Released: February 28, 2012
Lincoln, Neb. - The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Department of Art and Art History will host visiting artist and social pioneer Lily Yeh March 13-15. During her time in Lincoln, Yeh will lead students from both UNL and Lincoln Public Schools, teachers, and community members in a series of workshops. The products of these workshops will be integrated into a mural design for the South Capital neighborhood.
Yeh will be based in the Nebraska Union's Centennial Room. Students in Associate Professor of Art Sandra Williams' Community Arts class, as well as students, teachers and community members from Park Middle School, Lighthouse, F Street Community Center, Bryan Community School, Lux Center for the Arts and the Arts and Humanities FocusSchool will all be participating in creating the mosaic mural, which will be installed this summer at a location to be determined.
Yeh is an award-winning visual artist and urban designer, who uses art as a tool for community building and healing throughout the world.
"I've been using Lily Yeh as an example that I teach from in my class quite frequently in community art, as we talk about connecting mass culture and looking at who is making art and how that work is perceived," Williams said. "When I was watching her speak in videos on YouTube, I felt really inspired by her. I wanted to create a workshop and lecture series that would provide community members with an opportunity to reconsider and reconnect with the role creativity plays in their lives."
While in Lincoln, Yeh will also do a book signing and talk at Indigo Bridge Books, 701 P St. Ste 102, on Tuesday, March 13 at 6 p.m. There will also be a free public lecture on Wednesday, March 14 at 6 p.m. in Richards Hall Rm. 15, located at Stadium Drive and T sts. on the UNL city campus.
Williams' work in the community arts class has focused on the neighborhoods surrounding the University.
"I've been engaged in these geographically close, but socially distant neighborhoods," she said. "Really, what the students are engaged in is strengthening democracy through intercultural development."
From 1986-2004, Yeh served as the co-founder, executive director and lead artist of The Village of Arts and Humanities, a nonprofit organization with the mission to build community through art, learning, land transformation and economic development.
In 1986, Yeh was asked by the dancer and educator Arthur Hall to create a park in an abandoned lot next to his building in North Philadelphia. With a small grant, a few shovels and little else, Yeh invited children and adults in this ravaged inner city neighborhood to join her in clearing the rubble-filled lot. They then transformed the lot into an art park with brilliant mosaics and sculpted trees, creating an oasis of safety and peace.
The park blossomed into The Village of Arts and Humanities, a community-based art organization that Yeh co-founded. Under her leadership, the summer parkbuilding project developed into an organization with 20 full-time and part-time employees, hundreds of volunteers and a $1.3 million budget. The Village became a multi-faceted community building organization with activities such as after-school and weekend programs, greening land transformation, housing renovation, theater and economic development initiatives. The center worked on local, national, and international projects, and was a leading model of community revitalizations throughout the country.
In 2003, she founded Barefoot Artists, Inc., a nonprofit arts organization based in Philadelphia that uses the power of art to transform impoverished communities. Barefoot Artists aims to train and empower local residents, organize communities, and take action for a more compassionate, just and sustainable (better) future.
Using the concept and model proven in her 20 years of work in inner city North Philadelphia at the Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia and in other poor communities in the States, Yeh has worked on projects in Rwanda (including the creation of the Rugerero Genocide Memorial Monument and Park), Kenya, Ghana, Ecuador and China, among others.
One recent project of Yeh's is the Dandelion School for the children of migrant workers in China. In the spring of 2011 New Village Press published "Awakening Creativity: Dandelion School Blossoms," Yeh's account of the joyous work she and the students did to transform their school from a run-down factory on the outskirts of Beijing into a vibrant school for children of migrant workers.
As the name implies, Barefoot Artists is a volunteer organization with few encumbrances of staff and overhead. Yeh raises funds for specific projects that pair volunteer expertise with local people to improve environment, advance health, education and economic development. When funds are raised for a project, a call for volunteers is held and a group of volunteers and some paid staff are organized.
During the project process, participants learn Barefoot Artists methodology on community building and economic development through art. They aim to inspire the participants such that they will take initiative to start their own projects, bring other volunteers, funding sources and new opportunities to the communities in need.
Yeh received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Bachelor of Arts degree from National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan.
Yeh's visit to UNL is being made possible with support from the Hixson-Lied Endowment; University Program Council; the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs; the Pepsi Endowment Fund; the Student Affairs Division, including Campus Recreation, Nebraska Unions, University Health Center and University Housing; and the Pepsi Diversity Program Fund.