KFW Staff and Board Members

Members of KFW


Sallie Bingham
Santa Fe, NM

Judy Nichols
Louisville, KY

Jacquelyn Carruthers
Nurse and Artist
Paducah, KY

Ciera Shields
KY Center for African American Heritage
Louisville, KY

Rebecca Amsler
Lancaster, KY

Nisha Gupta
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY

Shayla D. Johnson
Lexington Fair Housing Council
Lexington, KY

Nancy C. Jones
University of Kentucky
Midway, KY

Lee Alcott
Glasgow, KY

Advocacy in Action: Meet the KFW Board

Ellen Birkett Morris has been interviewing KFW Board members and will profile a different Board member each month.

LEE ALCOTT, Board Member

Working for Change

Lee Alcott first learned of the Kentucky Foundation for Women in 1993 when she moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Sulphur Well in Metcalfe County. “I was impressed with KFW’s focus on feminist artists and the opportunities the foundation provided for artists to explore feminist perspectives through the written word and visual arts,” said Lee. She continued to follow the KFW and wrote letters of recommendation for other artists, including one who facilitated group work with survivors of domestic violence. She joined the Board of KFW in March of 2017.

Part of the reason KFW resonated with her over a number of years was its emphasis on creative expression. “Creativity has always been a refuge and healing force in my life. We always had materials for ‘making stuff’ around our house—even if it was old cardboard from cereal boxes, pieces of yarn or fabric from my mother’s crochet or quilt projects, or scraps of wood and wood shavings from my father’s shop,” said Lee.

She first connected creativity to a realization of the injustices in the world when she was in elementary school. The school she attended was converted to a “boarding school” to accommodate many of the young girls separated from their parents in the airlifting of thousands of Cuban children to the United States in the early 1960s. Children were placed with relatives, boarding schools, or group homes until they could be reunited with their parents. “While I was in 4th grade we prepared for their arrival by making cards and drawing pictures to welcome the girls. I remember learning about the injustices around the world at that time including those related to a communist regime in Cuba,” said Lee.

Lee’s activism started early. She was educated at a Catholic high school in Philadelphia in the mid-60s and taught by a Spanish order of nuns, whose teaching promoted service to others.

“I had a voice, even though my voice was not always popular or accepted. During the United Farmworkers strike I started a grape and lettuce boycott in our small cafeteria. I was surprised I didn’t get in trouble. After that it was civil rights marches and anti-war protests. And more poetry, collages, and photographs. I discovered female writers and gained courage to stand up for the rights of others,” said Lee.

“At the time I saw feminism as a choice . . . and that choice included making the world more equitable for girls and women.”

An avid reader, Lee kept journals and wrote poetry in high school. She became a teacher, teaching Junior High writing and literature for several years in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston.

She later pursued her interest in psychology and holistic healing and pursued a master’s degree in expressive therapy from Lesley University in Cambridge MA. “At the time, I was a self-taught artist with no studio training, a requirement for admission into the program. I was determined to get accepted based on my portfolio, so I dressed ‘artsy’ for the admissions interview, and brought a portfolio of my drawings to present to the four interviewers. In retrospect, I see my decision to apply without a studio art requirement as a feminist statement, a carryover from the 1960s. I was accepted into the program, and continued my journey with art, healing, justice-work, and social change,” said Lee.

She spent 18 years as the Executive Director of the Barren River Area Safe Space, a domestic violence shelter and program in Bowling Green, KY that served 10 counties. Lee helped develop policy on the local and state levels, designed and implemented programs to end homelessness for victims/survivors of domestic violence, such as Housing First and Rapid Rehousing, worked with battered immigrant and undocumented women who were also victims of domestic violence, created children’s programming that focused on safety, social justice and empowerment, healthy eating, and nutritional programming for women (including creating food mandalas as both an artistic expression and education about healthy foods), and engaged regional female artists to work with shelter groups.

“I also co-founded a short-lived endeavor called Artists for Peace. It was an attempt to solicit art pieces from artists across Kentucky to be donated for a live auction that benefited the domestic violence shelters that comprise the Kentucky Coalition against Domestic Violence. It was an amazing experience that helped to spread awareness about violence against women and raise funds for the shelters. We were able to meet artists from across the state who shared a passion to end violence against women.”

Now retired, she is a member of the Women’s Fund of South Central Kentucky. The group is committed to making a positive impact in the lives of women and children in south central Kentucky. She has served on the Kentucky Board of Licensure for Professional Art Therapists for the past seven years, and has assisted in writing legislation to help promote the field of art therapy in the Commonwealth. Lee has served on the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Task Force with the Office of the Attorney General, and is a volunteer with United Way of South Central Kentucky. In October 2016, she was recognized as one of 60 United Way Heroes for work in the community.

As Lee has grown so has her conception and understanding of feminism. “My current perspective has evolved and took on new meaning after I had two daughters. I knew I taught them well when my oldest organized a Title IX team at her high school to start a female soccer team.”

“Feminism is looking at the world through an inclusive lens, working towards equity, demonstrating respect in word and action, staying strong in the midst of fear, and recognizing the process can change for each individual. Feminism is the right to make choices and the ability to exercise that right in the midst of injustice and oppression.”

As she furthers the work of KFW, Lee is hopeful about the future of women and girls in Kentucky. “My hope includes an increase in female leadership in our state and federal legislatures. My hope includes an increased sense of equity for all women and girls in the Commonwealth, no matter their status, education, or geographical location. My hope includes that women and girls will experience employment without a wage gap. My hope is to promote the rights of female crime victims. I have two grandsons and talk to them about these issues. They are caring, sensitive and aware of the need for equity and justice.”


Photo credit: Brian Judd

Serving Her Community—Empowering Women

Shayla Johnson was introduced to the Kentucky Foundation for Women by a friend and prior board member, who felt that she would make a great fit for the board.  When she looked into KFW, Shayla “fell in love” with its purpose and mission.

She was introduced to feminism by her mother at a young age.  “I was so young, I didn’t know the word “feminism.” I just knew that one of my mother’s expectations for me was to live a life of empowerment–empowerment of self and all women.  She taught me that my voice was valuable and I should never seal my lips to please others.  I stand strong because I’m standing on her shoulders,” said Shayla.

As the Assistant Director of the Lexington Fair Housing Council in Lexington, Shayla assists victims of housing discrimination, analyzes Fair Housing related issues, and initiates complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or litigation when appropriate.  She is active in various non-profit and community service organizations around the state. Shayla tutors and mentors young girls in the Lexington community and also teaches them about the beauty of dance as an art form with the goal of shaping and preparing young women for their future.

Shayla is a creative problem solver and views creativity as a centerpiece of her life. Helping support the creativity of others is an important part of her work as a KFW board member.

“I see my role on the board as a connector.  I want to connect KFW to populations whom have never heard of our phenomenal Foundation so that our reach can be long-lasting throughout the state,” said Shayla.

She recently graduated from the Emerge Kentucky program, which trains women to run for public office. “One of my goals is to better the lives of women and girls in Kentucky and to do so by holding public office. My hopes are that we can obtain equality in all aspects of our lives while feeling safe to express ourselves as individuals.”

A lover of the written word, Shayla vividly remembers a poem once learned years ago that still impacts her life today. “My sixth grade language arts teach made us memorize and recite this poem.  I still remember it very clearly. I didn’t realize its significance until I was much older.”
“Myself” by Edgar A. Guest

I have to live with myself and so
I want to be fit for myself to know.
I want to be able as days go by,
always to look myself straight in the eye;
I don’t want to stand with the setting sun
and hate myself for the things I have done.
I don’t want to keep on a closet shelf
a lot of secrets about myself
and fool myself as I come and go
into thinking no one else will ever know
the kind of person I really am,
I don’t want to dress up myself in sham.
I want to go out with my head erect
I want to deserve all men’s respect;
but here in the struggle for fame and wealth
I want to be able to like myself.
I don’t want to look at myself and know that
I am bluster and bluff and empty show.
I never can hide myself from me;
I see what others may never see;
I know what others may never know,
I never can fool myself and so,
whatever happens I want to be
self-respecting and conscience free.

CIERA L. SHIELDS, Board Member since December 2013

If you need evidence of the power of grassroots connections to build communities look no further than KFW board member Ciera Shields.  It was 2013 and Ciera was working as the first female exhibition coordinator for the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage when Elmer Lucille Allen, who runs the Wayside Christian Mission Art Gallery and volunteers for KCAAH, told her KFW was looking for board members.

“I knew I was a feminist from a very young age. I was kind of raised as a feminist as I was primarily raised by my father. He always encouraged me to get things accomplished on my own and demand my respect from men who try to disregard my talents because I am female,” said Shields.

She sees her unique background as a source of strength and inspiration.

“Both of my parents inspire me. I was raised unconventionally, there were not many single fathers around in the 80’s and 90’s, and I would see the struggles both of my parents endured to make sure me and my brother were okay. They both had to deal with stereotypes of what a mother should be and what a father should be, so they definitely inspire me to work as hard as I do and to help others,” said Shields.

In her role as exhibitions coordinator at KCAAH, Shields would occasionally do talks and walk-throughs of exhibits on display and would encourage young girls to network with the talented women in the arts and theater in Louisville who could help them further their dreams.

“Every chance I get, I try to point female artists and young girls in the direction of KFW. I ask them what their hopes are, who their audience is, and if they have ever considered applying for funding through KFW,” said Shields.  “KFW is about feminism and social change in a positive manner, and if their artwork or production encompasses those traits I encourage them to apply.”

“I want women and girls to be empowered more than ever and to use KFW as their platform to build a stronger connection between women and young girls in our community. I believe it’s important for young girls to know that voices should be heard and that they aren’t alone in the struggles they have faced or are facing. Madeleine Albright said it best—“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

KFW Board Members Showcase “This I Believe”

The KFW board is thankful to be able serve a dynamic community of artists and social change makers. We see our role as “ambassadors”, who can take an active role in the feminist art for social change movement by reaching out and engaging those who are currently under represented among our community. Each member looks forward to creating connections with past, present, and future grantees/residents, and our allies of the KFW community.

At a recent retreat our wise and wonderful KFW Board spent time contemplating their role in sustaining the mission and values of KFW. Board members participated in a “This I Believe” exercise to reflect each person’s personal vision for KFW and how she could create connections with our community. No two statements were identical, but our word cloud pictured below provides an indication that our board shares one omnipresent goal.


Meet The


Sharon LaRue
Sharon LaRueExecutive Director
Jenrose Fitzgerald
Jenrose FitzgeraldGrant Program Manager
Rae Strobel
Rae StrobelOrganizational Development Associate
Kim Wilhoit
Kim WilhoitFinance Manager