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From Small Packages

Arts Street Founder, Stella Yu, proves the old adage about the origins of Big Things

An ant can lift up to 50 times its own body weight. A mouse can squeeze through a hole the size of nickel, sometimes even smaller. A single ladybug will eat more than 5000 aphids (a creature roughly ¼ its size) in its lifetime. And as anyone who saw the ho-hum Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones can attest, Yoda, despite his stature, is a wicked, lightsaber-wielding warrior.

Great things come in small packages. Ants are amazing, mice are malleable, ladybugs are lupine, and Jedi do judo. So it should be not at all surprising that Arts Street founder Stella Yu, her diminutive physique notwithstanding, is as energizing as one hundred car batteries, as motivated as a bear outside a honey store, and is as intense as a circus fire (Give that last one a second).

Smart mouse

Stella Yu is the mightiest of mice. She has been lacing up and kicking butt at Arts Street since she started the program more than 15 years ago. Stella is herself a classically trained artist. She holds a Masters in Arts Education and was an MFA candidate in Painting and Printmaking from the University of Denver. But that’s only the first aspect of her incredible might and mastery. She has vision, that insatiable desire to set and achieve goals, and that sets her apart.

But beyond her skill and passion, it’s her insight, that means the most. Stella saw the kids who doodled in the margins at school, the kids who were always sketching or sculpting or folding or shaping, and she saw that most of those kids would never be able to harness their passion, their drive to create, and apply it to a job they could love as adults. She set goals, made a plan and dove in.

Educate the people

No more would the talented margin-sketcher go uninspired. Instead, she stepped in to teach, imparting ways that raw talents can become valuable ones. She can help turn a doodle into a logo, or a cartoon drawing into an opportunity to learn computer animation. She can give a group of students with a story idea the power to become filmmakers.

But Stella’s not only focused on art. Art training is just another part of that incredible vision. That margin-sketcher will learn how to conceive of a big project, how to plan, how to execute, how to revise and rework and how to accept both success and failure. We can’t even begin to sum up all the big things that come in Stella Yu’s mighty small package.

One more fact about small things: they’re harder to see, so they’re almost always going to surprise you.

Stella retired from Arts Street in 2016, and continues to advocate for arts, education, and equality all over Denver. She's a member of the Economic Opportunity Committee of The Denver Foundation and is also very active with Denver Planning and Zoning for La Alma Lincoln Park.. 


Awards and Honors

  • 2006 Mayor’s Office for Education and Children (MOEC) Heavy Lifting Award
  • University of CO at Denver Alumni Assoc's Community Contribution Award
  • President's Committee on Arts and Humanities' Coming Up Taller Award