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After co-founding the Village of Arts and Humanities in 1986, how did you prioritize the initiatives of the organization and did capacity limitations ever shape where or how you implemented a project?

Barefoot Artists

Inner city where I worked in North Philadelphia contained a vast number of abandoned lots and houses. This combined with me being a visual artist who is interested in transforming abandonment lots into colorful parks and gardens made park building the backbone of our activities for many years. Also in our park building project, we transformed dilapidation into order and beauty that made our work and our forgotten neighborhood visible. Manifesting our determination and innovative talent, the project brought us resources and recognition, which empowered us to continue.

 

Because our work is about community building through the arts, our activities expanded to include various programs to address community needs, such as after school education, youth theater, building renovation, job training for adults, cultivating vegetable gardens and a tree farm, collaborating with neighborhood public schools,  NA meetings, and many more. Funding for arts programs are always very limited. We are able to launch so many different and effective programs is because we build an organic structure that discover and help manifest local talents, conserve and recycle resources, leverage our newly established methodology, inventiveness, and utilize donations and the talent and good will from numerous volunteers.

 

But if with proper resources, we could have accomplished so much more. For example, renovated several abandoned buildings on our block to host entrepreneurial workshops and visiting artists. We would have renovated our main educational building to avoid constant bandaged repairs. My dream was to turn the ten-block neighborhood area into a unique urban environment filled with alluring parks, gardens and small urban farms.

 

But we have to conform to the requirements from our various funding sources and do our best to continue to live our mission and be true to our value and purpose. I think we delivered. Today, fourteen years after I left the Village, it continues to be a powerful presence in the neighborhood that guides and inspires.

-Lily Yeh

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