa. Last year we created the three story high mural “the Gyro Tree of Life” that has impacted the school in multiple ways – in making the school visible, changing students’ attitude about themselves and their school, increasing their curiosity and interest in learning, and team work.

The mural project combined with a year long awakening creativity educational program has earned the school one of the five top award in innovative education in the nation wide competition. For a small, remote, and long time neglected school, this is a huge accomplishment.


The Barefoot Artist Movie on Netflix!


Watch The Barefoot Artist movie on Netflix now!

Lily Yeh is a global artist who is fueled by a belief that art is a human right, and that artists can create a foundation for profound social change. Slight of frame, but large in spirit and vision, the 70-year-old artist was born in China, lives in Philadelphia, and now, as constant traveler, the world is her canvas.

Our film explores two sides of Lily’s life that are connected parts of the same journey: her international ventures helping to heal weakened spirits in communities in North America, Africa, China, and India, and a personal journey within, to repair her own fractured family. To embrace the latter, Lily embarks on a trip to China to trace her father’s life, in hopes of resolving life-long guilt that was passed from father to daughter.

The Barefoot Artist traces Lily’s evolution as an artist – from her first exposure to Chinese landscape painting as a young girl in China to the hauntingly beautiful memorial she designed to honor the victims of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It shows her methodology for community building – using art as the foundation – which she has developed over many years as she has worked in impoverished communities around the world. Finally, it reveals the source of her quest, and the personal costs of a life committed to the public.

Lily Yeh to Visit Görlitz in Germany

A community team has new plans for the old Görlitz slaughterhouse in Germany including accommodations for living, working and shopping. 300 people could live here.

Lily Yeh plans to visit Görlitz on October 18, 2015 to do a presentation, visit this old abandoned site, and share her experience in community building through the arts.

This article (in German) describes the project.


National Guild for Community Arts Education Award


From the National Guild for Community Arts Education website:

The National Guild for Community Arts Education is delighted to honor Lily Yeh, founder of The Village of Arts and Humanities (Philadelphia, PA) and Barefoot Artists, Inc. (Philadelphia, PA), with its 2015 National Leadership Award during the Conference for Community Arts Education in Philadelphia. The award will be presented at our Annual Awards Luncheon on Saturday, November 14, 2015, between 12:30 and 2:15 pm.

This award is presented in recognition of Yeh’s groundbreaking work as an artist, educator, and community leader. Her extraordinary accomplishments have provided our field, in the U.S. and beyond, with inspiration and methods for employing the arts as a tool for social justice, community building, and personal transformation. As founder and executive director of the Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia from 1968 to 2004, she helped create a national model of community building through the arts. In 2002, Yeh pursued her work internationally, founding Barefoot Artists, Inc., to bring the transformative power of art to impoverished communities around the globe through participatory, multifaceted projects that foster community empowerment, improve the physical environment, promote economic development and preserve indigenous art and culture. In addition to the United States, she has carried out projects in multiple countries including Kenya, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Rwanda, China, Taiwan, Ecuador, Syria, Republic of Georgia, Haiti, and Palestine.

At the 2015 Conference for Community Arts Education, Yeh, alongside her presentation at the Annual Awards Luncheon, will present a workshop entitled “Building Community Through Exploration and Play: A Workshop with Lily Yeh.” During the session, Yeh will lead the group in a series of activities for developing safe and supportive spaces for people to share openly, dialogue, and create together on equal footing. Ultimately, the workshop will provide fun and unique ways to build community by honoring and cherishing each person’s creativity, listening actively, and fostering collaboration through play.

“Let’s Get Engaged” – Delaware Arts Summit, 2015 “Let’s Get Engaged” – Delaware Arts Summit, 2015

Lily Yeh will be the keynote speaker on art, action, and social change at the exciting Delaware Arts Summit, “Let’s Get Engaged.”


Learn more about the event: Get ready to “Get Engaged” with the arts at the 2015 Delaware Arts Summit – October 26, 2015 at Dover Downs! Engaging with your community, your audiences, your funders, your partners, and each other is a key element of success for your organization or artistic endeavors. This year, the Division presents a group of celebrated speakers offering innovative and intriguing ideas and action plans to make the most of these engagements. From targeting an audience segment to working with other artists, solid engagement practices can further your goals and strengthen your relationships, leading to increased sustainability.
Some of the topics we’ll explore include:

  • Local and National Advocacy
  • Social Media
  • Community Engagement
  • Building Audiences
  • Creative Aging
  • A Sustainable Life as an Artist
  • Partnering for Impact

The Summit is for arts organization staff, board, and volunteers; artists; program planners; educators; arts patrons; and state and community leaders – it’s a great day with the arts!

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