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William T. Williams

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Information about William T. Williams

Profile image of William T. Williams

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Painter
Art Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Potato Chips
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
Do it right.

Birthplace

Born:
7/17/1942
Birth Location:
Crosscreek, North Carolina

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Painter
Art Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Potato Chips
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
Do it right.

Birthplace

Born:
7/17/1942
Birth Location:
Crosscreek
See how William T. Williams is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Artist William Thomas Williams, Jr. was born on July 17, 1942, in Cross Creek, North Carolina, to William Thomas Williams, Sr. and Hazel Williams. Williams’s family moved to Queens, New York, when he was four years old, but Williams would continue to visit North Carolina in the summertime.

In 1956, Williams met famed artist Jacob Lawrence, an encounter that helped him believe that he could be a professional artist. That same year, Williams was admitted to the High School for Industrial Arts in Manhattan, where he often frequented the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After graduating from high school as a member of the National Honor Society, Williams entered New York City Community College in 1960, and graduated two years later with his A.A.S. degree.

In 1962, Williams was admitted into Pratt Institute. In the summer of 1965, Williams attended a summer art program at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine. Williams graduated with honors from Pratt Institute with his B.F.A. degree in 1966, then attended Yale University School of Art and Architecture, where he earned his M.F.A. degree in 1968. Williams returned to New York City, and with the help of his parents, rented a Soho loft that remained his home and studio throughout his career. Soon after, Williams married Patricia De Weese, with whom he had two children: Aaron and Nila.

Williams’s first exhibit was a part of a group exhibition called X to the Fourth Power; it was held at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York in 1969, a place he would return to for exhibitions numerous times. In 1971, Williams had his first show at the Reese Paley Art Gallery, where he sold out his entire exhibit. Throughout the 1970s, Williams’s work would be exhibited at a number of venues, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum in New York, the American Embassy in Moscow, and the Fondation Maeght in France.

In 1970, Williams became a professor of art at Brooklyn College, and in 1971, he began a summer residency as a member of the faculty at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, a position he would hold again in 1974 and 1978. Williams became the director pro tem at Skowhegan School in 1979.

In the late 1970s, Williams took his first trip to Africa, which influenced the style of his work throughout the 1980s. In 1984, Williams became a visiting professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the following year held a solo exhibition at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Williams became the first black artist included in H.W. Janson’s History of Art textbook in 1986, and in 1987, was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Williams continued to work throughout the 1990s, and his work was included in the To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities touring exhibit in 1999. In 2006, Williams was awarded the prestigious North Carolina Award, the highest civilian honor the state can bequeath.

See how William T. Williams is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William T. Williams' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William T. Williams lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William T. Williams describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William T. Williams talks about his maternal grandfather and step-grandfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William T. Williams describes his mother's musical background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William T. Williams describes his family's religious upbringing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William T. Williams describes the Overhills estate in North Carolina
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William T. Williams describes his father's U.S. Army service
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William T. Williams talks about his childhood in the North and South
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - William T. Williams describes his family's food traditions
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - William T. Williams remembers his grandmother's garden
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - William T. Williams recalls his family's traditions in New York City
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William T. Williams describes his family's craftwork
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William T. Williams lists his schools and siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William T. Williams describes his neighborhood in Queens, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William T. Williams describes J.H.S. 198 in Queens, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William T. Williams recalls his early interest in art
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William T. Williams remembers meeting Jacob Lawrence
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - William T. Williams recalls attending the School of Industrial Art in New York City
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - William T. Williams describes his early artistic development
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - William T. Williams recalls his commute to the School of Industrial Art
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - William T. Williams describes his peers at the School of Industrial Art
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - William T. Williams recalls his decision to attend the Pratt Institute
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - William T. Williams remembers his growing interest in painting
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William T. Williams describes the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William T. Williams recalls his relationship with Leonard Bocour
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William T. Williams remembers reencountering Jacob Lawrence
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William T. Williams remembers the Yale School of Art and Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William T. Williams describes the exclusion of black artists from galleries
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William T. Williams recalls discrimination at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - William T. Williams remembers teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - William T. Williams recalls acquiring his studio
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - William T. Williams remembers protests against the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - William T. Williams describes his decision to decline a museum guard position
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - William T. Williams recalls his artist residency program at the Studio Museum in Harlem
  • Tape: 3 Story: 12 - William T. Williams remembers his early art career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William T. Williams remembers founding the Smokehouse Associates
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William T. Williams describes the black arts community in New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William T. Williams recalls the exclusion of black artists from museums
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William T. Williams remembers his first solo art show
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William T. Williams remembers exhibiting his artwork in France
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William T. Williams describes his artistic influences
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - William T. Williams remembers his inclusion in the 'Whitney Annual'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - William T. Williams talks about his philosophy of art
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - William T. Williams reflects upon his growth as an artist
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - William T. Williams describes his interest in teaching
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - William T. Williams reflects upon aging as an artist
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - William T. Williams remembers his trip to Nigeria
  • Tape: 4 Story: 13 - William T. Williams describes the shift in his art career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William T. Williams recalls his residency at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William T. Williams describes his courses on African American art
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William T. Williams talks about being a father
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William T. Williams recalls directing the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William T. Williams remembers the emergence of pop art
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - William T. Williams remembers Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - William T. Williams talks about the value of work by artists of color
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - William T. Williams describes his generation of African American artists
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - William T. Williams talks about the next generation of artists of color
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - William T. Williams describes teaching at the City University of New York
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - William T. Williams describes teaching in the South
  • Tape: 5 Story: 12 - William T. Williams describes the shift in his artistic style
  • Tape: 5 Story: 13 - William T. Williams describes his painting, 'Cape Split'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 14 - William T. Williams describes his painting, 'Batman'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - William T. Williams remembers his role in the opening of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - William T. Williams recalls his exhibition at the Museo Alejandro Otero in Venezuela
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - William T. Williams describes his award from the Studio Museum in Harlem
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - William T. Williams reflects upon his career
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - William T. Williams describes his hopes for his paintings
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - William T. Williams describes his plans for the future
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - William T. Williams describes his children
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - William T. Williams talks about his approach to business
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - William T. Williams shares his advice to aspiring artists
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - William T. Williams describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - William T. Williams reflects upon the impact of affirmative action policies
  • Tape: 6 Story: 12 - William T. Williams talks about African American museum curators and directors
  • Tape: 6 Story: 13 - William T. Williams remembers his parents' support
  • Tape: 6 Story: 14 - William T. Williams narrates his photographs