Kentucky Author Crystal E. Wilkinson To Deliver Kentucky College Of Art + Design Commencement Keynote

Kentucky College of Art + Design recently announced Crystal E. Wilkinson as its keynote speaker for its 2023 commencement ceremony and the dates for its Senior Thesis Exhibition.

A recent fellowship recipient of the Academy of American Poets and award-winning teacher, author and member of Kentucky’s Affrilachian Poets (a socially conscious group of writers of color working within the Appalachian region), Wilkinson was awarded the honor of becoming Kentucky’s Poet Laureate from 2021-2022 by the Kentucky Arts Council.

Beginning at six weeks old, the Hamilton, Ohio, native grew up on her grandparents’ farm three miles east of Middleburg, Kentucky. Here, she was among the few African American families in Appalachia. Wilkinson’s grandfather, Silas, produced sorghum molasses and grew tobacco and corn; her grandmother, Christine, cleaned and cooked for local teachers, according to a bio, by the Kentucky Arts Council. 

Wilkinson has authored several books capturing her life experiences, including a poetry collection, “Perfect Black,” in addition to two novels, “The Birds of Opulence” and “Water Street” and a story collection, “Blackberries, Blackberries.” Wilkinson also won a 2022 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry, a 2021 O. Henry Prize, a 2020 USA Artists Fellowship, and a 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence in addition to recognition of her works from nationally recognized foundations and arts organizations.

KYCAD’s commencement ceremony will celebrate the second class of students who earned a KYCAD BFA in Studio. The college fully became an independent institution licensed by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education in 2018. KYCAD is currently the only four-year independent college of art and design in the Commonwealth.

“The school is delighted to have Crystal Wilkinson’s powerful voice addressing our graduates,” said KyCAD President Moira Scott Payne to LEO Weekly in an email. 

Graduation activities will take place Saturday, May 13, 2023, at the Woman’s Club of Louisville and the event will also feature a performance by River City Drum Corps

The public reception for KyCAD’s 2023 Senior Thesis exhibition takes place Friday, May 12, 5-7 p.m. inside KYCAD’s 849 Gallery (849 S. 3rd Street). The show will run through the end of July.