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From The Ace Archives; Bluegrass Portraits

While Ace celebrates our 33-year relationship with the best readers in town, we’ve been sharing archives in every print edition throughout 2022. 

Long before the subjects of 21c’s commissioned series, Bluegrass Portraits, graced the walls of the hotel’s Lockbox restaurant, many of them had been profiled extensively over the past three decades in Ace Magazine. 

As a companion to this week’s cover story interview by Kevin Nance with artist and UK professor Rob Southard on the Bluegrass Portrait series, we’re sharing a few moments from thirty years of features with a few of the subjects, including Kentucky poet laureate Crystal Wilkinson, preservationist Lucy Jones, and Kentucky author Silas House. 

Kentucky Poet Laureate
22 years ago in Ace 

[Ace archive December 2020] 

One of Crystal Wilkinson’s earlier Ace covers was when she was profiled as one of Lexington’s “Model Citizens,” for the year 2000. 

At the time, Wilkinson was “Assistant Director of the Carnegie Center for Learning and Literacy, award-winning author, creative writing teacher, and omnipresent volunteer. Asked her what drove her those projects, she told Ace writer Phyllis Sargent, “I have to be happy, and I have to be connected to people in some way.”

The profile outlined Wilkinson’s early jobs as LFUCG Public Information Officer, then into Public Relations at the Hope Center and Midway College. In addition to her tenure at the Carnegie Center, the profile detailed the author’s work as “faculty chair for the Governor’s School for the Arts, run by her friend Frank X Walker (last year’s Model, 1999). Since a reading at Alfalfa’s Restaurant, the two worked together on the Roots and Heritage Festival, and are members of the Affrilachian Poets group, where Wilkinson feels she found a home. ‘Even after I left college, I still felt there was nobody like me (black or white); I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t meeting other country black folk who knew the value of homemade biscuits or rhubarb pie.’”

[Ace Archive July 2000]

Blackberries, Blackberries cover 

In this longform 2000 interview with Ace’s editor, Wilkinson described the Affrilachian poets  “as ‘a family,’ adding, ‘I think there has been no other writing group since the days of the Harlem Renaissance that is as connected as we are.’”

Also interviewed for the profile, author Gurney Norman described Wilkinson as “the godmother of creative writing in Lexington.”  She returned the favor in her interview, saying “if I’m the godmother, then he’s the grandfather.”

Founder of Lexington’s Harry Dean Stanton Fest
Design Star
April 2015
7 years ago in Ace 

Kentucky native Harry Dean Stanton was born in Irvine; he attended Lafayette High School and then UK, where he studied journalism and performed at the Guignol Theatre under the direction of Wallace Briggs.

On the occasion of the five-year anniversary of Lexington’s Harry Dean Stanton fest, founder Lucy Jones sat down for an Ace cover profile by Atanas Golev. 

Although she cited Paris, Texas as her favorite Stanton movie (one that will be highlighted in this year’s fest), she also admitted, “Repo Man still appeals to the 15-year-old punk rocker in me who first saw it at a midnight screening at the Kentucky Theatre. I’ve probably watched that film more times than any other. When I see it with a crowd I have to make a conscious effort to not recite every line. I take no such pains when I watch it privately.”

Jones later contributed to an Ace 2017 cover on a resurgence of MidCentury Modern in Lexington. As founder of the Mid Century Society of Lexington, she said, “I was deeply heartened by the overwhelming community support for the Peoples Bank building and its plight. There is a dedicated community of like-minded people who are interested in the preservation of mid-century modern architecture and design in Lexington. I wanted to create a forum to connect these people as well as to provide educational opportunities for those who might be less familiar with the design aesthetic.”

More recently, in 2021, she appeared on Ace’s February cover when she was brought in as the midcentury design consultant for the Harmon Room at 21c Museum Hotel Lexington, an homage to the hit Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit, based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel about a Kentucky chess prodigy named Elizabeth Harmon, who stays in a series of swanky hotels rooms on her way up the world chess rankings in the mid-to-late 1960s. She told Ace contributing writer Kevin Nance, “When they told me it was about creating this time-capsule experience of the 1960s at the 21c, it felt like my whole life had weirdly been leading toward that moment,” who ended up loaning most of the midcentury furniture in the room from her collection. 

Author and Playwright 
April 2009 
13 years ago in Ace 

In celebration of Kentucky Writer’s Day, and the staging of his play, Long Time Travelling, author Silas House was profiled by Ace contributing writer in April 2009. 

He described the hymn he drew the title from, “This song has been around in the mountains at least since the early 1900s but I first heard it performed by the great contemporary group, The Wailin’ Jennys. Their cover of it is pretty amazing, with the most beautiful vocals you’ve ever heard, but it was the words that drew me in. When they sing ‘I’m a long time travelling here below/I’m a long time travelling away from home,’ it’s so melancholy and hopeful, and those are two things that this play is, too. I think it’s a song about the troubles of life and the hope for something better to come along eventually. That’s what these characters are hoping for. I’m interested in the darkness of life — God knows I’ve lived through that, like anyone else — but I’m even more interested in the light, and how we’re all just trying our best to be good people and keep traveling on. The characters sing some of the song in the play and that’s probably my favorite moment in the play, these two voices coming together into one, brought together by music.”

Later that fall in 2009, Thomas interviewed House again before he joined Kathy Mattea and Jean Ritchie at a pre-show discussion when the documentary, Coal Country, opened at the Kentucky Theatre.