2007 VISIONARIES:• Lily Yeh • Vernon Masayesva • Joanna Crell • Aimee Beth Ward • Dr. Gladys Taylor McGarey
Artist, Painter, Community Entrepreneur
Lily Yeh has spent the past eighteen years helping a bleak and impoverished area in the middle of North Philadelphia to transform itself into a community of proud and caring people, proud of themselves and their work.
It is called The Village of Arts and Humanities. Now there is an oasis filled with vegetable and flower gardens, murals of paint and mosaic, sculptures, plays and dances created by local teenagers, classes teaching self-confidence and sharing through all the arts and cottage industries.
This renovated village has become an inspiration to the surrounding area and is considered a model of enlightened urban renewal. Lily’s astonishing vision and powerful work earned her a considerable Ford Foundation Leadership Grant. Lily Yeh is using that grant to transform the world — one village at a time.
While expanding her community work with The Village of Arts and Humanities, Lily has made short exploratory outreach visits to other countries: Ecuador — to help street children; Rwanda — to aid survivors of the 2004 genocidal war in Africa. In China she was so inspired by courageous artists — penniless, but rich in spirit — who paint in destitute communities to encourage the creation of beauty that she started a new non-profit organization. Read about many other international and national projects by Lily and her team here.
In her own words:
As for myself, I have established another non-profit organization named Barefoot Artists, Inc. Inspired by the work performed by the Chinese barefoot doctors, the name implies working for the poor, going wherever needed, practicing the arts, bringing healing and moving on. My aim is that it will be more about projects and less about organization building.
This coming year, I will be working with a school for the children of migrant workers in Beijing, the poorest of the poor. I visited one family during my last visit to the school and found that the family lived right next to a garbage dump and recycling trash is their means of earning a livelihood. There are tens and thousands of children attending these schools, which are poorly equipped; there is a general lack of vitality and inspiration. I will be doing some workshops in training teachers and working with children to transform their environment for the better.
Then, the real big project is in Rwanda (click to read). I am collaborating with a local host to work with a survivors village consisting of 100 families with 500 children. All the households are headed by women. We will be doing economic development like buying goats and chickens and building a mushroom farm and planting avocado trees, etc. for the people. Then, we will do art about remembering and reconciliation and begin to paint the village. This way people won’t suffer from hunger and they will have strength to paint, and the result will be beautiful. Anyway, this is a start. We will see where it goes.
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