Willie Torbert has taught within the New York City Board of Education for ten years. During his work with the New York Public School System, Willie exposed his students to many facets of art through an array of mediums. When Willie moved away from his teaching job to work on his craft full time, he received an award of citation for his dedication and worked with the children of the borough of Brooklyn from Howard Golden, the Brooklyn Borough President. The Nubian Women’s Art Circle recently honored Willie for his outstanding contributions to the advancement of the art of the African Diaspora. Willie works in a variety of media, including oil, ink, and collage to produce singular and highly stylized representations of African American life. Scenes of street life and images of jazz and blues musicians, and heroic African queens and warriors often populate his work. Also, he graciously acknowledges the almost certain influence of other major black artists. Indeed, Willie has previously stated that “it changed my life” when he saw Romare Bearden’s images of Harlem in an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum many years ago.
Born in Buffalo, New York, Torbert studied at Pratt Institute, City University of New York and Medgar Evers College, New York. He has exhibited at La Belle Gallerie in New Orleans; The Town House Gallery and Gallery 500 in Washington, D.C.; Spiral Gallery, Savacou Gallery, Wesbeth Gallery, Annex Gallery, Eric Robertson African Art Gallery, Broome Street Gallery, The Apollo Theater, Phelps-Stokes Foundation, Chemical Bank, The Bronx Court House and B.Smith’s Jazz Cabaret, Pepsi-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive Corporation, in New York City and WBGO Radio.
During his career as a fine artist, Tobert has amassed a long list of collectors and patrons and is a particular favorite among the entertainment sect. Among the private collectors of his work are Spike Lee, Natalie, Cole, Patti Labelle, Cicelyn Tyson, Mike Tyson, Sinbad and Russell Simmons. He is also represented in the collections of Medgar Evers College, Philip Morris Company, Mutual Benefit Insurance Company, Equitable Life-Whitney Museum Collection.
Torbert has received commissions from Essence Magazine, Harper Collins Publishing, Henry Street Settlement, Thelma Hill Performing Arts, Sony Entertainment and Bacardi Rum. He has been featured in New York News Day, Essence Magazine, Amsterdam News, Bay Ridge Press and the City Sun Newspapers, Mosaic Literary Magazine, Trend Publication, BET Shopping Network. He has participated in many charity auctions including Youth at Risk, Romare Bearden Scholarship Fund, Arts & Entertainment Alliance, Rush ,Philanthropic Arts Foundation, Community Options, African Action On AIDS and Heartbeats of Jamaica.