By LARRY VAUGHT
For several years Tim Bess had been encouraging his wife, Danville artist Anne Crawford to do a painting based on the tradition of the University of Kentucky basketball. Last summer she found herself considering the best way to portray the deep tradition of UK basketball in an original oil portrait.
“Her artistic, creative mind went to work. She then invited our family to share ideas, to discuss the painting, to conduct research, and to take a close look at all that is encompassed by UK Basketball’s tradition throughout the decades,” said Jean Crawford Griffin, Anne’s sister.
Finally, the idea came. Why not a painting with each of the UK coaches — Adolph Rupp, Joe Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and John Calipari — who won a national championship with the Wildcats.
“Each coach and championship trophy became a part of Anne’s vision for the painting,” Griffin said.
The painting shows each coach with the trophy — or trophies for Rupp — he won. They are all standing on the Rupp Arena court.
“We looked at things to see how to portray each coach, but Anne creates her own vision. She has to have some reference for facial features, but everything Anne does is an original and this certainly is a unique piece of art,” Griffin said. “We thought about including all the UK coaches, but we decided we did not want one (Billy Gillispie) of them in it. So we thought the best thing to do was go with coaches who won a championship.
“We started the research and started looking at the trophies and how they have changed over the years. We wanted to make sure we were as historically accurate as possible.”
Anne Crawford, 51, is well know for her portrait and equine art. She has done historical medical art, but this is her venture into what she hopes might turn into a series of legacy paintings.
“We don’t think there is anything like this piece of art anywhere,” Griffin, who has two degrees from UK and once worked in the UK athletics department. “Our whole family is Wildcat fans and we knew if Anne was going to broaden her horizons into the sports world this would be the best way to start and a very talked about piece of art because there is nothing like it. We looked at maybe doing one for football, and thought no. Anne is really good at catching game action, but this one with all the coaches is what came to mind and what all the family liked best.”
Griffin, a six organ transplant recipient , calls herself a grassroots donate life ambassador and is active in the annual UK-UofL Gift of Life Challenge between Kentucky and Louisville during basketball season. It’s a drive to sign up organ donors that began in 2001 and the winner will be announced when UK and Louisville play at the YUM Center in December.
Crawford and Griffin would like to think there might be a way to get Kentucky coach John Calipari involved with using the painting to promote organ donations. They are considering producing a limited number of prints and Griffin and hopes there might be a way to involve Calipari and/or Louisville coach Rick Pitino in the project.
“We would just do a limited number of prints so that people would be very proud of having print No. 1 or print 100,” Griffin said. “We want the original painting to be in the best possible place whether that be in an individual owner’s hands or one of the UK coaches or his family. Maybe it belongs in the UK basketball offices. It’s not easy to know exactly where it belongs or what will be the right thing to do.
“But if there is a way to promote organ donation and the tradition of UK basketball at the same time, that would be great for everyone. This is a unique painting and we are open to any and all ideas because we know how unique this is from anything else.”