Born in Biloxi, Mississippi, Willis “Nomo” Humphrey graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta and trained as a graphic designer. He was first introduced to Mural Arts through the Muralist Training Program, and later joined the organization as a full-time staff artist. He was a founding member of Amber Art and Design Collective, an organization that uses art as an inclusive platform to initiate critical conversations and harness the resources of art for community empowerment and public service.
His deep body of work spans the city from playgrounds to senior centers, schools, and recreation centers. He worked with veterans and young people and was a treasured collaborator with communities and partners in every neighborhood. Through our Restorative Justice program, he taught mural production skills to members of the Guild, our apprenticeship program for justice-involved individuals.
Some of Willis’ most celebrated work explores the lives and history of African Americans. A few notable examples include Staircases and Mountaintops: Ascending Beyond the Dream at the MLK Recreation Center, exploring the history of the Civil Rights movement, and Colorful Legacy in West Philadelphia, illuminating the systemic challenges facing boys and men of color.
He created large-scale homages to hometown heroes Kevin Hart and The Roots, and to the legacy of Bishop Richard Allen, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. One of his last murals, with frequent collaborator Keir Johnston, depicted Philadelphia’s Octavius V. Catto, a Civil War-era voting rights activist, educator, and orator.
Willis passed away in November 2018, and is deeply missed. He was an integral part of the Mural Arts family for more than a decade, and an inspiration to many. He will be remembered for his warmth and kindness, his ability to listen and engage. His vibrant, complex murals have become cultural touchstones across Philadelphia.
Last updated: Dec 11, 2018