Off The Beaten Path: Fmr. UK basketball player makes mark on art world

Off The Beaten Path: Fmr. UK basketball player makes mark on art world
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 1:54 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - One former UK Wildcat basketball player knows the joy of winning a national championship.

LaVon Williams, Jr. was part of the 1978 team that won it all. Since then, Williams has made his mark off the court in the art world.

In a 130-year-old, tiny wood frame house on Jefferson Street in Lexington, Williams carves in his art studio.

“Art was always a part of my life. Like some kids say well you know, you had to work at McDonald’s or something like that. But I always sold art, even when I was a kid, I sold art,” said Williams.

Williams grew up in Sanford, Florida near Orlando in a family that encouraged art. His older brother learned from a great uncle who was a master carver. And LaVon learned from them.

“There are some artists that when they carve, they don’t have a plan in mind, and I always work from a plan because that is the way I learned,” said Williams.

After playing professional basketball, Williams returned to Lexington to immerse himself in carving art. His pieces are panels of wood with African American characters intertwined with each other in brightly painted colors.

He also draws inspiration from history. Keeneland commissioned him to carve two pieces depicting Black jockeys from the late 1800s. They are now on display in the Keeneland Library alongside work from the legendary sports artist Leroy Neiman.

“I didn’t know the magnitude of it until I stepped in the building and saw the show, and I was like ‘whoa!’ Right now, that is probably my biggest accomplishment,” Williams said.

Adrian Swain, the former curator of the Kentucky Folk Art Museum in Morehead where some of Williams’ work was on display is amazed by the carvings.

“There’s a power to his compositions that I haven’t seen anywhere else. There’s a kind of dynamic energy in the characters that he portrays and the groups of characters, and the groupings, and how they are intertwined and interrelated. He’s essentially self-taught. The style that he developed, it’s unique,” Swain said.

The now 64-year-old Williams says his former UK coach appreciated the art carvings.

“I used to always tell Coach Hall, I used to say, ‘well, it feels like having a slam dunk,’ you know, every time you know you make a sale or a commission. So, lately, I’ve been getting more commissions,” said Williams.

You can view more of LaVon Williams’ artwork on his website:

The Keeneland art exhibit runs until August 31.