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KHS and the Kentucky Arts Council partner for the "I Was Here" project

Based on archival records, the enslavement of Africans touched almost every corner of the United States. I Was Here synthesizes a wealth of humanities and historical scholarship into a set of iconic Ancestor Spirit Portraits that create a visual history bringing the past into view.

Historians working with the project draw connections between the installations of Ancestor Spirit Portraits and the foundation of the American experience. The project combines art and history to examine wounds of the past with the goal of creating a shared humanity for the future.

The online workshop, held on September 3rd via Zoom, drew an audience of over 225 registrants. The workshop featured a panel conversation about the work, the confluence of history and art, and its usefulness as a community tool to bring Americans together to examine and learn from the past, to build a future that is inclusive and equitable for all.

Panelists included: 

  • Marshall Fields, Lexington, corporate facilitator, community liaison 
  • Marjorie Guyon, Lexington, artist 
  • Dr. Amanda L. Higgins, Community Engagement Administrator, Kentucky Historical Society
  • Mary Quinn Ramer, Lexington, president of VisitLex 
  • Dr. Gerald Smith, Lexington, professor of history in the Department of History, University of Kentucky

I Was Here began as a collaboration between artist Marjorie Guyon, photographer Patrick Mitchell, and poet Nikky Finney. The project was imagined in 2016 and launched in October 2018 at Cheapside, one of America’s largest slave auction sites, in Lexington, Ky. For more information, contact Emily B. Moses, executive staff advisor, Kentucky Arts Council, at

This workshop is part of the Kentucky Creative Industry Summit Series. In response to COVID-19, the Kentucky Arts Council will present workshops online throughout the year in lieu of the annual in-person Kentucky Creative Industry Summit.

Visit I Was Here to view the art and read more about the project.

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