Three months after his sudden passing, an exhibition and art auction will be held to benefit the family of the late muralist and visual artist Carl Willis “Nomo” Humphrey on March 1-2 at Icebox Project Space in the Crane Arts Building.
Humphrey was a native of Biloxi, Mississippi, and honed his art skills studying graphic design at the Art Institute of Atlanta. Humphrey would later learn of the arts organization Mural Arts of Philadelphia after moving to the city and eventually became a staff artist.
Humphrey quickly gained recognition for his vivid murals of Philadelphia civil rights figures like Civil War-era activist Octavius V. Catto. His sudden death at age 44 from a heart attack in December shocked Philly’s arts community.
Keir Johnston, who worked to organize the benefit auction, is an artist that fondly remembers Humphrey and worked closely with him as a part of the Amber Art and Design Collective. “[Humphrey] was just an amazing human being and person to be around,” Johnston said. “He was relentless in his pursuit of his work and other varying social causes.”
In addition to gifts as an artist, Humphrey had a passion for supporting community engagement and often spoke up about issues affect the black community. As a founding member of Amber Art and Design Collective, an organization that uses art to help create positive social change, Humphrey found a way to combine love of art and social justice.
Staircases and Mountaintops: Ascending Beyond the Dream section by Willis “Nomo” Humphrey. PHOTO: Courtesy of Steve Weinik
Art auction to benefit family of Nomo
Johnston noted that Humphrey’s acclaimed talents as a painter and graphic designer were rivaled only by his love for his children and community. “I watched him as a single father raise three kids tirelessly and work to support his family first and foremost,” Johnston said. “He looked to educate and inspire others. He sacrificed a lot of himself to make sure his people were taken care of and that his artistic practice aligned with putting out a message that was infused with the social pursuits of the communities [he served.]”
Johnston wanted to make sure an event paying tribute to Humphrey was one that he would have wanted to attend. “This show will show to a small degree his impact with the number of artists putting forward work to benefit his children,” Johnston said. “We wanted to have an extra event to celebrate the way Willis would have appreciated and taken part in. He loved multimedia events with a sharing and nurturing environment. “
The opening reception for Humphrey’s benefit exhibition and art auction will be Friday, March 1, from 6-9 p.m. The exhibit and silent auction will remain on view, Saturday, March 2 from noon to 5 p.m. All proceeds will go to college funds for Humphrey’s children Chloe, 18; Logan, 16; and Dylan, 13.