Lily Yeh’s 2011 Awakening Creativity: Dandelion School Blossoms awakens people and communities to their innate creativity.  A formally trained artist, Yeh selflessly spreads joy and vision thru community art projects.  She helps to beautify impoverished places in cities throughout the world by making public art installations.  She includes community members who use the spaces in these projects, helping to train them and providing materials.  She wrote this book in hopes that it would help others embarking on similar projects.

Awakening Creativity documents a project Yeh began in 2004.  She helps students and teachers transform their school using art in her home-country China.  The Dandelion School is for children of migrant workers.  These kids are very eager to work and participate and have a chance to pursue education within China’s highly competitive school system and society.  They come from incredibly poor, dislocated families; many live in shantytown junkyards.  The Dandelion school has dorms so children can live and study soundly.

Yeh begins the artistic transformation of the drab school by first awakening creativity in the teachers.  She knew in order to get energy and excitement within the school, the teachers would need to get involved.  She began mural and mosaic making lessons with the teachers, who then led the children in building and painting huge mosaics and murals throughout the school.

This is a gorgeous, inspiring book, full of pictures and art from the project, as well as beautiful poems, stories, drawings and paintings by children from the school.  Lily Yeh nods to her art ancestors throughout the book, noting how she gained much of her style from admiring traditional Chinese folk art that is full of color and lively design.

Yeh shows how everybody is a natural artist and how the patterns and spirit of art is all around us.  She also realizes our profound relationship with our environments and how greatly our surroundings influence us.  Seeing the Dandelion School transformed from a drab place to one of colorful, positive images and story heightened the imaginations and joy of the students, and also their pride in their surroundings and concern for the environment.

I knew of Lily Yeh because Robert Shetterly painted her.  He told me he would, and has, gone to the ends of the earth to follow Lily Yeh.  He introduces this book.

Lily Yeh says:

“My life’s journey has been about returning to that ‘dustless world’ depicted in the Chinese landscape painting.  It is a place filled with beauty and poignant meaning.  Time and again, I have found my way back through working with people in broken places.  When fragments are made whole, beauty returns.  When people’s voices are heard, when the community is given opportunity to envision and be empowered, people’s lives become richly meaningful.

I am not a brave person.  But the one daring action I took in the summer of 1986 was that I listened to my inner voice and acted accordingly.  It ignited my passion and changed the course of my life.  This flame within, the light of creativity, has been guiding me along my life’s journey.  In my work, I try to pass it on and light other people’s pilot lights so that we can all shine together to dispel the darkness around us.  I believe that through self-awareness and actions that benefit others, together we can make our world a better place.” -191