Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Elmer Lucille Allen, April 7, 2021

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:01 - Recap of previous interviews / First memories of art

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Well, good afternoon.

Segment Synopsis: After explaining the subjects of their previous interviews, Dr. Janice Fernheimer explains how she first came to learn about Elmer Lucille Allen and references publications intended to honor Allen's accomplishments. Later within the segment, Allen explains her experience in the Girl Scouts and first experiences of creating art.

Keywords: Girl Scouts; Hurst Gallery; Louisville Courier-Journal; Newspapers; Presbyterian Church; Race; Research

Subjects: African American artists.; African Americans--Segregation; Artists.; Arts; Childhood; Louisville (Ky.)

00:04:24 - Interest in ceramics

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Partial Transcript: Um, when did you begin making the move from creating art in the context of everyday life, like making your clothes, making clothes for your daughter, to thinking about art in the professional sense?

Segment Synopsis: Allen describes her transition into working with ceramics after being advised to pursue art therapy to battle arthritis. She continues to explain mold ceramics and further advancements into professional creations.

Keywords: Arthritis; Ceramics; Metro Art Center; Mold ceramics; Professional; Therapy; University of Louisville

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts

00:07:06 - Continuing education and impactful instructors

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Partial Transcript: And I'm still taking ceramics at U of L as of 2021.

Segment Synopsis: Allen describes her continuing education pursuits, while also mentioning teachers of ceramics that have left an impact by introducing her to a diverse set of skills.

Keywords: Independent studies

Subjects: African American artists.; Education, Higher; Educators; Teachers; Teaching

00:09:15 - Art as therapy / Shibori Art

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Partial Transcript: It's interesting to me that, you know, your path with art as a professional or later in your life really began as a path of healing. Um, in what ways does art function as a kind of expressive medium?

Segment Synopsis: Allen describes the true intentions of her artwork and the therapeutic presence of creations. She explains her primary method of creating, referred to as stitch-resist, also known as Shibori fabric art.

Keywords: Healing; Therapy

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts

00:13:59 - Niola Doa figure

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Partial Transcript: That--the--that piece that--the piece that I have at the Lexington Library that was supposed to open last March of 2020 and the library has been closed so I hope to come to Lexington to see that and to see the Women's Suffrage...

Segment Synopsis: Allen explains her motivations to recreate the Niola Doa figure (translated to "Beautiful Women"), an ancient stone art creation used to symbolize women. She explains what the art piece means to her. She also describes the particular methods she used to recreate the piece itself.

Keywords: Africa; Archaeology; Carving; Engraving; Inspiration; Library; Recreations; Stone

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts; Lexington (Ky.).

00:16:13 - Inspiration for her art

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Partial Transcript: So that brings me to another question I have which is, where do you typically draw your inspiration?

Segment Synopsis: Allen explains her motivations and inspirations, typically brought from geometrics, to create her artwork.

Keywords: Artwork; Inspirations

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts

00:19:20 - Master's degree in ceramics / Surface design

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Partial Transcript: Um, in that same interview with Davis, uh, you said you were reintroduced to surface design when you were working towards your master's degree in ceramics and that you made stencil wall hangings for your thesis ex--

Segment Synopsis: Allen explains the process of using stencils for completing her thesis to acquire her master's degree and her reasons for transitioning to the Shibori method. During the discussion, she references her creative processes and art inspiration origins.

Keywords: Design; Shibori fabric art; Stencils

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts

00:24:15 - Public art

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Partial Transcript: I have one piece that's at the, uh--that's at Beecher Terrace that was purchased.

Segment Synopsis: Allen describes her involvement with the Commission on Public Art (COPA) and how a special piece of her own has been featured, as a patterned wallpaper, within the new residency of Beecher Terrace senior citizen's home.

Keywords: Commission on Public Art; Philanthropy; Public housing; Samples

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts

00:27:50 - Teapot creations

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Partial Transcript: Tell me, what about the tea pot, um, draws you in as an artist?

Segment Synopsis: Allen details the reasoning for her interest in creating teapots and why many others are drawn to collecting them.

Keywords: Ceramics; Kilns; Teapots

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts

00:30:15 - Mellwood art studio

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Partial Transcript: In an, in an interview with David, you said, um, you r--you felt like a real artist when began renting your own studio in Mellwood in 2005. Tell me about that.

Segment Synopsis: Allen explains the benefits of her rental studio located in the Mellwood Art Center that has provided her a working space to pursue various art creations, along with explaining how COVID-19 has impacted her access.

Keywords: Art studios; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Mellwood Art Center

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts; COVID-19 (Disease)

00:40:01 - Kentucky Coalition for AFRO-American Arts, Inc.

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Partial Transcript: I formed an organization, Kentucky Coalition for AFRO-American Arts, back in '81.

Segment Synopsis: Allen describes her foundational efforts for supporting the establishment of the Kentucky Coalition for AFRO-American Arts, Inc., while also explaining her beliefs surrounding the importance of creating directories, specifically for artists.

Keywords: African Americans; Coalitions; Community; Conferences; Databases; Directories; Directory; Documentation; Gallery; Kentucky Coalition for AFRO-American Arts, Inc.; Library; Lists; Presidents; Race; Reference guides; Retirement; Workshops

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts

00:52:34 - Wayside Christian Mission's Expression Gallery

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Partial Transcript: And that was sort of the beginning of your long career of volunteering for the arts.

Segment Synopsis: Allen details her involvement with the Wayside Christian Mission's Expression Gallery, which provided people without housing with support for creating and displaying their own art. Furthermore, she also explains how art can be used as a method of healing.

Keywords: Curators; Exhibits; Gallery; Healing; Marketing; Nonprofit organizations; People without homes; People without housing; Therapy; Volunteers; Wayside Christian Mission

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts

00:58:10 - Lauderdale Miller Endowed Scholarship

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Partial Transcript: I want to switch gears a little bit to talk about some of the ways that you give back. Um, I know that--I've heard you talk about the scholarship that you helped establish at Spalding--

Segment Synopsis: Allen presents her motivations behind supporting the creation of the Lauderdale Miller Endowed Scholarship, made available by Spalding University graduates.

Keywords: Alumni; Ancestors; Barbara Miller; Commemoration; Conferences; Endowment; Funding; Graduates; Lauderdale Miller Endowed Scholarship; Lauderdale-Miller Endowed Scholarship; Patricia Lauderdale; Philanthropy; Predecessors; Scholarships; University

Subjects: African American college students.; College students, Black; Education, Higher; Spalding University; Universities and colleges.

01:00:50 - Virtual Elmer Lucille Allen Conference of African American Studies

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Partial Transcript: Uh, speaking of recognition, how did it feel to attend the 2020 Virtual Elmer Lucille Allen Conference on African American Studies, uh, in February at Spalding University, named in your honor?

Segment Synopsis: Allen revisits her feelings and memories of attending the Elmer Lucille Allen Conference. During the segment, she also touches on how she would like for college graduates to contribute philanthropically.

Keywords: Alumni; Awards; Conferences; Contributions; Education; Funding; Graduation; Philanthropy; Predecessors; Spalding University; Students

Subjects: African American college students.; College environment; College students, Black; Education, Higher; Universities and colleges.

01:04:15 - Louisville mural honoring Allen

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Partial Transcript: As someone who creates art and representations, how does it feel to be a representative of women, of African Americans in the arts and sciences?

Segment Synopsis: Allen details her purpose for creating art and her hopes for the public's interpretation. Further along, she discusses the origins of work behind the development of the mural created in her honor painted by Brandon Marshall.

Keywords: Artwork; Compassion; Documentary; Murals; Painting; Recognition; Representative; Story

Subjects: African American artists.; Artists.; Arts