Elmer Lucille Allen

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Elmer Lucille Allen (born in Louisville, Kentucky, 1931) is a ceramic artist and chemist who graduated from Nazareth College (now Spalding University) in 1953. She became the first African-American chemist at Brown-Forman in 1966.[1]

Early life[edit]

Allen was born in the Depression era in Louisville, Kentucky, at a time when it was still a segregated city. She took her first art class, a sewing class, in seventh grade at Madison Street Junior High School. She stated in an interview that the first artist she identified with was her teacher, Ms. Hattie Figg, who taught painting at the junior high. She learned many functional crafts in junior high, such as shoe repair, printing, sewing, and carpentry. She also learned various crafts at the Plymouth Settlement House and Presbyterian Community Center. She was also a Girl Scout, and this activity fostered her interest in art. She graduated from Central High School in 1949, at a time when African-American women had very few opportunities available to them.

Later career[edit]

Allen retired from Brown-Forman in 1997, after which she devoted more time to her art. Starting in 1981 she began to study art at the University of Louisville, receiving her Masters of Creative Arts with a focus in ceramics and fiber in 2002.[2] Allen's textile work incorporates shibori dyeing techniques.[3]

Speaking of her ceramics, Allen states, "I make the things that I want, and I have always liked teapots." She enjoys the fact that if she made something she did not like, she could simply start over again. Her platters are typically dark and molten, while her teapots are colorful and graphic. She states, "When I rented my first studio in 2005 at Mellwood, I knew that I was truly an artist."[4]

In 2011 Allen's work was included in the show Powering Creativity: Air, Fuel, Heat at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, Indiana.[5]

Allen's work was part of the 2016 Women's Artist Exhibition: The African Heritage Experience at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage.[6]


  • 1986 – Governor's Award in the Arts (Kentucky)[7]
  • 2011 – Caritas Medal Spalding University[8]
  • 2015 – Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft's Art Advocacy Award[3]


  1. ^ "Allen, Elmer Lucille · Notable Kentucky African Americans Database". nkaa.uky.edu.
  2. ^ "Carnegie Center for Art & History". archive.org. 12 August 2007.
  3. ^ a b Elizabeth Kramer. "Elmer Allen's giving spirit garners prize". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  4. ^ Karen R. Davis,Interview with Elmer Lucille Allen at Seamless Skin, November 7, 2010.
  5. ^ "Powering Creativity: Air, Fuel, Heat - The Carnegie Center of Art and History". The Carnegie Center of Art and History. 2011-10-28. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  6. ^ "2016 Women's Artist Exhibition - KCAAH". www.kcaah.org.
  7. ^ "KY: Kentucky Arts Council - Governor's Awards in the Arts: Past Recipients". artscouncil.ky.gov. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  8. ^ "University of Louisville Magazine - FALL 2011". louisville.epubxp.com. Retrieved 2017-02-12.