Dec 4

In Memory of Willis “Nomo” Humphrey

by: Mural Arts Philadelphia

It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden passing of noted Philadelphia artist and beloved Mural Arts employee Willis “Nomo” Humphrey.

If you would like to honor Willis’ memory with a donation, a fund has been set up to support the education of his three children.

“Willis Humphrey was one of our city’s finest muralists,” says Jane Golden, Mural Arts’ executive director. “He was a wonderful painter whose style was completely unique and was always timely and relevant. He was a role model, a collaborator, the consummate public artist, always giving and sharing and creating. His passing leaves a huge void in our city.”

Willis has been 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.

Born in Biloxi, Mississippi, Willis 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.

 

  • Remembering a Forgotten Hero by Keir Johnston and Willis Nomo Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Willis Humphrey talks with Mayor Jim Kenney at the dedication for Remembering a Forgotten Hero. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Staircases and Mountaintops: Ascending Beyond the Dream section by Willis Nomo Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Sunshine Surrounds Us, by Willis Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • The dedication for Sunshine Surrounds Us, by Willis Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Willis Humphrey at To the Polls. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Detail of Washington, Portrait of an American President, by Willis "Nomo" Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Tribute to Dox Thrash Revisited, by Eric Okdeh and Willis Humphrey. Photo by Eric Okdeh.

  • Mapping Courage, by Willis Humphrey. Completed 2009. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

  • Kevin Hart: Live. Love. Laugh. by Willis "Nomo" Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • The Legacy of Bishop Richard Allen (in progress) by Willis Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Bridging the Gap by Willis Humphrey. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

  • Colorful Legacy by Willis "Nomo" Humphrey & Keir Johnston. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Willis Humphrey speaks at the dedication for Colorful Legacy. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Western wall of Our City, Our Vets by Phillip Adams and Willis Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Wister Rec Center, by Willis Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

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. Most recently, Willis and his frequent collaborator Keir Johnston completed a mural of Philadelphia’s Octavius V. Catto, a Civil War-era voting rights activist, educator, and orator.

We are immensely grateful that Willis shared his grace and his art with us, and our thoughts are with his family. Funeral services will be held at Mother Bethel AME Church, 419 S. 6th Street, on Tuesday, December 11, 2018. Viewing is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., with a service at 11 a.m.

If you would like to honor Willis’ memory with a donation, a fund has been set up to support the education of his three children.

Last updated: Dec 5, 2018

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