‘Ms. Lucille’ Refuses to Slow Down, Especially When it Comes to Supporting Art in West Louisville

For Elmer Lucille Allen, slowing down is not an option. In fact, she takes staying busy to an extreme that would leave anyone half her age gasping for breath.

Allen, 86, is a pioneer in the workplace, an accomplished artist and a volunteer for more organizations than could fit on this page.

She may start her day at the West End home where she has lived since 1960, but most mornings she’s out the door and driving to a meeting or appointment. In fact, among her myriad volunteer activities, the twice-weekly art classes she never misses at the U of L, and attending any local event involving art, “Ms. Lucille” eats out every day, usually at her favorite Wendy’s. 

“The main thing when you get older, people might not know your name, but everybody knows who you are. They see you and say ‘I haven’t seen you for a while.’ They don’t know who I am but they know my face. You have to have eye contact with people,” she says.

She explains that a daily stop at Wendy’s, where she spends less than $3, is cheaper than eating at home, and gives her an opportunity to see familiar faces.

“I had a girlfriend, we retired from Brown-Forman,” she says. “When I would call her to go somewhere, she was always laying down, watching TV, and she died maybe 10 years after she retired. Just from not doing anything. You really have to interact with people.”

Allen was the first African-American chemist at Brown-Forman. When she was hired in 1966, the only other people of color in the organization were janitors. She can recall a time when segregation extended to local parks and schools and she was a 20-year-old college student before ever sitting in a class with a white person.

During her 31 years at Brown-Forman, she excelled in many ways, including adoption of the first computers. In 1977, she took her first class in the arts, at Seneca High School.

Today, she’s still attending school and taking classes, even after earning a long list of awards and recognition. She earned a Master of Arts degree from the U of L in 2002.

One of the projects she’s most passionate about is the West Louisville Women’s Collaborative, which has as its mission “to create and sustain artistic, peaceful spaces in the west end of Louisville.”

She was instrumental in the opening of the Energy, Light, and Art (ELA) Creativity House, a space that hosts all sorts of activities in a home that was once slated for demolition, near her own home at 40th and Hale. She also has volunteered as a curator/director of Wayside Christian Mission’s Expressions Gallery for many years, but that’s just one of many volunteer activities.

She’s been recognized for awards by dozens of groups, including the highest honor given by Spalding University to an alumnus.

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