Joy Through Beauty

Dear friends,BA April 27 2015

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Philadelphia-based artist, Lily Yeh, who travels the world employing arts as a tool for social justice, community-building and personal transformation.  This is a work she describes as a living social sculpture, combining visual arts with community mobilizing to create beauty.  As Lily states, “where we dare to imagine and thrive, there we have a freedom and a joy nobody can control.  How do we create joy?  Through creating beauty.”   It may be hard to imagine beauty having any affect on the despair, oppression, poverty and fear that seemingly radiates out from every dear corner of our planet earth right now – this transformative power feels like an abstraction that is difficult to somehow conceptualize, or at least to put into words.  In Palestine, however, I saw it in action as Lily’s Barefoot Artist team created art with local communities:  the energizing effect of bright colors, creating new patterns and actions; the immediate ability to transform one’s environment by picking up a paint brush and the sense of accomplishment that is particularly important in traumatized communities.  I certainly can’t think of beauty now as only that which gives me aesthetic pleasure.  It has taken on the weight of a lifeline, a conduit of hope and freedom.  May beauty touch us all.

Ariel Bleth