For more than a quarter century, Lily Yeh has spearheaded projects around the world that combine arts with other community building strategies in order to transform and revitalize cities as diverse as Korogochu, Nairobi, Salt Lake City, Utah, Damascus, Syria, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Beijing, China.

In early April, Yeh will share her message and vision here in Yakima in hopes of sparking interest in the development of a project intended to positively address some of our community’s most pressing issues including crime, gang violence, and poverty.

Thanks to the financial support of the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, the Yakima LIGHT Project, the Yakima Valley Museum, and the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau, Yeh will spend three days (April 2-4) meeting with local organizations, elected officials, and community leaders.  The backers of Yeh’s visit hope to generate support for her to return and lead a project tailored to Yakima’s needs.

The centerpiece of Yeh’s visit will be a community forum held on Monday, April 2nd from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at The Seasons Performance Hall.  The forum, which will be open to the general public, will give community members an opportunity to provide input about what kind of project Yeh and her non-profit organization, Barefoot Artists, Inc., might develop to help improve Yakima.

In 1986, Yeh co-founded The Village of Arts and Humanities, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that has grown from a small group of people who turned abandoned lots into neighborhood parks and gardens into a multi-faceted organization that now serves thousands of low-income people each year through educational programs, after-school programs, arts workshops and projects, and community celebrations.

In 2003, Yeh founded Barefoot Artists in order spread her philosophy of healing communities through the arts to other parts of the country and around the world.  Barefoot Artists projects have included The Painted Labyrinth in Hualien, Taiwan, Turtle Park in North Philadelphia, and the Rugerero Genocide Memorial Park near Gisenyi, Rwanda.

“My work engages people, whose participation ensures its sustainability,” said Yeh. “It usually begins with making art with people; it then expands to include other activities such as storytelling, education, construction, and economic initiatives.  The living fabrics of communities become the canvas of my work, creativity its fuel, people’s talent and imagination its palette and tools,” said Yeh.  “In the poor communities where I have worked, this process often leads to an improved environment, a better quality of life, and a sense of joy and hope for the future.”

Yeh’s visit will also include meetings with members of the Yakima Arts Commission, the Yakima LIGHT Project, the Yakima Gang Free Initiative, the Yakima County Gang Commission, and Safe Yakima Valley.  In addition to the various meetings she will attend, Yeh will address the Yakima City Council during its April 3rd business meeting.