the artist

Lily Yeh

Lily Yeh

Philadelphia, PA

Lily Yeh

Because I have seen abandoned trash-strewn lots transformed into parks and gardens,
Because I have seen spirits that were crushed by drugs and abuse inflated with hope,
Because I have seen the uprooted and displaced glow with confidence and strength,
Because I have seen the forgotten and despised rise to reclaim their heritage,
Because I have seen the light of hope and possibilities pour into the hellhole of garbage dump communities,
Because I have seen joy and aspirations return to the broken and the despairing Rwandan genocide survivors,
Because I have experienced all these things, I know that it is possible.

It’s possible to turn brokenness and pain into beauty and joy.
It’s possible to transform the violent energy of our time into a culture of kindness.

All things are possible through the openness of our mind, the gentleness of our spirit, and the act of understanding, creating, and embracing.

Jonathan Stein, retired anti-poverty, civil legal aid lawyer at Community Legal Services (CLS) summarized the essence of Lily best: “Yeh has found that enviable and rare place in life where her work and her values are one.  In her magical hands, art fuels social change.”

Founder, Executive & Artistic Director, & Lead Artist; The Village of Arts & Humanities (Philadelphia)
The Village of Arts and Humanities is a non-profit organization with the mission to build community through art, learning, land transformation, and economic development.  Under Yeh’s eighteen years of leadership, The Village’s summer park building project developed into an organization with twenty full-time and part-time employees, hundreds of volunteers, and a $1.3 million budget.

The Village, now under new and wonderful leadership, has become a multi-faceted community building organization with activities including after-school and weekend programs, greening land transformation, housing renovation, theater, and economic development initiatives. The center works on local to international projects, and has been a leading model of community revitalization.

Founder & Global Artist; Barefoot Artists (Philadelphia)
Yeh’s mission at Barefoot Artists is to use art as a transformative power to foster community empowerment, improve the physical environment, promote economic development, and preserve indigenous art and culture.  The Barefoot Artists aims to train and empower local residents, organize communities, and take action for a more compassionate, just, and sustainable future. 

Yeh’s ventures at Barefoot Artists have led her across the world including projects in North America, Europe, Africa, China, and India. In 2004, Yeh launched ‘The Rwanda Healing Project’ which was aimed to address lingering grief of the 1994 genocide.  As part of this project, she has launched multiple programs to help the local community in moving forward.  Using art as a medium for social revival and change, Lily has positively influenced many impoverished communities worldwide.

Fast Facts

Name: Lily Yeh


Place of Birth: Guiyang, China

National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, 1963 BA
University of Pennsylvania, Phila, PA 1966 MFA

Significant or special training:
Traditional Chinese landscape

Notable or memorable instructors or mentors:
Many, both in Taiwan and during my study at theUniversity of Pennsylvania

Particular field of study or class work:
Urban alchemy - transforming environment, people, and community through art

Major influences:
Classical Chinese landscape paintings of Song and Yuan dynasties, Renaissance masters, Islamic art and architecture, folk art around the world, Mali architecture, and children’s art

Favorite materials or media:
Acrylic, ink and water, mosaic

School or university affiliation (when Convention Center acquired artwork):
Professor of Painting & Art History at the University of Pennsylvania from 1968 – 1998

Gallery Representation (when Convention Center acquired artwork):
The Village of Arts and Humanities

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