A Letter From a United World College Student

Please read the message below. It’s a letter from one of the students in UWC-USA (United World College) who attended Lily Yeh’s Awakening Creativity workshop last year who has been inspired to use the Barefoot Artists’ methodology in China. The summer camp took place in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Hui is the Chinese name for Muslims.

We are excited that the Barefoot Artists’ methodology can be easily adopted and adapted.

Dear Lily,

My name is Otto Zhen, and I am currently a freshman at Stanford University. Last year, at the Annual Conference at UWC-USA, I attended your workshop entitled Community Development through Art. I was very moved by the power of art and how it brought a collage of values from different people to life. However, at the time, I did not realize how I would later use what I learned at the workshop to teach others.

Six months later, I volunteered at a youth camp in China sponsored by UWC-USA. It was a camp dedicated to teaching various themes that are close to the UWC mission statement; such themes included sustainability, cultural awareness, and community building. One night, while the group was preparing for the next day’s activities, we realized that we were short on an activity for the following day. I suggested your art activity that I partook in during that Annual Conference.

And…it was amazing. I followed your format quite closely and asked for the students to think of values or ideas that were important to them. Then I asked them to discuss the values and find similarities before honing in on a single value. Then I went into the instructions for creating a single piece of artwork on one large piece of paper that embodied everyone’s values. Seeing these kids who were a bit shy with each other and uncomfortable with speaking English at first, and then seeing them actively engage and work together during this activity—it was a beautiful moment of teamwork, creativity, and collective understanding.

And like your workshop, we reflected on the pieces after each group presented their artwork, and we discussed the similarities, differences, and interesting observations. These pieces of artwork were so beautiful and indicative of the camper’s teamwork that we decided to hang them up during the final ceremony on the last day, the day that the camper’s parents actually came in to see what their child had learned.

I wanted to extend a huge expression of gratitude towards you for introducing such a creative and impactful activity to me during Annual Conference this time last year. I am very honored to have had this opportunity.

Otto Zhen


The Transformative Power of Art at Concordia University

Lily Yeh will visit Concordia University from February 28 – March 2 as the keynote speaker for The Art of Transforming Communities: Art Education Graduate Student Symposium 2014. The lecture is presented with the generous support of the Mary Ann Beckett-Baxter Memorial Fund. A workshop and screening of The Barefoot Artist documentary will also take place as part of her visit to Concordia.

Download the Symposium schedule and visit Concordia University’s website to learn more.



La Cultura Cura: Art & Social Healing in New Mexico
In the month of May, 2013, New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF) brought Lily Yeh to New Mexico through the La Cultura Cura (Culture Heals) project to conduct Awakening Creativity workshops in order to build collaborative partnerships that increase the abilities of communities to support marginalized youth.

Credit Photo Courtesy: Lonnie Anderson-La Plazita Institute

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Teng Chong School in Yunnan Province, China

Teng Chong is an important city located in the southwest part of Yunnan Province, China near the border of Burma. It was the battle ground during the fierce anti-Japanese war during the 1940s. Lily Yeh’s father, Pei Gao Yeh, was the lead general who defeated the formidable Japanese army and led his army to victory. He is still dearly remembered and loved in Teng Chong.

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