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.)
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
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
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
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.).
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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.
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.
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
FERNHEIMER: Okay, well, good afternoon.
ALLEN: Good [afternoon] to you.
FERNHEIMER: It's so nice to see you again. Um--
ALLEN: Well [thank you].
FERNHEIMER: This is our third in a series of at least three interviews so far,uh, with Ms. Elmer Lucille Allen. Uh, today is April 7, uh, 2021. This interview is being conducted as part of the Women in Bourbon Project. My name is Jan Fernheimer. I am a Zantker Chair and Director of Jewish Studies, professor of writing, rhetoric, and digital studies, and James B. Beam Faculty Fellow here at the University of Kentucky. And for those of you who are just tuning in or listening, um, the first two interviews that we did focused, uh, mostly on Ms. Allen's, uh, life, uh, in Louisville, and her education up through her higher education at Nazareth College and Louisville Municipal College. Did I say that right? And her early career--her early career and her career at 00:01:00Brown-Forman. And I'm hoping today that we will talk about, I don't know, was--would you call it your second career as an artist?
FERNHEIMER: ----------(??) accomplished. Um, in any case, um, I have a lot of,uh, questions for you.
FERNHEIMER: But, um, you know, I have to be honest, I first learned of yourexistence when a fellow researcher and scholar, Dr. Erin Gilliam (??) posted a photo with you on her Facebook. It was maybe a year or so ago. And I'm not sure--
FERNHEIMER: --where it was that she met you, uh, but she said a little bit aboutyour story. And then I was reminded of you and your story, uh, most recently by the clip that Sherlene Shanklin and the local WHAS11 station did, uh, in February, um, tying to the opening of your exhibit at the--or exhibition at the Galerie Hertz on South Preston Street in Louisville. Uh-- 00:02:00
ALLEN: Yeah--that wa--yeah.
FERNHEIMER: And that just recently closed. Um, but I wanted to talk more about,you know, you as an artist. Um, I know you were exposed to sewing early in life and often made many of your daughter's clothes while she was growing up. And in an o--interview I found online with someone by the name of Davis--it didn't list their first name, so forgive me, by not referring to them by first name--you said, quote, "My first memories of art making was as a Girl Scout brownie. I sold the most Girl Scout cookies, and my painting appeared in the Courier-Journal newspaper." How did you feel then, and how did--how did that impact your idea of yourself as an artist?
ALLEN: Well, you know, that--well, you know, I really didn't even think about itat that time. And I did not relate that I would be doing art later on in life when I did that no--when I did that. But that was something that I 00:03:00did. There was at Presbyterian, uh, church up in the East End, Grace Hope Presbyterian Church, and the--and the--and the Girl Scout leader was Dora, D-O-R-A, Courterey (??). Mmmhmm, yeah, she was--she was the Girl Scout leader of--of mine.
FERNHEIMER: So was art a big part of your Girl Scouting experience? Or was thatjust--how did you come to make the picture that was in the Louisville, uh, Courier?
ALLEN: Well, I--I think, other words, you know, years ago, Girl Scout--Igo--af--tha--the African Americans were originally not in the Girl Scouts. And it was a segregated part of--of--of the Girl Scouts. And, at that time, Girl Scout cookies were made in the shape of the Girl Scout, you know, on the emblem. And you--and then there was one box, and it had 12 cookies in it.
ALLEN: And I think they--'cause we sold--it's because we sold the most cookies.That's why they took that picture.
ALLEN: And we had had--and we all had to draw we--and00:04:00then--and--and--including--and then including the artwork that you see.
FERNHEIMER: Okay. So it was a picture of you, not a picture of your art. Imisunderstood, uh, the--
ALLEN: --other words, it's a picture of me and--it's a picture of me and my art,and it's a picture of another Girl Scout and her art. I--I thought--I thought I had sent that to you. Put down what you want me to send you.
FERNHEIMER: Okay. (laughter) Will do. Um, when did you begin making the movefrom creating art in the context of everyday life, like making your clothes or making clothes for your daughter, to thinking about creating art in a professional sense or thinking--
ALLEN: --well, I didn't--well, I didn't think about it in a professional sense,but I had arthritis in my hands, and I was a--and so they recommended me taking ceramics, and that's how I got involved. That was my first entry into ceramics was in the late '70s when my son graduated from high school, and then my--and my--took my first class in ceramics at the Seneca high school, and it 00:05:00was taught by an art therapist. And it's just gone on from there.
ALLEN: And as I--a--and that was only a one--one time thing. And then from thereI went to what you call mold ceramics, you know, where everything is poured, and you go in and you s--you know, you s--and you clean it up, and then you paint it. And then from there--
FERNHEIMER: --kind of like what I do with my son at the, like, Mad Potter orsomething like that.
ALLEN: (laughs) Okay, so from there I went to, um, uh, to Metro Art Center.
ALLEN: And Metro Art Center is, uh--is run by the, uh, Metropolitan Par--Parksand Recreation. And it was out, way out Dixie Highway. And I did--and we only had one car, and so, in order to get there, I had to bum rides from somebody that lived in the w--lived out that way to take me to the--to my classes. And when I went there, the--the person who was teaching the class was named Melvin Rowe, R-O-W-E, Melvin Rowe, and he was working on a master's in 00:06:00University of Louisville. And that's how--and so--and anyways, so I stayed out there and stayed out there. And finally another person came and was teaching there also, wi--with Melvin, and her name was Laura Ross, R-O-S-S. And she said, "Lucille, why don't you take classes U of L?" And that was in 1981.
ALLEN: A--and so then I went s--I--I enrolled at U of L in--in the ceramicprogram. And I studied with Thomas Marsh, M-A-R-S-H, first name is Thomas. And he was my first instructor at University of Louisville. And there you had to--you had to start from ground zero. You know, you had to learn how to wedge clay. You had to learn how to m--I made pinch pots and made soft slabs and you make hard slabs, and then we learned how to throw. So I did all of those things, you know, there, and I just kept--I just continued because each 00:07:00semester you learn something different.
ALLEN: And so I just went on from there, and I'm still taking ceramic at U of Las of 2021. (laughs)
FERNHEIMER: Yeah? What classes are you taking right now?
ALLEN: Ceramics. Other words, it's an independent study. It's continuingeducation. In other words, I make the things that I enjoy making. The teacher's there, but it's called continuing education.
ALLEN: And I love making tea pots, and so I'm making tea pots. And so, but eachsemester--and I've had several different teachers along the way, Tom Marsh died, and his wife taught. Her name was Ginny, F-I-N-N-Y, Marsh. She was a teacher. And then I had Michelle Coakes, C-O-A-K-E-S, Michelle Coakes.
FERNHEIMER: It took me a minute. (laughs)
ALLEN: You got it, C-O-A-K-E-S, Michelle. And then I had T--Ty--uh, Ty Burns,Ty Burns. And then--and then I got, uh, Steven Chi. So, but I had, 00:08:00uh--I was--I have--Ty Burns was there twenty years, and he left this past year. He left. So he was--he was left. He left in June of 2020--June of 2020. What year? Twenty-twe--yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, June of 2020. (laughs) Times have changed. (laughs)
FERNHEIMER: So it's interesting--
ALLEN: --he retired--
FERNHEIMER: --to me that--
FERNHEIMER: Sorry, go ahead. I didn't mean to--
ALLEN: --but you know, but--but when you take ceramics, there are so manydifferent phases of ceramics. You know, you have electric firing. You have induction firing. You have, you know, you have sod firing. You have wood firing. You have raku. So there's all kinds of me--there's, ah--uh, you always learning something new depending on who the teacher that you have. So i--it's--it--it's just an enjoyable experience, and you learn, and you learn from each other, from other--from other fellow students. You learn from them. And 00:09:00then, but you--you always learning. You always learning. So--
FERNHEIMER: --I knew--and I knew you liked to think of--consider yourself alifeti--a lifelong learner--
FERNHEIMER: --and it certainly shows in your actions.
FERNHEIMER: It's interesting to me that, you know, your path with art as aprofessional 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 or, um, I'm trying to ask a good question here. You know--
FERNHEIMER: --how does art function--I mean, it seems literally as a kind ofhealing with your hands, but also, are there other ways in which it--it serves a kind of healing purpose for you.
ALLEN: O--other words, other words, it's maybe some things that you make, it notonly helps you to heal, but it might heal somebody else.
ALLEN: Because I--I don't really--I don't make art to sell. If I sell it, it'sfine. But I make it--I like--I want people to view my art and to get something, take something away from that--that I've made. You know, that's 00:10:00what--that--that's really my goal. And when you sit down and think about art, art is really a continuation of my chemistry.
ALLEN: Because everything in art is based on chemo--on chemistry, likeyour--your, uh--your, um, uh--the--the--the periodic table. All your--all your glazes are made up of--of elements. And so you sit down and think about it, you use--I use chemistry every day.
ALLEN: And when you think about me doing fiber, fiber is cotton, silk. They'renatural materials. And then there are dyes. Well, dyes are chemicals.
ALLEN: So you sit down, and you r--and you think about it, and when you thinkabout the technique that I use primarily, it's stitch resist, which is what I call stitch resist, where I use my hand, so--so I--so that's called stitch resist, and that's only--I think there's--there are several different methods of shibori, but I really prefer that one because I can take it with me wherever I go. I can be on a--on an airplane. I could be sitting in my living 00:11:00room. I could be anywhere, but when you do ceramics, you have to be in a studio.
ALLEN: And it's messy. And when you do with fiber, it's very clean, and setdown, and you can have co--you can talk to somebody without bother--without them getting dirty seeing you, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: So tell me a little bit--I--I read up on shibori as a method, and itseems really--
FERNHEIMER: --interesting. Um, tell me a little bit about the specific method ofstitch resist. What--what does that--
ALLEN: --other words, it--stitch resist is where you actually stick--otherwords, what I do, all my designs, I dr--I put 'em--I'll do it on graph paper. I draw--I draw 'em out on grass paper. And then--and then I sit down, and then I--then I put them onto cloth. And when I was--I wish I had thought about it yesterday, but when I do the cloth, I have to wash the cloth, has to be washed and dried and make sure all the chemicals are out of it. And then you have to sit down and mark off your spaces, and you baste it. So I do a lot of 00:12:00basting, of preparing my fabric to stitch before I actually start stitching. I'll send you a picture of--of how it looks when--just when I'm designing one piece. And so--and so when you sit down, when I said, like, if I'm making--I'm making a triangle--
ALLEN: --other words, first I dr--I draw--I draw--I draw the outline of atriangle, and then I stitch within the triangle.
ALLEN: And when I get all the stitches, and you never--and in other words, so ifI got four triangles on this one piece, I had to stitch all four triangles before you pull up anything. So then when you pull them up tight, you have to secure the stitches on both ends. So it might be thirty-six inches, but when you pull it down, it might only be six inches or less when you pull all the stitches together. Because when--because that's when you see the design is h--is--that's 'cause you se each stitch almost. And then you have to make sure that 00:13:00it's tight. And the you dye it. And then you have to let it dry. You let it dry before you take the stitches out.
ALLEN: And then you wash it again. So it's--so it's a--it's a wash and dry andtake out, so it's--it's just a process. But it's--i--it's a--it's methodical, and if you're taking the stiches out, and if you tear it, then you've lost your piece. And you might have spent months on--on--on a piece. But it's gone when--when you tear it. So I use stich re--a stitch remover, and I just take out one stitch at a time. So it takes--it takes almost as long to take the stitches out as it did to put 'em in. So it's a long process.
FERNHEIMER: And how long is that?
ALLEN: I didn't hear you.
FERNHEIMER: How long does--to get them in usually?
ALLEN: Say what now?
FERNHEIMER: How long does it take you to put them in? I--I have never done thiskind of work, so I'm learning while you're--
ALLEN: --Oh, well, it--well--well it depends on--it depends. Itmight--that--the--that piece that I sh-- the piece that I have that 00:14:00the Lexington, uh, library, that was supposed to open last March of 2020--
ALLEN: --and the library's been closed, so I hope to come to Lexington to seethat and to see the women's suffrage sometimes 'cause, no. So it's open now. But anyway, it's an African lady, and I saw it in a magazine. And it's ca--I call it N-I-O-L-A-capital D-O-A. N-I-O-L-A-capital D-O-A. Well anyway, it's an--it's a lady that is on a--that's, like, carved on stone. She's carved on stone. Well, I decided that I wanted to make this lady into a figure. And so she's a six-foot lady that's on fabric. And that's what hanging at--that's what's hanging at the lib--at the library in Lexington.
FERNHEIMER: What is the significance of the name? Eh, how do you pronounce it?Is it--am I getting it-- 00:15:00
ALLEN: ----------(??) the O of N-I-O-L-A, no I can't, D-O-A, NiolaDoa. Yeah, butanyway, but it's an Africa--it's an African name, yeah.
ALLEN: It's --------(??)
FERNHEIMER: What does it mean?
ALLEN: Yeah, but it--it--it--it represents ladies, and you can see, if I--did Isend--I thought I--did I send you a picture of that?
FERNHEIMER: Not yet.
ALLEN: If not, I will. If not, I will. But anyway, is that--is that you divideparts, or you see the whole body, the legs, the arms, and--and the head and everything. And so you make different stiches to sit down and to describe the piece and to make the--so other words, there's no empty spaces within this piece. And it's--it took me months because what I did, the piece originally started out when I saw it, was about five inches. And I draw it up to six feet on--on--on brown paper. And I still have that pattern. And then I transferred the pattern. I drew it out onto--onto the silk noil. And then I stitched it. And I have different variations of stitches within that piece. 00:16:00
FERNHEIMER: Wow. What--
FERNHEIMER: So it's, for that particular piece, you said you saw an image in a magazine.
ALLEN: I saw it in--I saw it in an archeological magazine. So, you know it--youknow, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: So that brings me to another question I had, which is where do youtypically draw your inspiration?
ALLEN: Well, I, you know, it's that most of it is, uh--is based ongeom--is--are--are geometric figures. You know, ge--like triangles, rectangles, circles, every--the--so most of the pic--and then I enter--eh, the--this, like, a lot of them might be curves or, but like I say, but tri--but the--but the--but they're all made--they're all based on mathematics, majority of them, or else they're freelanced. It's like, I had a--I had a fish. I did a shibori fish that's at, uh--it was in the gallery at Galerie Hertz. So you actually draw the fish, and then you, like you do the tail. So you have to set--set--set--design the piece you can actually see where all the parts are. See the eyes? Yeah, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Well, can you walk me through that process of your00:17:00creative process, so from, like, inspiration to exhibition? Um.
ALLEN: Well, actually, you sit down. You sit down, and--but you never know whenyou dar--w--if you get--if you start a piece, where it's going to be. It's that you just--I make it because it's something that I want to make.
ALLEN: It's my--you know, I make it. And but you never know whether it's goingto be shown or not, you know, and just depends on, like, you know, the piece that I showed, the fish, it might be two or three years old, but it's never been shown before, you know. So it's--you know, it's the first time it's been shown. And--and it's a--I have to send you a picture of that too. So te--so tell me to send you the fish and send Galerie Hertz.
ALLEN: Yes, I'll send you that.
FERNHEIMER: So ---------(??)--so ----------(??)--
FERNHEIMER: Once you get inspired, you know, walk me through that. Do--how--youstart making designs, it sounds like, and then there's--
ALLEN: --other words, first--first of all, I --I have to--I--I--I draw00:18:00to this--first of all, I maybe I cut the fabric out. Maybe I have a piece of fabric that's forty-five by forty-five. And I say I want to put--and so this is what the fish is on. And I drew the fish. And so you have to make it to scale. You know, make the thicker piece. And then you have to also put in all the elements of the fish, you know, like the tail and the fins and all of that. So you draw all this in. And then when you begin to stitch, you--eh--and you--but you don't--you have different types of stitches within each one and how they--and how they run. So you really have to see it, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: I look forward to it. I'm gonna head down to the library and checkout that Niolado--Doa? Dua? How do you say the title?
ALLEN: ---------(??) Well, look it up 'cause--look it up 'cause, just--justresearch it. Just look it up, that--that name, and 'cause it'll--
ALLEN: --appear because it's a name that's--i--it's an African name. Yeah.
ALLEN: So you can find it.
FERNHEIMER: I definitely will.
ALLEN: Yeah. But i--but it's six feet. I think they're--think there are thirteenartists there. And I --well, no. But it's a Kentucky craft gallery. 00:19:00But it was supposed to open last--last--last March. And so it's been--
FERNHEIMER: ----------(??)--I believe they have opened up the library again, so--
ALLEN: --well, yeah, they did. It's 'cause I--we--I just got a notice, uh, thisweek that--that we can now go see it.
FERNHEIMER: Um, in that same interview with Davis, uh, you said that you werereintroduced to surface design when you were working towards your master's degree in ceramics and that you made stencil wall hangings for your thesis exams--
ALLEN: --oh, okay. Other words, when I went-- when I went--
ALLEN: --when I went to take--in order to get my degree and order to work on amaster's in ceramics, I needed another--I had to go and take another studio class.
ALLEN: So I chose fiber.
ALLEN: So it's called surface design. It's call surface design.
FERNHEIMER: Oh, interesting. Why is fiber called surface design? That's fascinating.
ALLEN: In other words, because you're decorating, an--and--and you--and youworking on the surface, and you're decorating, so you--you putting designs on it, so it's called surface design. 00:20:00
FERNHEIMER: Okay. ----------(??)
ALLEN: Yeah, so that was it.
FERNHEIMER: What drew you to the shibori method specifically?
ALLEN: Well, I didn't do shi--uh, well, in the--I didn't--I didn't actually dothe shibori method until after I graduated with my master's. But what happened, it was another student in the class that was doing this. And I wanted--and so, I wanted to do--I--I en--I enjoyed the--her process of sitting down, stitching, you know, it's very meditative. But my--but my thesis show was all stencil, where I actually made stencils, and they're--and they're all stencil. They were all black. They were--most of it was black and white, and then I think there was one that had colors on them. But they were primarily black and white, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Okay. Thank you for--
ALLEN: --but they were sten--they were stencils. Yeah.
FERNHEIMER: And when you work now, what method do you tend to use?
ALLEN: Well, mainly now I just do mainly shibori now and ceramic. That's all.Because that's something that, other words, doing the paints, you got 00:21:00to sit down and stuff like--but where I can do shibori anywhere. I can sit at home. I can sit right here and be doing it while I'm talking to you, you know, because it's a--it's a process, and i--I mean, i--it's meditative. You could sit down. You can watch TV. You can be doing anything while you're doing that, yeah. But once you're--other words, i--you have to sit down and design it, but the--the biggest thing is designing. And once you design it and transfer it to the fabric, and that's--and then that's when the work begins stitching, but other words, you have to--you have to get a design, put it on--put it on fabric, and then decide what you going to do with it.
FERNHEIMER: Where do you see--wh--when do your designs come to you? Do you seethem when you're walking around or?
ALLEN: Well, I don't know where they c--I don't really know where they come.It's something that I see or something that I like. What I really like, I really like design. I like--I really like to see something that's designed 00:22:00and also has s--uh, va--vacant space with in between, you know, a lot--other words, b--so you can see, actually see it's not all--it's not totally--other words, the piece is not totally shibori. It's that you have blank spaces plus shibori, so, which is your design. Yeah. So you sit down, enjoy. And so it just sits down and start. Otherwise, you want a piece forty-five by forty-five, or you want a piece that's six-feet--six-feet tall, well, what do you want on this piece? Do you want circles? Do you want diamonds? Do you want squares? Or do you want just lines that c--actually, I have one piece that the center piece is the diamond, but as you come down, the--no--the--the--you no longer have diamonds, just have lines, you know, that come to a point. Yeah.
FERNHEIMER: And so, do you find that, like, you find a piece of fabric first andthen the design comes to you? Or do you see something out in the world and you see a design, and then you're, like, trying to--
ALLEN: --other words, I use pri--I use--I use--primarily I use Kona00:23:00cotton, hundred percent Kona cotton or silk noil or plain hundred percent silk. Uh, cotton, Kona cotton, hundred precent Kona cotton, and Kona cotton comes in different colors. So I have--some pieces you might see that I have are--are con--are red and black because when you dye the blue, the blue turns black on the red.
ALLEN: Yeah, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Um, what was I gonna say? Um, where do you often find--I'm gonna askthe question a different way, but if you don't want to answer we can--
FERNHEIMER: So where do you find your inspiration?
ALLEN: Other words, you h--other words, just walking. You see inspiration e--inyour house. It's like a--like--it's like a lamp, you know, which comes down and--and, you know, is a shape like that, or you might see a small pebble, pebble, and you can stitch that, or you can encase that pebble in a rock and then--and then tie thread around it, and then that can become the 00:24:00shibori also. Because when you take the stitches, when you take--when what's encased is--is--is--is colored but then the lines around it is--are--are white.
ALLEN: Yeah, so you can m--so you can wrap, and then it's like the--I have onepiece that's at the, um--that's at Beecher Terrace that was purchased. The piece was--wh--which doesn't have any shibori in it, but it's a shibori technique, you know, where--actually, I just scrunched the fabric and dyed it, and then it--e--wh--and--and--in it you have--you don't have any de--designed design, but it's an overall pattern.
ALLEN: And so--and also, this piece that's--that it was only, I think,twenty-four by forty-eight, approximately like that. And anyway, they scanned it, and they made wallpaper out of it. And it's now--and it's hanging--it's now attached to a wall in Beecher Terrace, eh, here, and--and--and it's to a senior citizen's building. I'll send you t--put--put that down. Tell me to 00:25:00send you that one.
FERNHEIMER: Wow, that sounds really cool.
ALLEN: Well, see, and that was something that when--in fact, I went to, um,uh--and this was done--uh, all this--this was purchased through commission on public art asked me to submit some, uh, some samples, know, for--to this company, to company because they wanted--they wanted to put art--some art in--know, in this building. And so they had eight--eight or ten pieces, and they chose the l--the piece that had the least amount of work on it that they chose. So it was just all scrunched up. But and I'll--but I'll send you a picture of that, and also, I'll show you the wallpaper.
ALLEN: And so, but you really never know what people want to do with a piece orhow they want it, and I have a picture, so it's--so--and I'm--they--well, I went--I went to see it in January. And they took a picture of me standing behind--beside the framed piece, and it's--so it's there, and it's a--it's a--the newest--they tore down hou--uh, they tore down a--a public housing. 00:26:00
ALLEN: An--and then they built in--they built--they did--they still publichousing, but they--they--they don't--they didn't call it that. But this is called--it's still called Beecher Terrace. They kept the same old name, Beecher Terrace. And this--and this artwork is, uh--is hanging in the senior citizen facility, the--this is the first building that they built. And the wallpaper is on--at the landing between the first and the second floor. So when you leave, when you leave from the first floor it's looking at the piece. And then when you walk up the stairs, you actually see this piece in--I forget how. But I'll send--you going to see me standing in front of this art piece. So it's--it's a--it's--but you really never know what people--you know, firs time I'd ever s-seen something like that done. I never realized that you could do that.
FERNHEIMER: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I guess that leads me to the question of, you know,what do you hope that people will get from your art? I know that you do it for you, but obviously, you know, it's in an exhi--an exi--ex--wow, if I 00:27:00could talk, we'd be in business. The exhibition.
ALLEN: Oh. Other words, it's--it's beauty. Other words, you want to know howdid--how--how was it created? How did--how did--how did you do it? And the colors in this piece are shades of gray, black, and white. So it's--so there's no--actually, it's not any designs. I--i--it's just freeform designs, you know. And so it's simply beautiful. And but, I n--I was totally surprised because I did not know that they had made it, and when I went up the steps, it just blew my mind. So but you really never know, you know. That was the first public art piece that I've actually made.
FERNHEIMER: Oh, wow.
FERNHEIMER: Um, I've not seen your tea pots in person, but I'm mesmerized by theshear quantity of them. Um, and their beauty. Tell me, what about the teapot, um, draws as you as an artist?
ALLEN: Other words, the teapot, when you think about a teapot you think about,you got to have a bottom. You got to have a--you got to have a 00:28:00vessel. You got something to hold it in. You got to have a spout. You got to have a handle, and you got to have a lid. So it's a whole lot of parts to--to making--to making a teapot. And when you ever--with anything that you make, you don't know whether it's going to come out right when you make it. You sit down, and 'cause you make it, it might go in the kiln, and it might not come out of the kiln. It might break in the kiln. And but I just like the process(phone rings)--I just like the process--wait a minute--I like the process, and I like a something--I--I don't really make it to be used, but people collect teapots. Eh, that's something that people collect. So l--like--I want it to be something that you can look at, you know you can sit down. In fact, Shannon, uh, Westerman, who used to be the director of Louisville Visual Arts Association, I had--I had--I think I had eight teapots in exhibit, and I've seen the teapots that I had on exhibit at Galerie Hertz. And he had purchased one from me years ago, 00:29:00so he purchased this teapot. Well, then last week he sent me a picture of where he had the teapot sitting in his house. So people just, you know, they just buy it just--just for the looks of it. And I co--and I probably could have sold--I've had eight, and I could have sold--I could have sold twenty or thirty because everybody came looking for teapots, but I only had eight. Yeah, but they also--
FERNHEIMER: --are you a tea drinker?
FERNHEIMER: Are you a tea drinker?
ALLEN: No, I don't dri--I dink tea occasionally, and I don't drink co--I mainlydrink water primarily and ginger ale. That's--yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, so you just like the different parts that go to--
ALLEN: --I like all the parts to make because you can make it--you can make itall--teapots can be any shape. They can be a square. They could be a triangle. They can be short. You know, they can just--they can be, uh, any--any kind of way. It just--just depends on how you want to make 'em. And they can be very decorative. And then you can put--and then you can glaze them any 00:30:00color that you want. So some people buy them for the color. Some people buy them for the shape.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. Are you still making teapots now?
ALLEN: Yeah, I ma--yeah, I'm making--that's what I'm making them--yeah, that'swhat I'm making in ceramics. That's what I'm making.
ALLEN: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
FERNHEIMER: In an--in an interview with David, you said, um, you re--you feltlike a real artist once you began renting your own studio in Mellwood in 2005.
FERNHEIMER: --tell me about that.
ALLEN: Well, you know--well, I'm still--yesterday--I was interviewed yesterdayby Mellwood Art Center public relations person. And--when--so I wanted a space to do work. Well, anyway, there the--uh, it's a ten by ten-foot space. And it's g--three sides have glass on it, so you can see in, so you can actually see me w--w--creating there. And then on--on the wall I have, uh, three--I have four--I have three pieces hanging up on the wall. So and they've been there. And they look the same as they did when I put them there. They have not fa--so 00:31:00which meant--so most of the time if I'm not there there's no light in--in there. But, uh--but you can go there. You can sit down, and you don't have to worry about anyone bothering anything. So you--so I have a--I have a great big, uh, sewing table that--that l--that's about four--about four-feet long and about thee-feet wide or more, and so you can put your piece on there, and you can design on--on--you can actually design your piece and transf--and--and design there right on the--on--at--on the table. And you can s--see it.
FERNHEIMER: How did you find that particular space? What was important for you--
ALLEN: Well--well that--i--it--it--it was a new space that they created. Used tobe Fischer's meat market.
ALLEN: Eh, that's what it originally was.
FERNHEIMER: I didn't know that.
ALLEN: Well, I--well, anyway, they--they--they bought the space. And thenthey--they said they had studios, so I said I wanted--I wanted a studio. So I went up there, and I--so I--I--I paid for one studio. But I 00:32:00didn't know where it was going to be because they hadn't done anything.
ALLEN: Well anyway, they gave me an ideal space, and I'm still there. (laughs)Other words, when you come in, when you come in from the--from the--from, uh, the hall--from the out--from outside, you come down a long hallway and at a right angle, and you have to pass my studio before you go anywhere else. So--so I'm seen wherever anybody--you always have to see me. A lot of people have shades up at their windows and stuff. I don't want to be--I want to be seen. (laughs)
ALLEN: I do not wa--I do not want to be hidden. And--and so people can pass by,and they can look, and some try to knock on the win--on the door and say, "What are you doing?" Or they wave at me. So it--so it's--it's, uh--it's something I enjoy. I enjoy people. If you know me, you have--I enjoy people, and I speak to everybody. I was brought up speaking to everybody. And so I might not 00:33:00know who you are, but I'll wave at you, you know, and--and that's just the way I was brought up. And so I enjoy being there. And just--and then when you there, I--y--y--uh, I have my radio there, and--and like I say, and--and this--and whatever I y--whatever I y--whatever I leave on that table is there when I come back. I don't have to worry about anybody bothering anything. Yeah.
FERNHEIMER: What kind of music do you listen to when you're working?
ALLEN: I like--I like jazz pri--primarily, yeah, jazz, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Are there particular artists that you adore?
ALLEN: Oh, now it's been so--I haven't been up there. I have been actuallyworking in my studio since--since the pandemic. And that was in last March. I haven't--I haven't been until yesterday. I--I--fact, I was there. I went to meet, um, uh, Sherlene Shanklin in my studio, and then I went to meet the fella yesterday, and those are the only two times I been there in 2021. Yeah, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, I was--that was my next question is how COPAT--COVIDimpacted your ability to work there? And-- 00:34:00
ALLEN: --well I--well I--well I just loose around--well I--the fact the ceramicstudio opened September 2020--2020, so I could go there. And but I can sit down and r--and I've been working, been donating things to the Filson Historical Society. So I've been scanning stuff. And just, know, just doing--doing computer things like that, yeah. And that's been--that's been--and I have a lot of stuff that I didn't know that I had. (laughs)
FERNHEIMER: Don't we all. Um--
FERNHEIMER: How many other artists have studios at the Mellwood? Like, w--whenyou are working there, what's the community like?
ALLEN: Uh, okay, well, the--they it's--the fact--the--the--there's a lotof--b--i--it's been--since I've been there, it's totally changed because of when I moved, there has been--a lot of people have come in. 'Cause a lot of people think it's for places to sell, and it's really not a place--you can't--it's really a place to work versus like for a whole--for like for a 00:35:00wholesale place. It's a--but--but there's photographers there. There's--there's--there's galleries there. And there's one gallery that was there, Kore Gallery was there, and now they are an independent. They--they left there and went and opened up another gallery someplace else. But there's a, you know--but they--but people come and go, you know, the--they--people come and go. And the--there--there are jewelry studios. There's a, um--there's a--the--there's a person that sells pottery. Uh, I haven't been. I haven't really been walking around since I've been--went back up there, so I don't know what all is there now.
FERNHEIMER: Mm. When you were working there, how, um, did working around andjust being around other artists influence your own art?
ALLEN: Well, it did--it really didn't affect me because the only time I had tointeract was--with them was when I went to dye because I--you have to--I dyed at the sink, you know, because you can't, you know. So they had four way big laundry tubs, and so I--I needed two. And so the only time I really 00:36:00had to interact with anybody was when I was actually dying. Otherwise I was in my studio by myself, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: How does, um, art figure into your daily life and your daily routine?
ALLEN: Well, I--well, if you look at my library, I have ceramic books. Myli--s--books. I have fiber books. I have African American history books. And la--it's just--i--it's full, just books, books, books, books. Yeah, yeah. And I enjoy looking at them and--and just--well, just looking at the titles of them and the veroc--vero--no, the ver--variety that I have oh--no. And you wonder, what's gonna happen all these books when something happens to me, you know, because I--eh, I bet you I have--and--and there's some that I don't even have in there. But I know I have at least 500 books or more.
ALLEN: Eh, of art books, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: So, so looking--so your library figures into your daily routine?00:37:00
ALLEN: Yeah, well, s--in--in--in--in--in fact, my stu--my--my computer is in mylibrary room. Yeah, so yeah.
FERNHEIMER: When--walk me through the day of Ms. Elmer Lucille Allen--
FERNHEIMER: --when she's getting' ready to make some art. Tell me what thatlooks like.
ALLEN: There's a lot I'm doing. Well, I don't do any art at home. I have--I haveto leave home to do art. But the main thing--
ALLEN: --is I--is I--is I see it, and then I collect teapots. And I haveteapots. And last--uh, couple of weeks ago they had a, uh--a art show, and it was virtual, a virtual art show. And this young artist is named Amelia Stamp, S-T-A-M-P, Amelia. And her--hus--husband's name Hunter Stamp. He teach the University of Kentucky. And I had purchased two cups of her, so they had--this was on for two nights, and they had five artists each night. So I said I wanted the piece by Amelia. And so I told her what I wanted. Well 00:38:00anyway, so I finally got it, and so--and so I--so I now got three pieces of her, and they're now in my china cabinet, and I sent her a picture of all of them. And because the other two are small, and this one is large, so she loved the way it looked. But I had a china cabinet that's full of ceramics. My--my, uh, chi--I have another--a chine cabinet has teapots all over it. And then I have a--a cabinet that has--that was a--awards in that. And--and then my coffee table has teapots on it. And there's teapots on the floor. And so, well, so it's art. I love--I see art every time I--every--uh, everywhere. I have art in, know, that's just part of me.
ALLEN: So you see art every day.
FERNHEIMER: So, eh, you said that you don't work at home. Does that mean thatthe last year during the pandemic you haven't been making art?
ALLEN: No, I--I--I made art when I went to U of L.00:39:00
FERNHEIMER: Okay, got it.
ALLEN: I worked at U of L, yeah, yeah. Mm, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: So that's part of why--or at least how you were making it within thecontext of those classes?
ALLEN: Yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm, yeah. Mm-hmm.
FERNHEIMER: Understood. I was kind of getting sad to think of you notmaking--not creating--
ALLEN: --oh no. O-o-other words, like I said, but I--I spent a lot of time goingthrough stuff. Scanning takes a lot of time. And--and what I did, I--I created, um, a spreadsheet of what--of what I gave. And then when I g--then when I donated them, I printed the sheet out for them, and then I put the date that they got it, and so they got--so they could--they have that. And but it--but it takes a lot of time to go through stuff. And then also I really want to document lot of my photos, but I need to get, you know, I need to get the paper that I can--envelope so that I can actually, you know, put those--put those in, and so, you know, organizations that I've been in and stuff like that. So but 00:40:00I sit there--I found an organization, Kentucky Coalition for Afro-American Arts. Back in '81, and that, Kentucky Coalition Afro, well, I had that organization for ten years, and I was the president. Nobody really wanted to be president. I was president for ten years. Then I folded. I let it go. And but I had two conferences. I held two conferences. Had--held one in Louisville, and then I had held one in the Hyatt Regency in Le--in Lexington.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. ----------(??)----------
FERNHEIMER: You're anticipating exactly what I wanted to ask you about. So thatwas where I was going next. Um, what was the name of the conferences and, um--
ALLEN: --uh, the--uh, the name of the organization was Kentucky Coalition forAfrican American Arts.
FERNHEIMER: And so you founded that in the early 19--
ALLEN: --yeah, I was more--yeah, I more or less helped found it, yeah, I helped,did that. And it was in existence for ten years. And we--I--I--we--I helped. I did two--there were two directorates. We created two directorates. 00:41:00And we--the first one, we went out through the state of Kentucky and--and--and identified artists and did that, and that was funded by the Kentucky Arts Council. And then the second one was primarily here in Louisville.
FERNHEIMER: Why--y--why was it so important for you to do this work?
ALLEN: Well, I think it's important that what--well, now here in--now there isan organization that they've co--founder now with the--it's called Culturalyst, C-U-L-T-U-R-A-L-Y-S-T.com.
FERNHEIMER: Okay, yeah.
ALLEN: Yeah, yeah. And it's an art--and--and it was--I think they--there was anorganization was based in--out of New--out of New Orleans. But this is the lady who runs Commonwealth Theatre, her name is Alison Huff, A-L-L-I-S-O-N H-U-F-F. She's more or less the coordinator. And they're trying to identify 00:42:00all kinds of artists throughout, you know, the state--all, uh, you know--uh, the--fact, that they're mainly in Louisville, Kentucky. That's what--Culturalyst is more or less based in Louisville. And on--and on that y--uh, you have your--you can put your artwork. And I put mine--I put--I--I logged in, but I didn't put my artwork on. I didn't put my picture in there.
ALLEN: And so, but anyway, they want you to put your email address on there andall this kind of stuff. But anyway, I wanted--I--I did do that. But that's--but that's what that is. That's the late--but that's more or less because there--there is no way--there is no en--there is no list of who all the artists are in Louisville, Kentucky.
FERNHEIMER: Mm-hmm. And why is it so important for there to be a list? I guessthat's what I'm asking. I mean, I agree that it's important, but I want to hear you talk about why.
ALLEN: Well, it--well, it's important not only for the African-Americancommunity but for community as a whole is that who is creating art? What type of art, uh, that, uh, is--is being taught, uh, that you need people 00:43:00in--teach art in--in community centers, you know, or do--or do people volunteer? Are they paid? People are doing murals. Did I send you a picture of my mural?
FERNHEIMER: Mm-hmm, yes.
ALLEN: Okay. Well, you know, and--and--and then they--
FERNHEIMER: ------------(??) get to that later, but I--yeah.
ALLEN: Okay, okay. In other word, they have a call for artists, but you cannothave a call for artists if you don't know who to contact.
ALLEN: So you--so you need a list, and you need to have a bio, and I say it'slike now. I think everybody needs to have, um, a picture ID.
ALLEN: Because you cannot--you cannot know who you are. All your see is youreyes and your mask. And so, when I went, I took a tour to, uh, Bernheim, and--and--it was--it was seven or eight of us. And I made an ID badge for everybody. They hung around their neck because the person who was 00:44:00giving the tour was from Chicago, and she did not know anybody. And we would not known who she was if we had not masks on. So I think it's important nowadays because, uh, I went in Dollar Tree last week, and I spoke to this lady. I said, "Hello." And she, now, she said, "Oh, Lucille." I did not know who she was.
ALLEN: If she had not said who she was. Because I did not recognize her face.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. Um, yeah, I know, it's--
ALLEN: --it is (??)--
FERNHEIMER: --tough right now.
ALLEN: It is. You know, I see people, and--and lot of 'em I speak to, but Idon't know how they are.
ALLEN: Because I don't--I can't recognize them just from the h--uh, eye up.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, I understand the challenges. I wanna talk a little bit moreabout your work founding this Kentucky Coalition for African American Arts, or Afro-American Arts. Um, you know, at this time you were still working at Brown-Forman. Uh, you're-- 00:45:00
ALLEN: --actually, I was. I retired in '97. (laughs)
FERNHEIMER: Right, so this was ten years before you're retired.
ALLEN: Yeah ----------(??)
FERNHEIMER: So you've got a full-time job.
ALLEN: No, this was in '81. This was in '81.
ALLEN: And I retired in '97.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, so--so you're doing this really important community work atthe same time that you still have a full-time job.
FERNHEIMER: I know how hard that is. So--
ALLEN: --but you--but you know, but this is--this is what motivates me,working--working in the community. You know, I've always been, you know, involved, you know, like--like Girl Scouts. It's--it's--it's the community--
ALLEN: --you know, where you interact with--with other people, you know, andthat's--and then after--in fact, when I clo--when--when this--when my organization closed I found--I gave whatever was in the treasure I gave to the Louisville Arts Council.
FERNHEIMER: When you were--while you were working at the organization, like,what were your responsibilities as president? What was--what did you--
ALLEN: --other words, is I just-- you--eh, you mainly did it all, as00:46:00you do now. (laughs) Other words, uh, it's like now I'm president of the Western Branch Library Support Association, and but--but you just--but, I--I like, you know, but you just get involved, and you're responsible for contacting. This is like Sunday. There was a fella, young man named J. T. Woods. He died in early 2020. No, he--he died in 2019--2019 I think. Anyway, he died. And when I went to see his wife yesterday, I took her a card because we want to recognize him because he was a past treasurer of the organization. And I had given--when sh--when he died, I took--I had a picture of the--it was a picture of he and of, uh, uh, the, um, Al Martinsen (??) and myself. We was all at--and--and we had a--and we had a book of--block--a block party. The Western Library 00:47:00and the Western Branch Library Association had a block party in 2019. So I took a--so someone, we took this great, big picture, and I narrowed it down so it was only three people, and, you know, we didn't have all the background. I'll send this one to you. And so what we want to--we want to recognize him, but nobody is in the group that knows him.
ALLEN: So I wanted to write a letter for them so--for his--for his family totell us what did he do, you know, and so that we can do something to recognize him. And so I sent this picture, and this fella who was in the picture, he said, "Oh, Lucille, I really appreciate you sending me the picture," but the family has this eight-by-ten picture. She invited me into the house, and she has this eight-by-ten picture sitting in her house in her bed--in--i--in her room, and she brought it out and showed it to me. So like I tell everybody, documentation is very important.
ALLEN: And if I had not taken this picture and had not given it to--to them,then what--she then would not have known who I was. I had never met 00:48:00her before until I went over there Sunday.
ALLEN: You know. So she said that they look at this picture every day. And up onthe wall in there, the--the--uh, you see him wh--wh--a picture of him with another group, but he was a person--he was an active in the community. He loved to read. He was active in the library. He went to the library all the time. He went to the book club and stuff like. And he was in the library book club. But--but--but I just--we just want to recognize him somewhere in it, so something, either give a plaque or something to somebody to rec--I gave it to the family to recognize who he--who he was.
FERNHEIMER: Mm-hmm. Was he also an artist, or he just--
ALLEN: --he was--no, he was--no, he wasn't an artist. He was--he was a--I don'tknow. He was just a--he was just a worker. No, he was just a man, and he loved--he--he was a reader, but he was--the li--the library support association, uh, was--go right down Western Library. 00:49:00
FERNHEIMER: Mm-hmm. Got it.
ALLEN: It's the first African American library in the country.
FERNHEIMER: It's in Louisville.
ALLEN: Eh, no--no, in the country.
FERNHEIMER: Yes, I ----------(??)--
FERNHEIMER: But it's located in Louisville, right?
ALLEN: Yeah, it's located in Louisville. And they--and--and they--and then19--early on--other words, it was an organization named Western Branch Library Support Association Inc. And it was founded back in the--in the late '90s. And so it's still--and so it's still going. I'm the president of that. And main thing is that we just help raise money for the library.
ALLEN: And, you know, and--and--and it's like we're partners on when we did theblock party. The block party is--is, uh--is part of--is the library in the Western Branch Library. So--so it's a joint event. And whatever we raise from there, it goes--it goes to the library, yeah. 00:50:00
FERNHEIMER: Um, so when you were in the--when you were doing this organizationfor African--Afro-American Arts, did you also fundraise for that organization, or did you just--
ALLEN: Wh--what now? Oh, yeah, we ra--yeah, we ra--yeah, we raised--we had, Ithink dues was $25, like they were mainly nothing, but we raised money, and we--like I said, we had two conferences.
ALLEN: Yeah, and then--and people had to pay to come to the conferences, andI--I don't know whether we got grant. It's been so long I can't even say about that. I can't.
ALLEN: But anyway, we raised money, but we raised money for two--for two conferences.
FERNHEIMER: And when--what--do you have a sense of what year those conferenceswere that were -----------(??)
ALLEN: They were in the--they were in the '80s.
ALLEN: In the '80s, but more--yeah. It was--it was at the Lexington ArtsCouncil, where--that's wh--where we had one. You know, that was--yeah.
FERNHEIMER: What do you think the biggest impact of that organization was? ----------(??)
ALLEN: Well, first of all, it's that we did free workshops here in Louisville.And like the--uh, there is a--we did, uh, it was a drum making--had a 00:51:00fella named Bale McKnight, B-A-L-E McKnight. And all the classes that we h--we had, we had them at Shawnee Library, Shawnee Community Center. We had them at the, uh, YW--YMCA--YWCA. But all--but all workshops were free.
ALLEN: All--all workshops were free. And but then this drum workshop, uh, thathe made a great big drum. And we had one drum that was actually, we made it, and we put it down in Chickasaw Park, and we had a dedication down there. And then I had--there was one drum that they made, and I had one drum that was made with--with that organization. But from--from--from that organization, uh, here in Louisville we have an organization called River City Drum Corp.
ALLEN: And it's more or less--course the person who started it, he was one ofthe fed--one of the persons who works in the workshop with McKnight, 00:52:00so he learned how to make drums.
FERNHEIMER: So who--who was the amin audience for those workshops? Was it kids,grownups, everyone?
ALLEN: Anyone, anyone, mainly it was primarily for children, but adults couldattend, yeah, so it was--yeah, it was open to the public, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Right. Was it mostly African Americans who attended, or did every--
ALLEN: --eh, it was primarily African Americans at that time, yeah. This wasback in the '80s and '90--'80s--'80s, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, and that was sort of the beginning of your long career ofvolunteering for the arts. Um, I know in around 2005 to 2017 you were working at the Wayside Christian Missions Expressions Gallery.
ALLEN: Yeah, I--I w--I was a curator, and--and, uh--and director of that onefor--and so when I--when I told 'em I was leaving in 2017, they told me they didn't know that volunteers quite. (laughter) But--but the reason was 00:53:00I wanted--you know, I said I gave them fifteen years, and I did all the p--I did all the publicity. I did. I created the flyers. I did. I did all--I did all the contacting and everything. And what--what--what people don't--don't realize is that when you have--if you're at a gallery, you cannot see any other gallery. You cannot visit it. And I--I miss going to see other artwork.
ALLEN: --you know, because of--if you hav--if you c--art gallery was open from5:00 to 9:00, so that was, you know. And most galleries are--they are first Friday is the main thing. And so they had first Friday, and then they also had the third Sunday, first Friday from 5:00 to--I think it's from 5:00 to 8:00 now, but it was from 5:00 to 9:00. And, um--and on the third Sunday it's from 2:00 to 4:00.
FERNHEIMER: How did, um, you imagine --how did you understand your00:54:00role as curator there? What kind of art did you--was it important for you to exhibit? Um--
ALLEN: --other words--other word, the, um--other words, p--people--peopleapplied to--to--to be there. And, other words, they had to submit work that--what they were going--what they were going to exhibit and then how many. It was also size. Size was important. Uh, and like I say, i--it was--well, also, that space is--that is used is also a public--it's also a dining room. So everything h--had to put on, you know. So and--and as you know, Wayside is--is--is a homeless shelter.
ALLEN: It's Wayside Chris--it's Wayside Christian Mission, and the gallery'sWayside Expressions Gallery. So anyway, so--so they have meetings there. It's for, you know, men and women. It's also, they have families there.
FERNHEIMER: Mm-hmm. Why is it so important for there to be art in a homelessshelter, like, to have it -- 00:55:00
ALLEN: --well ----------(??)--
ALLEN: Well, it--it also--it--it--it helps them. Art--art is healing. And beforethey move--right now, they're at Hotel Louisville, that they're in Second and Broadway now. But the original site was at Shelby and Market. And that was where they were. And then you had--and the people actually--and, you know, now they got a--the hotel, I think, is eleven stories. There's a hotel. It's also a homeless shelter also. Yeah. And it still is. Yeah. And, you know, and--but--not what--lot of people don't realize that w--uh, peo--there are so many people that are homeless that--that's really not their fault.
ALLEN: Just like now. People are losing their homes.
ALLEN: You know, and all this stuff. And they're--anybody, uh,they're--actually, the actual--the main shelter for Wayside is at Jackson and Jefferson. And it's a brand new--they built that. It's a br--it's another--it's a fl--it's a fi--I think it's a five- or six-story building. And 00:56:00women and men live there but most of the families live at Hotel Louisville.
ALLEN: But art is very important because it's a healing process. And then also,we also, at--at--at Wayside, if--if--if there-- if you're an artist, li--if you are a homeless person and you are an artist, you can also exhibit there because, you know, they have one person, so there are--so--so that--so you are not limited to that also.
FERNHEIMER: Did other people come from outside of the community to come and ----------(??)
ALLEN: Oh, it's open to the public. It's open to the public, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Who--who was the audience that tended to come in to view the art?
ALLEN: Well--well-well, main thing, just like in any art exhibit, the artist isreally the primary person who gets the people to the gallery.
ALLEN: Other words, we could--other words, I can send out two hundred letters,but if no one knows who you are--
ALLEN: --or they don't like what they see, they won't be there. But--but ifyou--but if you know somebody and--and you have--and because I 00:57:00send--when I send it out as an email, you can send it out to all your friends. So--so--so it's open to the public. And also, it's open. It's there up for a month, so you can come into the gallery and see it any time when--when it's not a meeting there.
FERNHEIMER: I understand that you are continuing to volunteer at a lot ofdifferent places.
FERNHEIMER: Uh, this may or may not still be true, the Louisville CentralCommunity Center, the Commission on Public Art, the Louisville Visual Art, the Frazier Museum, the William Su--the Women's Suffrage Committee. What motivated you to get involved with these organizations?
ALLEN: W--well, sometimes people ask me to join organization, you know, and--butthe wo--the Women's Suffrage Committee, that is very nice, and ----------(??) and it was formed mainly because of to--to recognize the one--the one hundred sim--sim--you know, one hundred elev--anniversary, uh, know, of the women's suffrage. And it's--it's about twenty --it's about twenty--twenty 00:58:00women, and they're--they're all professional women. And they just went out and--and picked up people that they knew.
FERNHEIMER: Mm. Um, I want to switch gears a little bit to talk about some ofthe ways that you give back. Um, I know that I've heard you talk about this scholarship you helped to establish at Spalding--
FERNHEIMER: --University. Um, and that it was important for you to recognize thefirst two African American graduates, the laud--in the Lauderdale Miller Endowed Scholarships.
FERNHEIMER: And I believe they were established in 2014 to honor Patricia--
FERNHEIMER: --Lauderdale Bell and Barbara Miller, the two, um, graduate--firstAfrican American graduates.
ALLEN: The fi--the fi--yeah, first, yeah. ----------(??)
ALLEN: Well, I thought it was important because people didn't realize--well,first of all, had--w--it was not for Nazareth, I would not be where I was--where I am. Secondly, they were the first college to admit African Americans when the Day Law--because of the Day Law. 00:59:00
FERNHEIMER: That's right.
ALLEN: So they were the first, uh, college to--to integrate. University ofLouisville integrated in 1951. They--they--they had their first graduate in 1951.
ALLEN: So--and so I was mad Municipal College, they closed that school in 1951.And then you could go to U of L. Well, I didn't have money to go U of L, so I went to Nazareth. But I had--I w--I worked my way all the way through school, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. ---------(??) So why did you choose a scholarship as a way torecognize them and highlight their legacy? Why was that important for you?
ALLEN: Well--well, I think it was important to recognize--recognizeNazareth--Spalding as an institution that has been graduating African Americans for years. It's not just something that they do now. But it's talking about that--that they have been doing, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: How did you organize to make the scholarship a reality? I know--
ALLEN: --well, it was--it was five--it was five women, four Blacks01:00:00and one white. They were all alumni. And we, uh, each gave $1,000. And then we raised $5,000 from unknown donors. So it was actually started with $10,000. And then--and then as it grew and every year I give--I give--I give--every year I give $1,000 every year. So it's fully--it's fully endowed.
FERNHEIMER: What impact do you hope it will have, both on the individualrecipients and the university itself?
ALLEN: Well, I think it--I--I think--when you--it--it--it gives people anopportunity to apply. Are you eligible to apply? And then if you win, and then that's--that's something to say for you that, you know, it might not be a lot of money, but it's something that you're being recognized with. Yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. Uh, speaking of recognition, how did it feel to attend a 2020virtual Elmer Lucille Allen conference on African American studies, 01:01:00uh, in February at Spalding University, named in your honor?
ALLEN: Oh, oh, you know, that is so much. You know, Deonte Holloway (??) didthat, and, you know--and this--I think this is the third year--
FERNHEIMER: --is it--
ALLEN: --I guess it's the third year for it. And it is something to sit downbecause, first of all, even though you have African Americans there--
ALLEN: --is that they really don't know who came before them.
ALLEN: Who--who--who --who set the p--who set the groundwork and who was there,and if you talked to--if you talked to, uh, Troy McClure (??), you would think that I was--that I was a queen or something, way she glorifies me. But I'm always there for them for whatever they do, you know. And it--and, you know, and also, I have set up--do not--oh, these--it doesn't need to be advertised, but I also set up giving money when--in my will for--for both U of L and for Spalding when--no, when--when I pass. Yeah.
ALLEN: Set up money.01:02:00
FERNHEIMER: Wow. In--in Judaism we have an expression that says until 120, um,which is what you wish someone on their birthday, um, (Hebrew), so, you know, ptuh, ptuh, ptuh. Uh--
FERNHEIMER: You should live a long and healthy life.
FERNHEIMER: Uh, when you presented your art there, um, about your art at theconference, what did you most want to share with those students in attendance?
ALLEN: Well, eh, no--well, in fact, I did not share. They picked the ones thatthe--they picked. I--I sent them some pieces, and then they chose the pieces that--I think they only showed two pieces, I think at--at--no, they--but I said I think I sent them five or six, but--but we were limited on time. So they on--they only show two. They show--I think they show two. They showed--I think they showed two pieces and the teapot there, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Um, do you--uh, when you interact with the students,what--what is it that you want them to know about the people who came before them?
ALLEN: Well, is that--is that we were students, and we sat down, you01:03:00know, and--and but you--I--I treat them just--no, it's just like they're alumna. They're--it's like, because eventually they will be alumni, and they can sit down and look at me, that--and I think--what I think everybody who graduates from a university needs to give back in some form or another. And a lot--and--and I tell people all the time, if you graduate from a Black, HBCU schools that's somewhere close (??), you need to give back. You know, that's--you know, that's--well, maybe that's--maybe that's my at--attitude. You know, but I think every--I think you need--I-I think you need to contribute to things that are most important to you because if you do not have a college education, you would not be where you are today.
ALLEN: So that's more im--more important for you to contribute to that, to that school.
FERNHEIMER: Mm-hmm. Yeah, those legacies are very important.
FERNHEIMER: Um, the list of awards and accolades you've received in the last tenyears alone is both long and impressive. 01:04:00
FERNHEIMER: I think, by my count, that you got five awards in 2018 for your artalone. Um, I--I'm not gonna list them all here because they're readily available on your--and that'll eat up our whole interview time, but as someone who creates art and representations, how does it feel to be a representative of women, of African Americans in the ats and sciences?
ALLEN: What--main thing is that when you think of me as artist, you think aboutis that I do art for the public for you to see. I don't do it for me. I'm not trying to make a living.
ALLEN: I--if--if I, you know, I'll gi--I give--I give more than I take. And Ithink that's what people need to realize is that I create art for me, but I want you to enjoy what I create.
FERNHEIMER: Mm. Um, speaking of art, you've now had the--the opportunity toactually be transformed into art. Um--
FERNHEIMER: So, uh, tell me about the process that led to the01:05:00creation of the mural about you on South Jackson Street in Louisville by Brandon Marshall. Um--
ALLEN: --well, let me--well, let me tell you about that. Boy, that was so funny.It's that he called me and said that he wanted to interview me. So I said okay. I said, "But we'll have to do it at the library. We do it--we'll do it at a public space." And so we did it at Western Library. And he took--you know, wanted to know what I did and all this stuff and told me to send him some information. But I didn't realize that it was for a mural when he interviewed me.
FERNHEIMER: Oh, interesting.
ALLEN: And I did not see him. I sent him the information. I send him picturesand stuff like this. And I did not see him until the Smoketown mural dedication opened.
ALLEN: And then all the--all the artists--uh, they brought all the artists in.They--they--first of all, they brought all the artists in. And we--and--and--and I was there, and I took a picture of all of them. And I got to meet 01:06:00him. And--and what happened, and ha--and had they chose the buildings, they went to these different individual buildings where they wanted to put the murals, and this particular mural that was--is at--uh, is at Loaves and Fishes, Loaves and Fishes, and they wanted--and--and the man who--whoever was in charge, I forget his last name. I'll--I'll send you his last name--his name. They wanted a mural that would go around Jackson Street and go so--go on wa--on Caldwell. So it's fits--what's on--so the only mural that was that big was mine.
ALLEN: So that's why that mural is there.
ALLEN: --so that was why that--that's why that space was chosen.
FERNHEIMER: And how did you feel when you learned that this interview you didn'tknow was going to be about a mural resulted in a mural about you? How 01:07:00did it feel to ----------(??)?
ALLEN: Well--well, I was--well, I was just stunned because I did not realize theimpact that it would have. I did not know--I did not see a--I did not see a picture. I did not see a pho--a--as--a pre--a pre--a preview of the mural until--until it was actually put up on the--put up on the wall. To--to have--until that. And what he did, if you look at the mural, you see my mother, my grandmother, and me when I was nine years old as a Girl Scout, and you see a teapot. And then when you come around, I s--my grandmother lived in Smoketown. I stayed with my grandmother, and I stayed with my mother. So we stayed with my grandmother. And so you see this house, and that house is my grandmother's house. And the water coming down, those water droplets, represents the flood because of my--when--when the 1937 flood came, six feet of water came 01:08:00in my grandmother's house. And we came out--I came out--we can out in--in a boat. No, that--that--
FERNHEIMER: I remember you telling me that.
ALLEN: Yeah. And so, and then he took pictures--well, he took a picture of mesitting at my--at--at my--at the, uh--at the balance, you see the back of my head at--at--sitting at the balance, and then you see a picture on the end of me, uh, making a teapot, and that was taken, uh, for U of L library, for U of L magazine as a lifelong learner. That--that was that. And then you see a photo, a picture of a person that's not me, and that was my best girlfriend, and I--my grandmother lived at 611 Thenser (??), and my girlfriend lived at 617 Thenser. We played together as children in my grandmother's backyard. And we ended up working together at Brown-Forman together. 01:09:00
FERNHEIMER: Oh wow.
ALLEN: And we both had cancer in 2000.
ALLEN: And we both had the same doctor. And I told the doctor that she couldn'thave surgery before I did because she had to take care of me. And so--and she died. She died--she had been to--she died from her cancer. And so that's--
FERNHEIMER: --I'm sorry--
ALLEN: --all--so that's what that--that whole thing really takes from a child,from when I was a child until I was--a--after I was retired.
FERNHEIMER: What was your friend's name, your best friend?
ALLEN: Lor--Lor--L-O-R-T-T-E, Loretta Manson, M-A-N-S-O-N. And it's so funny'cause I talked to her son today, but we were--we still friends, and we would celebrate--I would go--I had--I always had--I ate--I ate Christmas dinner with them, and then I ate Thanksgiving then with her daughter, so you talk about friendship, but that was the longest friendship that I had, you know. 01:10:00
ALLEN: You know, and you sit, uh--and you sit down and think. I have friendsnow, but you don't have to see everybody every day to be a friend. That's what I tell people. You can be a friend and not see another for--for years, but you can still--when something happens you're there for them.
ALLEN: That's what a friend is.
FERNHEIMER: You said she worked at Brown-Forman while you were there?
ALLEN: She worked--we worked, and she worked as a--she was a--a clerk. That waswhen they were sec--secretaries.
ALLEN: She was a secretary. And she worked for the person that had the--oh, Iforget what they call it, where they make--where they take money. I have to think about it. Well, she worked there. She was there ten to fifteen years.
FERNHEIMER: Oh wow.
FERNHEIMER: Um, wow, that's amazing. Uh, I was curious who that was in the mural.
ALLEN: Uh-huh, yeah, no. And--and--and we lived--and--and--and we lived lessthan a block a--we lived less than a mile apart. We both live in the west--she lives on 43rd Street and Chess, and I live what would be 45th--what 01:11:00would be 44th Street.
ALLEN: And actually, you can take--y--you can actually walk over there. Youknow, it's a little long walk. But--but that was what it was.
FERNHEIMER: So what--what year was it that the mural was unveiled, and how didyou feel when you first saw it?
ALLEN: Well--eh, well, I went--when he was making the mural I went, and I tookpictures of him. I'll send you a picture of him also with the two of us. But we--we went--I would go every other day after he got--get--get started and just to see how it was going along, you know. And c--also to support him, you know. And but like I say, he was a young white boy out of Detroit, you know. And--and I was telling somebody, if you want to email him, I'll give you his email address if you want to talk to him, email him. I'll send you--tell me to send you his email i--information. His name was Bryant, Bryant, uh, Marshall. 01:12:00
FERNHEIMER: And so was--was it--you know, to know that it's there, how does thatfeel, to be a piece of the city?
ALLEN: W--well, other words, people, uh, are surprised. They--they pass bythere, and they're surprised to see because that is--that is--it's on a bus line (??) so the gre--the Pr--Preston Street bus, and there's another. If you go, if you on the Preston Street bus line, if you on--if you on Preston Street you see Muhammad Ali.
ALLEN: And we're--and actually and then I'm on Jackson Street. And we're--we'reless than--w--we're only about a block apart. So the Jackson--so the Preston Street bus goes out. It goes south out--out of Preston and north on Jackson. So it's seen. It's seen every day. And, uh--and but it's--it's a beautiful mural. And--and they encase it so if anybody did anything on it, that it would not--it would not destroy it. Yeah. 01:13:00
FERNHEIMER: So--so now, you know, you have been turned into art yourself. Um,what does that mean? What does that--does that, you know--
ALLEN: --well, you know, it--it--you know, it's good to be recognized not onlyby your family and friends but for the city to recognize you, you know, and the fund for the arts, you know, to sit down and invest--you know, invest in that, and most time people--uh, you see murals of people that are dead.
ALLEN: You know, and--and tha--you know, and so it's really something that Ican--that will live on for a long time. And whe--and when we had the opening, my--my son and his wife, we, uh--we--we were all there, and they took a tour--we took a tour of, uh--of all--I think there's a total of eleven murals, and we visited all eleven of the murals.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. You said earlier when you were talking about your art studiothat I like to be seen. Well, now you are seen, not just -- 01:14:00
FERNHEIMER: --by the citizens of Louisville but anyone who comes into the cityto see the art. So, um--
ALLEN: --it is. It--it--it is, you know. It's--you know, and, like I said, whatit is is that I can say thank you, you know, which is most important. And what is so--what also was happening, uh, and why--why that mural was going up, we went over to my grandmother's house is one of our houses. It's still standing.
ALLEN: Where--and we went over there, and he took a picture of me standingin--in front of the house, but it's still standing. And the man, they were remodeling that, and the man said did I want to go in? And I said no, I want to remember it as I was when I was a child because you can mix--you can mix memories when you mix what you see today and what it was because at that time, as growing up, you know, she had outdoor toilet, you know. And--and there's--there's so many things that you l--that--that have changed, and now they have indoor plumbing and all this stuff in the house now. But he 01:15:00wanted to take me inside. I said no. I'll just take the picture outside. That's--that's good enough. Yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Um, I want to change the subject real quick, and I know that we'recoming up on time, and I wanna be, uh, true to my word. But have you seen the documentary about you called Woman of Many Talents by the Black Media Collaborative? I--I just learned about it. Um, and there were some news about it, I guess, last year.
ALLEN: I think, uh, that might be the one that Kentucky Center for AfricanAmerican Arts did.
ALLEN: I'll--I'll s--I think I have--I'll send that to you. Write down. Tell meto send. Because otherwise, a fella who did that, uh, his name was Nathaniel Spencer, and he was the one that they--and h--and h--and he--and he also did another. He did--he did an oral interview in--also.
FERNHEIMER: Okay. Great. Um--
ALLEN: Well, b--w--well, put down--put down Nathaniel Spencer, and I01:16:00think that's--I think he was a--I think that's a relationship to him. And so I'll send you that.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. Have you seen it or not yet?
ALLEN: I think that was d--it was done. I did it. And wh--what it is, I don't goback and look at nothing after I--I don't--I don't go back and read nothing. Once it's done--
ALLEN: --(laughs)--I--I don't know. I know I'm crazy. (laughs)
FERNHEIMER: No, I understand. Um, I guess, what do you think people listening tothis interview or watching that documentary or ----------(??) your--
ALLEN: --well, okay. Well, anyway, I will se--well, I think they also--they tookthe--if--well, I w--I think they took down all the comments that people said. I think I got that one too. I'll send you that one too.
ALLEN: Send me, yeah. Because I think he got--because that b--I think that wasone was done at Kentucky Center African American Heritage.
ALLEN: And I volunteered there when they first opened in 2010.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. Um, I guess, what--what do you hope that people01:17:00will takeaway from your story, either as we've talked about it today, as they tell it in the documentary, as Marshall tells it in that mural?
ALLEN: Other words, I'm still--I'm--I'm just me, Elmer Lucille. You see me onthe street. I'm--I'm just the same. You know, that's just what--pe--other people recognize you, but, you know, that's just something that they do. And I'd thank 'em for--for recognizing me, but that doesn't--that doesn't--that doesn't--I don't sit on a pedestal because it's out there.
FERNHEIMER: If you were gonna write your own story, what would be the keyelements to include?
ALLEN: Main thing is that I care about other folks before I care about myself.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, that's very clear from all of your--
FERNHEIMER: --commitments throughout your life.
FERNHEIMER: Um, is there anything else you'd like to add or make sure is part ofthis official record?
ALLEN: Mm, no, but I'll send you some other stuff, and you might add to it. (laughs)
FERNHEIMER: (laughs) That sounds good. That sounds good. Um--01:18:00
ALLEN: Okay, but--but--just write down--just send me an email.
ALLEN: And then I'll send you s--especially about that l--about that media.'Cause I think that he did--he sent me the answers, but I never did look at it. So you could look at it. (laughs)
FERNHEIMER: Okay. So I will. (laughs) All right, we're coming up right here onan hour, maybe even a little over. I'm not sure. So I just want to--
FERNHEIMER: --I want to thank you for taking the time to sit with me these lastfew hours. I've really learned so much, and I know that--
FERNHEIMER: --those (??) listening will to, and I just really, eh--I reallyappreciate you, and I really appreciate you taking the time. I'm gonna stop recording now, and then--but I want to hang on and ask you a couple other questions off the record.
ALLEN: Okay. (laughs) Okay. Okay.
[End of interview.]