Cooper ’23 will spend one year traveling to study the roles of public art in five
CONWAY, Ark. (March 16, 2023) — Adaja Cooper, a senior studio
art major and business minor from Little Rock, has been named to the 2023 class
J. Watson Fellows.
The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for
purposeful, independent exploration outside the United States, awarded to
graduating seniors nominated by one of 41 partner institutions. Cooper is the
40th Hendrix student to receive this honor.
For her Watson project, titled “Power, Preservation and
Activism in Art,” Cooper will travel to England, Northern Ireland, Senegal,
Mexico, and Italy to study how public art’s role — its expression,
preservation, and protest forms — differs across cultures.
“Working alongside artists and arts organizations, I will
create, document, analyze, and experience the responses to this vital art form,”
she wrote in her project description.
Cooper is a national award-winning, published artist from
Little Rock, Arkansas, who finds inspiration in her experience of being a Black
woman in America. Her work has appeared in multiple galleries
including the Hearne Fine Art Gallery, Mosaic Templars Cultural Museum, and The
Baum Gallery. She was named a finalist for the 2022 Arkansas Times “Best of
Arkansas” issue in the Visual Art category, which garnered her a cover
feature on her contribution to Little Rock’s 7th Street
Mural Project and her response to the vandalism of her mural. On campus, she
works for the Windgate
Museum of Art at Hendrix College, designing and installing exhibitions.
Her extracurricular activities include serving as president of both the Art
Club and the Hendrix chapter of the NAACP, knitting, and listening to music. She
will graduate from Hendrix in May.
“I am so thankful for the Hendrix community for helping to
nurture me into the woman that I am today,” Cooper said. “My experiences at
Hendrix have deepened my love for art and my passion for activism, and I am
excited to share those passions abroad during my Watson year!”
“Adaja’s personal story is compelling, and her art is
captivating,” said Britt Anne Murphy, Hendrix’s liaison to the Watson
Foundation. “Adaja is an extraordinary artist, and a Watson will allow her to
explore her craft in global settings and provide a connection to others who
have been motivated by activism to make public art. Adaja’s project
investigates how public art can capture a time or movement, both historical and
contemporary. She will visit some of the most well-known mural installations
that have lasted through the decades, but are still relaying important
messages, and even being updated by contemporary artists. She will also see how
fresh installations by marginalized groups are being received in different
locations. Adaja’s inner drive has been cultivated by her environment and
allowed for expression that makes us not just think, but feel.”
is among six Hendrix students to become Watson Fellows in the past five years.
Murphy said that this year’s four candidates from Hendrix continued their
predecessors’ tradition of working collaboratively as they prepared to apply.
four candidates this year – Adaja, Charity Bratcher, Maggie Ryan, and Evan
Werner – worked together closely and supported one another through every draft
and interview prep session,” she said. “They all are to be celebrated for
pulling together excellent proposals for international travel in a world that
presents challenges and uncertainties, but also unlimited possibilities.
are grateful that Hendrix is one of only 41 other colleges and universities that
partner with the Watson Fellowship Program,” Murphy added. “The Watson
Foundation’s investment in Hendrix students creates not just world citizens,
but future leaders for Arkansas and the nation.”
About Hendrix College
A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix
College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal
arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges
That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About
Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have
established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and
rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United
Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu.