Will Smith, Jr is a descendent of two venerable artistic icons of New Orleans and the South. Robert Rawes, his great-great-grandfather, was born in 1821 in England, emigrated to New Orleans and Natchez, and died in Natchez 1865. Rawes was famed as an artist/sculptor and was cited as "the most prolific and outstanding antebellum marble worker" in the South.
More familiar to New Orleanians was Will’s great-grand-uncle, Erasmus Humbrecht, who was born in 1849 in Alsace-Lorraine and emigrated to New Orleans in 1872. Humbrecht was commissioned to paint fresco murals at St. Louis Cathedral in 1872, and about twenty years later was contracted to re-freshen the paintings. In addition, Humbrecht painted over thirty-six religious paintings in the Deep South and along the Mississippi River Road, including paintings in Natchez at St. Mary Basilica (formerly St. Mary Cathedral) and in St. Louis, Missouri.
Originally from Natchez, Mississippi, Will was a boarding student at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where architecture and theater set design were among his endeavors. With a BFA in painting and sculpture (installations), his undergraduate career at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama allowed him opportunities to continue his work as an artist and set designer in the South and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Theater Department.
After sculpting, casting, and finishing at the Cherrylion studio and the David Johnson studio in Atlanta, Georgia, Will moved to San Francisco for a Masters in Art Therapy at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California.
In 1999, at the age of twenty-seven, Will moved to New Orleans to work as an artist and designer in New Orleans, Louisiana, He finds the city to be the perfect climate for him to express and use his full range of talents through the architecture, history and artistic phenomenon. Well experienced in a breadth of media, Will has completed hundreds of private and commercial commissions, including float and set design for Mardi Gras krewes., including the notorious and satirical Krewe de Vieux.
Will joined the Jean Bragg Gallery of Southern Art in 2009. His first show premiered in April, 2011, and was titled Today’s Specials, The Journey of Louisiana Seafood, from Camp to Counter. The show commemorated the one-year anniversary of the disastrous BP Oil Spill. His paintings highlighted the urgency in environmental protection and the importance of Louisiana seafood to our economy and culture. He has long been an environmental activist, documenting the vanishing way of life in the Louisiana wetlands and coastal region. For example, he has painted the old fishing camps in the swamps south of Lafitte, LA entitled after the local vernacular “Ustabes” since these sites "used to be" there but aren't necessarily existing anymore.