An Angel in the Village

Lily Yeh journeys from young artist in China to international activist, using art to transform destitute urban communities on two continents.

Premiere Date
April 1, 1999
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2000 Greater Philadelphia Chapter -Award for Documentary Excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2000 Catholic Academy for Communications Arts Professionals-Gabriel Award
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    2000 NATAS, Mid-Atlantic Chapter -Regional Emmy Award, Best Cultural Program
  • Mcelroy frances filmmaker bio

    Frances McElroy

    Frances McElroy began her career as an independent filmmaker in 1991, when she founded Shirley Road Productions, an award-winning nonprofit independent production company in Philadelphia. She is especially drawn to subjects that relate to the arts, community development, and social change, often with an international perspective. Recent production credits include Ballycastle, a documentary she produced and directed, which tells the story of Stuart Shils, a Philadelphia painter of Jewish heritage whose infatuation with a remote Irish village changed his life. The film won a 2004 CINE Golden Eagle Award. An Angel in the Village, a documentary McElroy produced about Chinese-born community-based artist Lily Yeh, premiered nationally in 1999. It received a regional Emmy Award, First Prize for Documentary Excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists, Greater Philadelphia Chapter, and a Gabriel Award. Before becoming an independent filmmaker, McElroy was director of program development and an Emmy award-winning producer/director at WHYY Philadelphia. Her credits include Philadelphia’s Ed Bacon, a documentary about renowned city planner Edmund Bacon, and Who is Red Grooms?, a documentary about the beloved American artist. In 1987/1988, she directed INPUT 1988, the International Public Television Screening Conference.

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    The Film

    Lily Yeh is searching for a "dustless place" — the serenity depicted in the landscape paintings she encountered as a student in China. Sometimes called crazy and stubborn, sometimes compared to an angel, this feisty immigrant artist and activist sees potential in the most unlikely places. As director of the Village of Arts and Humanities — an oasis of culture and color in North Philadelphia — she believes community art projects foster economic and social change. Yeh has also exported this idea to a bleak village adjacent to Nairobi's garbage dump, where a burgeoning crafts industry is stimulating economic growth.