Enter Black Lab Sports, and you’ll come across an art studio occupied by a man in a button-down shirt and paint-splattered Crocs, a Boston Terrier named Pablo Picasso in his shadow and a hard-edged drywall tool in his hand, stroking a gigantic canvas in rhythm with Mozart spilling from speakers nearby.
Artist Will Day is not exactly the tenant you’d expect at a sports tech incubator and accelerator—unless you’re familiar with the Black Lab Sports ecosystem, where art, athletics, and business intersect, and where creativity and experimentation are not just welcome, but essential. Beyond offering a dose of mid-day inspiration, Day provides brilliant bursts of color throughout The Lab with canvases that rotate every few weeks, and his studio shares a wall with another resident artist, sculptor Gail Folwell.
Day’s home base is hardly the most unconventional piece of his story. After a faint omen in the seventh grade—some watercolors, a pastel landscape, and an unmistakable spark—his artistry took a backseat to other callings during the next couple of decades. Several years on Wall Street quenched his desire for a high-intensity, fast-paced career and, most notably, brought the eventual Mrs. Aimee Day into his life. But it was his immersions in foreign countries, from France, Ireland, and Holland, to Russia, Italy, and Brazil, where Day’s ultimate passion began to surface. Wherever he went, art played a crucial role, giving him a medium for documenting, processing, and sharing his otherwise indescribable experiences. Tunisia, the North African country where he lived for two years in the Peace Corps, had an especially profound impact. Every day spent in the small village brought with it new impulses to create, and photographing, painting, and journaling allowed Day to “feel the world” around him and excavate an unfamiliar culture.
Craving more moments of self-exploration like those, in 2001 Day left the financial world to undergo formal training in architecture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. A career in Los Angeles followed, for the first time including some artistic expression in his day-to-day. On a whim one spring, feeling like he needed a change of environment, Day put his house on the market and booked a trip to Boulder, Colorado, praying it would be as idyllic and stimulating as he’d been led to believe. His dream was to live somewhere he could work, raise a family, pop outdoors, and vacation from his back door, and sight unseen, Boulder fit the bill.
Three days later, the Days had a new home, having fallen hard for Boulder and the potential it held for their growing family. Within a year of the move, however, that reality was upended when the economy crashed and Day was left jobless. Terrified and confused, yet counted on to provide for his wife and two kids, he soon found an anchor in the hobby that first made his heart sing: painting. With more free time than ever before and a burning need to express his feelings, Day began retreating to his basement to impart life onto canvases. Like in Miss Kay’s art class and his distant travels, the activity fulfilled him on a fundamental level. His experimentations with oils felt even more right, and Day found himself gravitating toward bold colors, varied strokes, flat tools, and heavy textures. Different combinations captured different emotions; the whole process was intoxicating.
Pursuing a career in art during one of the country’s most turbulent times sounded crazy. But having nothing to lose, Day did just that. As he developed his style and honed his skills as a painter, he upgraded to a small studio before a fortuitous meeting rerouted his entire trajectory. When JP O’Brien, whom he’d met through their sons’ lacrosse league, invited him to be part of the Black Lab Sports experience as an entrepreneurial artist, Day saw an opportunity to connect to the community and share inspiration with those around him. Though not the most predictable addition to a sports tech incubator, his creativity and innovation made him a natural fit. Day eagerly accepted.
Now a year into his Black Lab Sports residence, Day has made himself at home. A small desk area, occupying just a fraction of the studio, backs up to one wall; that’s about as far as the similarities to his earliest careers go. His real workspace centralizes at a large wooden table in the middle of the room, displaying tools and colors of every imaginable shade. The spacious, bright white studio is equipped with a sitting area—as useful for daytime dreaming as meeting with clients—and adorned with giant canvases, most of them commissions, on all four walls. The scale of the studio inspires Day to “go big” and the purity of the background allows him moments of meditation to balance out the energy he expends while at work. Depending on his mood, his speakers blast classical or country or fifties jazz (and he’s not above dancing along when the inspiration strikes). In stark contrast to his professional work, one wall features a small watercolor landscape painting, kept after all these years as a reminder of the first day he felt like an artist. In Day’s words, “The experience here is powerful; it works.”
The fit is mutual. In addition to inspiring others and spreading joy through his paintings, Day’s “nothing to lose, follow your heart” philosophy permeates Black Lab Sports. He is deliberate about showing up every day, curious and open-minded and unafraid, and attacking each canvas with energy and feeling—not dissimilar to the way that athletes and entrepreneurs approach their own crafts. “Everyone else here is doing something very similar,” he believes, “maybe with a different action” but all on the same team and all leaning heavily on human spirit, emotion, creativity, and entrepreneurship. Day’s overarching objective—dating back to the Peace Corps, evolving with every career change, and now infusing the culture at Black Lab Sports—is to do good, to use his unique skillset to connect with people and make the world a little brighter.
If his paintings—scattered across The Lab, the U.S., and increasingly, the globe—are any indication, he’s well on his way.