A Coming of Age

This month, the gallery walls of Hollister Hall feature a color not often found in Babson’s campus palette: pink.

Not a jarring, in-your-face shade of pink. It’s soft. Warm. Inviting. Cozy. The perfect backdrop for the works of art adorning the walls—bold, vibrant, beautiful creations from alumni artists Jamaal Eversley ’10 and LaShonda Cooks ’10. Creations such as the abstract, geometric, colorful Spencer Ward, a nerd in pursuit of love. Or, a mixed media portrait of Marilyn Monroe in Wonderland, where she’s just as much the Queen of Hearts as she is Alice.

Separately, their work tells distinct stories of growing up—Eversley’s through the lens of relatable experiences, Cooks’ through the idea of finding strength and solace in women who defy societal rules. Together, their stories and their styles combine for their joint exhibit, “A Coming of Age,” on display through October 26 in the Hollister Gallery.

Cooks and Eversley had long been admirers of one another’s work. Though they’d been friends for their entire Babson experience—they met during orientation—it was a conversation at their five-year reunion that inspired them to connect their mutual love of art even further. So, they decided to trade paintings.

“I gave her a painting called Nadia Martinez—sassy and fun,” said Eversley. In return, she gave him a painting of Steve Urkel. “I was like, ‘Damn, I love this. We should do a show together.’”

What better place to display this joint show than the place that brought them together to begin with? So, they connected with Danielle Krcmar, associate director of visual arts at Babson, whom they met and took classes with while students, to brainstorm. “The way Jamaal and I think and paint is so different, so Danielle challenged us to bring our work together under one common theme,” said Cooks. “A Coming of Age” did just that. “We played to each other’s strengths, and that made the show really successful.”

Success, in this case, is defined in many ways. For starters, the opening reception and artist chat during Back to Babson weekend featured a packed house of fellow alumni and familiar faces. “The love and support we’ve been getting from our Babson family and friends has been tremendous,” said Eversley. “It’s tough to put it into words.”

Then, there’s the media attention. A feature on WCVB Boston’s Cityline and in The Dallas Post Tribune, to name a few. “It’s been surreal,” said Cooks.

What has made the experience most rewarding, though, is the response and praise from community members moved by the beautiful work on display. “I fell in love with the beauty and left in awe,” reads one guestbook reply. Another: “Every time I walk across the hall and observe your paintings, I feel like I am coming back to my age of innocence.”

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High praise for a talented pair of artists who didn’t originally consider a career in art when enrolling at Babson. While each of them have roles outside of painting, they credit the entrepreneurial education they received as students with their ability to navigate the business side of creating. “Everything is business, including art,” said Eversley. “You’ve got to learn marketing so you can pitch to galleries and the media—business plans to help you build your portfolio. It’s 80 percent business and marketing, and 20 percent talent. If you can’t market it, no one is going to see it.”

Cooks echoes that sentiment, noting that Babson’s curriculum and extracurricular artistic experiences (she spent her free time in the ceramics studio) prepared her for the career path she ultimately traveled. “I never planned on being an artist,” she said. “But, at Babson, you can create your own experience. If you want to do art, you can do art. It’s a place where you can use the education to do whatever you want to do.”

While there’s an expiration date set for the exhibit—the paintings and their accompanying pink walls come down in late October—it’s not the end of their partnership. They’ve been invited to showcase their work at the 2018 Black Affinity Conference on campus, and are excited to explore continued opportunities for collaboration and integration with Babson’s arts programming. Said Cooks: “It’s incredible to do this type of project for our alma mater. I want this experience, this project, to be an inspiration for other students interested in art to say, ‘I can go to Babson and make this happen.’”