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The Filson Historical Society Awards History Inspires Fellowships

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Filson Historical Society is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024 History Inspires Fellowship (HIF). This unique program will allow artists to interpret the Filson’s collections with a creative filter.

In recent years, the Filson has established relationships with regional artists, either through the artist’ donations of materials to its collection or by artists conducting research for creative projects. The HIF program will build upon those relationships by promoting the Filson Historical Society as a resource for artistic scholarly research and inspiration while strengthening the bond with the creative community.

For the 2024 cycle, 13 applications featuring a wide array of creative project ideas, were reviewed by a cross-departmental committee made up of six Filson staff members. Of the 13, four were selected to receive the fellowship. The candidates are as follows:

John Akre is a stop motion and digital animator who creates films in his home studio using a variety of materials and techniques, including paper cutouts, and drawing directly on movie film.  He also enjoys creating animation in public places with the help of anybody who passes by. His History Inspires project will use the Louisville Transit Company Records, survey plats, architectural records, streetcar photographs and maps to find imagery in the Filson collections to create an animated short film about the connections created by and inherent in the streetcars that once tied together the streets and citizens of Louisville, and the single screen cinema palaces that once gave Louisvillians their gathering spaces.  Because his animation work is often created with community collaboration, a temporary stop motion studio will be set up in the Filson’s Carriage House where the public will be able to help as part of the summer cultural pass programming at the Filson.

Tammy Burke is a contemporary artist and garment maker for a costume company. During her fellowship, she plans to examine two common decorative practices, mosaic and quilting, and create versions of them that counter their traditional forms. Gathering inspiration from the patterns of the mosaic tile work featured in the Fergusion Mansion, she will take what is otherwise an immobile solid artwork and design an article of clothing that can be viewed outside of the mansion, making the mosaic flexible and more accessible.  In turn, she will study the Filson’s extensive quilt collection to find inspiration from the various historic patterns and designs of these delicate items to translate into weather resistant glass mosaic panels to be displayed outdoors.  This project will showcase parts of the Filson collection that may seem out of reach and not only take the collections outside of the physical location, but outside their material limits.

Zed Saeed is a photographer and writer who is deeply invested in historical research. Many of his projects start out with weeks, and sometimes months of in-depth research into a topic.  As a History Inspires fellow, he intends to create a photo showcase drawing on the Filson’s manuscripts, photographs, library, and museum collections to gain understanding of the history of race relations in Louisville and the heyday of Walnut Street. The archival research will be incorporated into his creative process by photographing specific locations along what is now known as Muhammed Ali Boulevard to tell the tragic story of Walnut Street’s rise and fall, of race relations and the grand dreams of urban renewal that destroyed it.  Saeed’s project will culminate with an article in “Ohio Valley History,” a peer-reviewed scholarly journal jointly produced by the Filson Historical Society, the University of Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Ashley Thursby is an artist in her 16th season with Louisville Ballet.  A dancer and choreographer, she plans to delve into the archives of Alun Jones-Helen Starr, and Vincent Falardo collections to create a dance piece where individuals can experience the power of storytelling that is built through connecting the mind and body with movement. By utilizing both visual and written design excerpts from the archives, she plans to create a work that can be performed in a non-traditional dance venue and incorporates audience participation.  Through this process of sharing, the stories of Louisville Ballet’s history will strengthen the ties of past and present within our arts community.

The History Inspire Fellows will begin their research in January 2024 and meet with Filson staff on a regular basis to discuss their progress. Each project for this cycle will conclude in Fall 2024 with an event sharing their project. These events will be open to the public and dates will be announced in the second half of the year. In 2026, an exhibit will be planned that will feature several of the artists’ work alongside the items utilized from the Filson’s collection.

A second round of History Inspires Fellowships for the 2025 cycle will open in the spring of 2024 with a fall submission deadline. To learn more about the Filson’s fellowship programs, please visit