History and Photo Archive

The Village began with the transformation of a single vacant lot into an art park created with and for neighborhood children. Building on its grassroots efforts led by founder Lily Yeh, The Village formally incorporated in 1989. Over the past twenty-five years, The Village has grown into a mature arts and cultural organization, carrying out a broad range of community development programs with an innovative artistic focus…


Arthur Hall

During the turbulent 1960’s, Arthur Hall filled a deep need in a community weathered by social inequality, government neglect, and scattered identity. Arthur, a skilled dancer and choreographer, opened the Ile Lfe Black Humanitarian Center in what is now The Village’s main programming building. Not only a comprehensive dance and performance school, Ile Ife was a space dedicated to the study, immersion…

Lily Yeh

Lily Yeh

Lily Yeh’s artistic practice brought her to Philadelphia, but the promise and beauty of a forgotten community formed the basis of her continued involvement with the city. In ten years time, she helped grow The Village into a multifaceted arts and cultural center, offering arts classes to children and adults and nurturing professional, social and spiritual enrichment opportunities…


Jo Jo Williams

Jo Jo Williams acted as a self-appointed guide for Lily Yeh, whom many residents initially considered to be an outsider. JoJo was a local resident with “a fiery, friendly spirit,” say Lily Yeh, despite the many hardships he faced. Williams began helping Yeh clear out the rubble and debris from abandoned lots, becoming in the process, her “protector,” and a legendary force in the neighborhood until his death from cancer in 1995.


James “Big Man” Maxton

Born in Thomasville, North Carolina, in 1947, Big Man stood 6-foot-8 and and was an all-state football lineman. A leg injury ended his athletic dreams, and at 18 he moved to Philadelphia in search of a future. He found the drug life instead, becoming a runner and addict. Still an addict in 1988, he fell under the spell of Joseph “Jo Jo” Williams, a neighborhood craftsman working with Lily Yeh. Over the years, Big Man blossomed…


H. German Wilson

In 1992 H. German Wilson brought performing arts to the growing Village. German’s first play drew on recordings of neighbors’ stories; playwright Winston Jones wove the stories into a script, Wilson directed the production and the neighbors were cast and crew. The theater productions became a yearly tradition with scripts coming directly out of the community’s experiences.


Kumani Gantt

In 2004, Kumani Gantt took over care of The Village, serving as its second Executive Director. During Gantt’s tenure at The Village, she garnered new organizational support including increasing funding sources and expanding artistic direction. Under her artistic direction, The Village worked with a variety of artists including teens from the Bokamoso Youth Center of Winterveldt, South Africa…